It can be beneficial to think of sobriety as a way of life rather than an achievement. By becoming sober the individual has committed themselves to a path that will make their life better. The goal is not to reach the end of this path but for the individual to keeping making improvements that will benefit their life. In order for people to keep going on this path it can be helpful if they set themselves goals. The danger comes when people become too focused on these goals. As John Lennon famously sang, life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans.
When it comes to achieving things in life it is possible to divide the approaches into two varieties: goal orientation and process orientation. To say that people are goal orientated means that their number one priority is achieving the goal and they look for the fastest process to get them there. From there point of view the path towards their target is just something in the way between them and their goal. Those who are process orientated will still have goals, but they also pay a great deal more attention on the process itself. They can actually get as much enjoyment out of the journey to the goal as from the goal itself. This is a healthy attitude because people spent far more time involved in the process of achieving goals than they do actually achieving them. Those who are goal orientated tend to be always waiting for life to happen.
It is often stated that recovery is a process and not an event. It is even possible to go further and say that it is a process that never really ends. There is no graduation day for people in recovery. This is because people will tend to fall into substance abuse for a reason; usually because they didn’t feel able to cope with life. Much of this failure to deal with things will be due to character flaws and ineffective coping mechanism. It is the job of people in recovery to not only stop abusing alcohol or drugs but to also build a good life. This will only be possible if they work at fixing those things that were holding them back. It is why recovery is referred to as a process.
If people are overly focused on the goal rather than the process it can mean that they miss out on a most of the good things in life. The dangers of waiting for life to happen include:
* This mode of thinking becomes a habit and it means that happiness is always going to be over the next hill. Even when the individual has achieved something they will already be focused on the next goal and fail to fully appreciate the fruits of their hard work.
* The amount of time that people spend achieving goals is only a tiny fraction of the time spent in the process of moving towards them. This means that the individual will be missing out on most of their life.
* It will prevent the individual from developing emotional sobriety and this is one of the great rewards of a life in recovery. Emotional sobriety means having the ability to enjoy right now.
* This type of attitude of constant seeking can be highly unsatisfactory and take much of the enjoyment out of recovery. The individual may use it as an excuse to relapse back to addiction.
* The individual may reach the end of their life and feel dismay at how much time they have wasted.
As the years go buy in recovery the individual will chip away at their character flaws. Progress can be slow and sometimes it may even feel as if the individual is going backwards – this is all part of the process of change. If the individual decides that they are going to wait until everything is perfect before enjoying life then they are going to waste a great deal of time. This day is unlikely to come and the only time that people really have is right now. There is also no need for them to have reached perfection before they can begin to enjoy what they have. So long as they are making progress this is enough to feel happy about.
There are things that people can do to increase their focus on the process rather than the goal including:
* Mindfulness meditation teaches people how to live in the present moment. This helps people appreciate what they have right now.
* Keeping a gratitude list can be another good practice for people in recovery. It reminds them of the things they have to celebrate today.
* Journaling of any kind can help the individual appreciate their journey in recovery. It can be great fun to read back on old entries so that people can see how far they’ve come.
* The most important thing is that people don’t allow their happiness in life to depend on certain things happening. It is only possible to be happy now, and there might not be a tomorrow.
* The individual has learnt to become goal orientated so it will be possible for them to learn to be process orientated. The more they do it the easier it will become.
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