The idea that people need to take responsibility for their own recovery may sound obvious. After all, nobody else can make this individual stay sober and do the right things. The reality is that when people become sober they can become too dependent on other people, and this can be ultimately harmful to them. In order to build a new life they will need to take full responsibility for their own progress. This means that if they fail to find success in recovery it will be because of their own decisions.
It is common for addicts to suffer from low self esteem. Even after they become sober they can continue to suffer due to this low self worth. This can mean that the individual feels powerless to deal with their own problems. They may become overly reliant on other people and expect them to make all the big decisions – this is referred to as learned helplessness. The individual does not want to take control of their own life but instead wants other people to fix them. With learned helplessness the individual becomes a passive victim and this means that they are prone to relapse. In order to stay sober and find happiness it is vital that take control.
When people hear about the important of taking control in recovery they can mistake this to mean going it alone. This is not what is meant. The most successful entrepreneurs in history did not make it without help. An important part of their genius was surrounding themselves with the right people. These were individuals who could make up for any deficiencies that the individual has. The same applies in recovery. If people want to be sure of success they will usually need other people on their side. This is particularly important in early recovery when the individual can most benefit from the input of people who have more experience with sobriety. Getting help for an addiction specialist is not about handing over control but about getting the resources to take control.
The benefits of taking control in recovery include:
* The individual is the best person to take full control of their own life. If they depend too much on other people they may be taken in a direction they do not really want to go.
* If the individual does not feel like they own their sobriety they will not be willing to fight for it. One of the characteristics of the addictive personality is a tendency towards nonconformity – it is hard for them to just go along with things because they are expected to.
* Taking control increases self esteem. The individual may start off with small successes, but this will eventually give them the ability to face much tougher challenges.
* Blaming other people might make the individual feel better, but it has no real practical value. When people take responsibility for their own life they can learn from their mistakes and do better next time.
* When people develop a sense of mastery over their own life it gives them great comfort. They no longer feel completely at the mercy of fortune.
* It increases emotional sobriety and leads to serenity.
If people develop learned helplessness it can have a negative impact on their life. Even if they do manage to stay sober they are unlikely to find much happiness. The dangers of learned helplessness include:
* People who have developed this attitude become willing to put up with an unsatisfactory life. They may even fail to do the simplest things that would improve their life.
* It is not good to become overly dependent on other people because these individuals will have their own responsibilities and concerns. The person who has become dependent will frequently feel let down and angry because nobody can live up to their expectations.
* If people are too needy it repel other people. Learned helplessness is an unattractive way for people to behave once they leave childhood.
* When people do not feel that they have much control over their future they will not be willing to put in effort to improve their situation. They will then see future failures as evidence that they were right to feel helpless.
* It causes a self fulfilling prophecy because by being pessimistic about the future the individual creates the conditions that makes this a reality.
* Even when such people have some success in life they will feel unable to fully enjoy the experience. This is because they do not feel deserving of any success in life – they will be waiting for the next bad thing to happen.
* Learned helplessness often leads to the symptoms of depression.
* Such individuals can perform poorly at tasks they are completely capable of managing. They have learned to be inept at things and expect to perform badly.
* Such individuals will fail to take care of their responsibilities. When things aren’t done they will try to blame other people.
* They tend to be bad parents because they do not feel capable of taking responsibility for their children’s welfare.
* If they relapse back to addiction they will blame everyone but themselves.
* When such people join a recovery program they will have unrealistic expectations and feel let down because everything is not being done for them. They fail to grasp that all of these programs only work if people take responsibility for their own life.
Those individuals who enter rehab will need to take control in order to get the most from the experience. All these inpatient (or outpatient) programs can do is to provide effective resources. It will be up to each individual to make the best of these. People can take control in rehab by:
* The individual needs to own their recovery and take responsibility for it. This means viewing addiction recovery professionals as partners rather than authority figures who should be blindly obeyed.
* The toughest part of rehab is usually the transition back home. The individual should begin preparing for this almost from day one.
* They can learn techniques such as mindfulness mediation which allows them to better understand their inner world. The individual may not be able to fully control their mind but they can stop becoming such a victim to it.
* It will be up to the individual to get the most of their experience in rehab. This means treating things seriously and investigating options.
* There will usually be people in rehab who are not fully committed to their new life. It is best to avoid such individuals as much as possible as their negativity can be contagious.
* If people have already made up their mind about everything it means that they can learn very little in rehab. The better option is to keep an open mind and consider all possibilities.
* Taking control does not mean being bossy or arrogant. Humility is an important attitude to develop as it encourages learning.
Once the individual learns to take responsibility for their own life it quickly becomes a habit. This is because the benefits of such an approach soon become apparent. In long term recovery the individual remains in control by:
* Making sobriety their number one priority in life. The individual understands that it is up to them to ensure continued recovery.
* There is no real graduation day in recovery – it is a process and not an event. This means that the individual expects to be continuously taking action to improve their life.
* The individual maintains a beginner’s mind because they know that there will always be new things to learn.
* Taking control means that they individual needs to be able to chart their progress. An effective way of doing this is by keeping a recovery journal.
* The individual will have goals but they will not become overly obsessed with these. They realize that goals are just there to keep them moving along the path of sobriety.
* Taking control means being willing to face failure and learn from it. The only real failure in life is when people give up on themselves.
* When people take control of their life they become far less dependent on other people. They also develop realistic expectations of other people and stop viewing other humans as a means to an end.
* When people take control of their life they develop the ability to be of service to other people. Helping other humans is highly recommended because it is often the one offering the help who benefits the most.
* The individual becomes determined to live life on life’s terms – they no longer try to run away from things that are unpleasant. This allows them to develop emotional sobriety.