When people first become sober, they tend to be highly motivated. Their new life is exciting, and the world appears full of possibilities. As time passes, the newness of recovery fades away. Even when the sober life is so much more rewarding than the life of the addict the individual can begin to take things for granted. Eventually their motivation to stay sober begins to wane, and the risk of relapse increases. This is why one of the biggest challenges in recovery from addiction is to stay motivated.
It is sometimes said in a negative way that certain people lack motivation. This type of criticism is often not a true reflection of what is happening because even the person who sits around all day can be motivated. The problem is not so much that they lack motivation, but that they are motivated to do what other people would consider to be the wrong things. In simple terms, motivation can be described as the driving force behind action.
It is possible to distinguish two type of motivation: intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. If people do things because they feel that it is good or right, then this would be referred to as intrinsic motivation. When people do things because of external pressure or influence, this is referred to as extrinsic motivation.
The idea that people just give up their addiction, and automatically live happily ever after, is a myth. This is because there will have been a reason why the individual fell into addiction in the first place; that reason will probably still be there when they get sober. The usual motivation for why people turn to substance abuse is an inability to cope with life– they will have been relying on ineffective coping strategies. If this individual just gives up alcohol or drugs without making any other changes, then they will just be back where they started. More work is needed so that this person is not only able to escape their addiction but also build a good life. This is why it is sometimes said that recovery is a process and not an event. The individual who passes through rehab does not graduate .Their journey is only just beginning.
Those individuals who build a successful life away from addiction need to develop emotional sobriety. This means that they have developed the ability to deal with their emotions in a positive way. An emotionally sober person no longer needs to run away and hide from life in a bottle or drug induced haze. Instead, they are ready and willing to deal with life on life’s terms. They are willing to feel their feelings.
Another quality that people can develop in sobriety is serenity. This is closely related to emotional sobriety but can take much longer to develop. Serenity is the goal of the 12 Step program, but it can be achieved by people who walk other paths in recovery. It is a stage of development where the individual is able to handle anything that happens in their life without too much inner turmoil.
People develop serenity by constantly facing the challenges that come their way. As they deal with each unique problem, they develop new coping strategies. These coping strategies are like tools that they have to add to their toolbox. Eventually, the individual reaches a stage where they have tools to deal with almost every eventuality. They have developed serenity and life becomes easier. When the person reaches this stage of sobriety they have the ability to feel happy no matter what is happening in the outside world.
There are many possible reasons for why people lose motivation after they have been sober for a few months or years. These are some of the most prominent:
* Memory can be treacherous for people who are recovering from an addiction. This is because the memory of how painful things were in addiction can diminish over time, and the individual can start to spend a great deal of time thinking about the times they felt good because of alcohol or drugs. This is known as romancing the drug or drink, and it can cause people to lose their motivation to stay sober.
* When people enter recovery with expectations that are unrealistic, it can lead to disappointment, and this saps motivation. The individual did not make a mess of their life overnight, so they will not be able to repair the damage overnight either. By giving up alcohol or drugs, they will be taking a significant step towards a better life, but there will be more work that needs to be done.
* Those individuals who were highly enthusiastic in early recovery can run out of steam. This is particularly likely to happen if they the individual went through a period of pink cloud syndrome. This occurs when people become so high on life in recovery that they lose touch with reality. Staying sober becomes easy, and the individual begins to take their sobriety for granted. When the pink cloud ends, people can come back down to earth with a bang. They can become disillusioned with life in recovery.
* Some people just lose their way in recovery. They get caught up in life and they forget to keep on doing the things that is helping them to build a successful recovery.
Losing motivation in recovery is dangerous because it means that the individual can become stuck. This means that they may be in danger of a relapse back to their addiction because life in recovery is no longer satisfying. Even if the individual does not relapse they can still develop dry drunk syndrome. The dry drunk sees their sobriety as being similar to a prison sentence. They are not happy in recovery, and their behavior can be just as maladaptive as when they were in the midst of their addiction. The dry drunk has not emotional sobriety so they are unable to find real happiness. Such individuals are usually full of anger and resentment.
Staying motivated in long-term sobriety takes effort. These are some of the most successful strategies those in recovery employ:
* Helping other people in recovery is one of the most effective ways to stay motivated. In Alcoholics Anonymous, they say that you have to give it away to keep it, and this is what helping others is about. It reminds people in recovery about where they have come from, and what they would be going back to if they ever relapsed. By helping other people stay sober, the individual is strengthening their own recovery.
* Staying involved in the addiction recovery community can also keep people motivated. The individual may decide to join a recovery fellowship or become involve with an online community. There are now plenty of resources that people can turn to that will keep them connected with the world of recovery.
* Journaling has helped many people stay motivated in recovery. It means that the individual is always reflecting on their experiences and can more clearly see their progress. If people feel that they are starting to lose interest in recovery, they can read back on earlier journal entries and re-energize their motivation.
* Some rehabs offer booster sessions, and these can be a great resource for clients who wish to revamp their motivation.
* Maintaining a recovery blog can help people stay motivated in long-term sobriety. It is also a chance for people to help others and build up a network of online recovery friends. By regularly posting about their experiences in recovery, the individual is encouraged to reflect on their progress and think about their aspiration. It can be a type of journal. If people do not like writing, they could have an audio blog (_podcast_) or a video blog (_vlog_).
* Some people who use a recovery program such as the 12 Steps find that this helps keeps them motivated. The work of the steps is never finished, and having a program that has already worked for many people may mean that the individual is less likely to lose their way.
* Finding a spiritual path in recovery can help the individual maintain their motivation to stay sober. This could include meditation training such as mindfulness or body and mind regimes such as yoga.
* Some individuals have expectations of recovery that are too low. This means that they are prepared to settle for less than what is actually possible. It is important that people have goals in their sobriety and that they work towards achieving these.