One of our greatest challenges in recovery is working to implement the changes we envision for ourselves and holding ourselves accountable to the goals and intentions we’ve set for ourselves. This is where self-actualization comes in, where we summon the inner motivation and drive to push ourselves to make our recovery goals a reality for ourselves. Self-actualization is the difference between wanting to be sober and doing all of the hard work required to make that happen. It’s the difference between having a dream of being happy and healthy, and working to make that dream come true. Many of us struggle with this. We find it hard to motivate ourselves, especially when we’ve been grappling with these issues for so long. There are some particular challenges to self-actualization, and when we examine them in greater depth, we can support ourselves in our recovery by strengthening and empowering ourselves.
One of the biggest obstacles to self-actualization in our recovery, and to making things happen for ourselves, is our mental health issues. When we’re depressed or overly anxious, or struggling with any other mental illness, we can completely lose the drive we need to work towards our goals. We can feel drained, defeated and disheartened. We can feel exhausted and as though our energy and motivation have been totally depleted. We can feel disappointed in our lack of progress and ashamed of our relapses. We give up hope, both in ourselves and our recovery. We lose the faith in ourselves that’s so vital to our commitment to staying sober. We feel consumed with sadness, fear and shame, all of which impede our progress and make it even harder to stay on track with our goals. We feel fear around doing the hard work of recovery. We feel afraid of relapsing. We’re afraid of slipping back into old patterns. Our fears are totally normal and quite understandable, but the anxiety, uncertainty and uneasiness we feel can be paralyzing and can cause us to stop working towards our goals altogether. The various emotions we feel as part of our mental illnesses and the normal fears we have can block our abilities to self-actualize and motivate ourselves to stay the course of our sobriety.
Another challenge to self-actualization is our tendency to compete with other people. We can become so consumed with comparing ourselves to other people’s journeys, to their health and well-being, their happiness and success, that we stop focusing on our own journey. We feel envious of the fact that that they’re not struggling with addiction, or envious of their successful recovery if they too are addicts. We envy their happy families and financial wealth. We feel threatened when we feel they are doing better than we are. We continuously turn our focus away from ourselves and our own work, towards other people who we feel pose a threat to us. We feel our mistakes and shortcomings mean we won’t ever be able to measure up to them. We feel bitter, resentful, and deeply sad. Our fears of inadequacy and inferiority drive us to be competitive and totally chip away at the self-actualization we need to be successful in our recovery. These fears erode our self-worth and self-confidence. Many of us already struggled with low self-esteem, and for many years we used drugs, alcohol and addictive behaviors to cope with the pain of our self-hatred and insecurity. When in recovery, these deeply rooted fears don’t just disappear overnight. They require hard work that sometimes we don’t feel prepared to do. Our tendency to focus externally on other people rather than on ourselves really detracts from the energy we have for self-actualization.
Sometimes we find self-actualization especially difficult because we feel overwhelmed with all of the various changes we’re trying to make in our lives all at once. We might be working to get sober, while also tackling our mental health issues, while also making lifestyle changes and implementing new routines, cleaning up our habits and taking inventory of which relationships and behaviors need to be modified or removed altogether. This can understandably overwhelm us to the point of exhaustion, where we become paralyzed by the stress of it all and unable to move forward. We want to try and tackle these changes incrementally, making small modifications to our routine rather than overhauling it entirely, enlisting the help of a therapist to work through some of our mental health and relationship issues, and being self-supporting and nurturing throughout the process. We won’t be able to self-actualize in our recovery if we’re trying to take on too much all at once, and if we’re not allowing other people to support us. We want to take into consideration how much change we’ve already undergone. We’ve completed treatment, which is no small feat in and of itself. We’ve started therapy, worked with a sponsor, attended meetings, all of which are positive steps forward in our recovery. We want to amplify these accomplishments for ourselves rather than belittling and undermining them by telling ourselves that we’re not working hard enough, or that we haven’t done enough. Our capacity for self-actualization improves the more we encourage ourselves with kindness and supportiveness. When we’re overly hard on ourselves and beat ourselves up, we undermine our resilience and willpower. The motivation we need for self-actualization in recovery comes from within, and how we treat ourselves throughout the recovery process can make all the difference in how successful we ultimately are.
The community of Riverside Recovery has personal experience with addiction and the feelings of hopelessness and disconnection that come with it. We’re here to help you reclaim the life you love. Call (800) 871-5440 today.