When we start things, it’s crucial to finish them. Like cleaning your space or following through with a commitment to someone else. The road to recovery works the same way: living a life outside of substance use is a lifelong process. The results are well worth it if you see your way through to the end.
A Life of Recovery
Like everything in life, there is a beginning to the journey of recovery. The beginning of a life of sobriety looks different for everyone. Steps you can take to begin your journey to recovery include: asking loved ones for help, using Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) resources to sober up, or entering a treatment center. The thing that all of these have in common is asking for help and then taking action.
A common phrase used among recovering individuals is “recovery is not linear”. Similar to the steps of asking for help looking different for everyone, the road itself is also distinct. Recovery not being linear is the comforting notion that things will be difficult at times, and that is okay.
Not one person who has traveled this road has experienced an effortless and unfaltering journey. Recovering from addiction and living a clean and sober life is about “progress, not perfection.” This is a principle emphasized throughout the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. Even in 1935, when AA was established, the two founders of this now-global program knew that living a recovered life was not an easy task.
Trust the Process
Why not quit when the going gets tough? If there are hardships and roadblocks to overcome, why go forward knowing that it won’t be as easy as walking away from the substance itself? Many people living a life of recovery will tell you that they would gladly take their most arduous day in sobriety over their most manageable day in addiction. There is proof that sobriety is well worth the effort.
After the detoxing process has ended and the efforts to move toward a recovered life have begun, the body adjusts to find its baseline. The word baseline refers to our mood stabilization. When we take away the substances often used as coping mechanisms in moments of emotional dysregulation, we are left to find new ways to deal with discomfort.
Alcohol itself is a depressant
While it sends dopamine to the brain’s receptors when consumed, it simultaneously reduces the body’s natural production of dopamine, leading to feelings of depression. As recovery ensues, the body’s chemicals restore themselves, thus leveling one’s emotions over time. Because of this, being in a safe and monitored environment like a rehab center is vital in beginning the recovery process.
Over time, euphoria won’t feel as high, and depression won’t feel as low. This is a person’s baseline without substances. As individuals move through recovery, they will begin to find themselves. The things that bring them joy, and new ways in which to handle the inevitable disappointments that happen in life.
What a Recovered Life Could Look Like
Recovery looks different for everyone–how they got there, their process through recovery, and what they’re doing now in sobriety. The success story of recovery is that there is hope and beauty in living a life without substances.
There is growth that comes with getting sober:
- Learning how to manage stress and anger without using
- Being able to establish boundaries with oneself and others
- Learning how to ask for unmet needs
- Being able to communicate in healthy ways
- Letting go of the ego that controlled toxic behaviors
Hope in recovery. There is hope in knowing there’s an opportunity to form a better relationship with yourself. A new life is just ahead with taking the first steps to recovery and seeing it through to the end.
No matter what it looks like for someone to live a sober life, it is vital to see it through to the end. In the beginning, the motivation to recover may be outside oneself. Perhaps family members are pleading for sobriety. A child’s well-being is at stake, a relationship hangs in the balance, or the “gift of desperation” leads to recovery. It may take a long time to realize that they want a clean and sober life for themselves, and that’s okay, so long as they keep going.
Some days, there will be triggers and cravings that feel unbearable. Those moments will feel almost natural to want to give in or ease or ignore the feelings of discomfort. There will be moments that the thoughts feel too loud and the temptation of “taking the edge off” will sound much more appealing than listening to intrusive thoughts. There may be days when sobriety doesn’t feel worth the effort anymore. Those are the days that it is critical to keep moving forward in the recovery process.
24 hours at a time
In the beginning, 24 hours at a time might be the only way to make it through. The program of Alcoholics Anonymous is a big fan of the phrase “just for today”. It encourages individuals struggling with addiction to persist in their sobriety. If the day feels impossible and relapse is within grasp, try putting it off for another 24 hours. The idea is that even though the desire to give in is right there, if the action is prolonged, then that will be another day sober, and another day sober gets people that much closer to a recovered life.