The world champion race driver Mario Andretti offered the following advice:
Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek.
In order to build a successful life away from addiction it is necessary for the individual to stay motivated. This is because people only get out of life what they put into it. There is no graduation day in sobriety. The individual will need to continue to make an effort even if they are forty years sober. This does not mean that the person in recovery has it harder than other people – the same rule applies to any human who hopes to find success. Some of the real happiness in life can be found in staying motivated and working towards goals. It is not always the goals themselves that are that important but the process involved in achieving them.
If people lose motivation in recovery it can put their recovery at risk. This is because it can be difficult to stay still in life – when people are not going forward they tend to start slipping backwards. The dangers of lost motivation include:
* It can mean that life away from alcohol and drugs begins to feel a bit boring. This is not good news because it is often boredom that leads people into addiction in the first place.
* If people no longer feel motivated they may stop doing the things that have been helping to keep them sober.
* The individual may deal with the frustration of lack of progress in recovery by turning to addiction substitutes such as workaholism or exercise addiction. Any type of obsessive behavior is detrimental and prevents people from finding true happiness.
* If people stop making progress they become disillusioned and disappointed which in turn can lead to dry drunk syndrome. This is where the individual is physically sober, but they continue to act in similar ways to the addict – for example, they may be full of anger and resentment.
* Those individuals who give up an addiction are in a great position to build the type of life they have always dreamed of inhabiting. If they lose their motivation it will mean that they will fail to achieve this ambition.
If people are on the wrong path in recovery then moving further along this path will not be such a sensible thing. The entrepreneur Jim Rohn summed up this situation well when he warned:
If someone is going down the wrong road, he doesn’t need motivation to speed him up. What he needs is education to turn him around.
One problem for people is that they can be on the wrong path for a long time before they even realize it. There are almost certain to be signs that they have gone on course, but the individual has chosen to ignore these. They may even refuse to accept the observations of other people who have noticed that something is amiss. Instead the individual doggedly pushes forward in the wrong direction, and if they are not careful it will lead them right back into addiction.
The signs that people have lost their way in recovery can include:
* They are engaging in maladaptive behaviors.
* They are spending an increasing amount of time romancing the drink or drug.
* The individual has become full of anger and resentment. Regular episodes of negative attitudes are a common sign that people have lost their way in recovery.
* Progress in recovery tends to come in fits and starts, and it normal to have days when things appear to be getting worse. If the individual has gone weeks and months though, without any progress then this is a sure sign that they are off course.
* The person feels that recovery has been a real let down. It has not lived up to their expectations.
* They are regularly coming into conflict with other people. When people are on the right path in life it should mean that they have improved social reactions.
If people do find that they have somehow taken a wrong turn there will be things that they can do to get back on track such as:
* The willingness to recognize that there is a problem is vital – this takes self honesty and a bit of humility. If the individual is not willing to admit that they are off course they will see no reason to change direction.
* It can be a great help to discuss this issue with a therapist or someone who has experience with addiction recovery. This individual will be able to offer suggestions for what has gone wrong and how it can be fixed.
* Those people who belong to a recovery group should find that other members of the fellowship will be able to offer advice and support. There is almost certain to be people who have taken the same wrong turning but who managed to get back on course.
* If people have been keeping a recovery journal they will be able to read back on this for clues.
* If the individual asks friends and family they may pick up some insightful information about what has gone wrong. Sometimes these people will have picked up on something, but they feel wary about mentioning it because they do not want to upset their loved one.
When people first become sober they tend to be highly motivated. The memories of being addicted are still fresh and painful. The individual wants to get as far away from that life as possible so they are willing to put a good deal of effort into their sobriety. The problem is that over time people forget about how bad things were. They can also start to take their recovery for granted. This is a dangerous situation because no matter how long people are sober they are never completely free from the risk of relapse. It is highly recommended that people give their recovery a boost when they notice the signs that they are losing motivation. In Alcoholics Anonymous they like to say, you can’t stay sober today on yesterday’s sobriety.
In order to give their recovery a boost the individual can:
* Doing service can be one of the most effective ways of giving recovery a boost. Trying to help those who are still struggling with addiction is a great reminder of what is waiting if the person relapses.
* Join a recovery fellowship or just attend a few meetings. It can be nice to spend some time with other people who are on a similar path, and there is no need to commit to long term attendance.
* Devote some time to reading inspiration recovery material. The internet means that people can instantly have access to a large collection of such material.
* Join an online recovery community. There are now addiction communities on the web to suit every type of individual – this is also a way to help other people who are still struggling with addiction.
* It may be helpful to arrange some therapy sessions. Most people who become sober will still have some unresolved issues that may be holding them back from real peace and happiness.
* Making a commitment to improved physical health will add vigor to the individual’s life. Hard exercise can bring some wonderful benefits but exercise addiction can lead to real problems.
* Taking up a practice such as meditation can lead to increased emotional sobriety and it also helps people deal better with stress. Meditation offers a lifelong path to wholeness and well being and therefore it is great for giving recovery a boost.
* It is never too late to begin a daily recovery journal. This will allow people to track their progress and see how far they’ve come.
* Another good idea is to start up a blog about life in recovery – this will encourage the individual to stay focused on this aspect of their life. Those people who are worried about anonymity do not have to use their own name.
* Boredom is not healthy in recovery so it is vital to have hobbies and interests. In order to find suitable activities the person will need to be willing to experiment.
* It is good to have goals to work towards in recovery. The individual can list the things they want to achieve in life and then work towards achieving these – it is important not to set the b bar too low or too high.
* It is not a good idea to become too goal obsessed. People need to enjoy the process of achieving these goals too.
* Spending time with inspirational people can be highly motivating. It can be equally important to limit time with those individuals who tend to be always negative.
* The individual does not need to do anything drastic in order to give their recovery a boost. Something as simple as committing to one positive daily action can make a difference.