It is often said that recovery is a process and not an event. Some people may believe that by walking away from alcohol or drugs it will make everything right in their life. Unfortunately things are unlikely to be that simple. The reason why people turn to substance abuse in the first place is that they find sober living a real struggle. By stopping the substance abuse the individual will likely be back where they started. They will need to make further changes in order to find true happiness. The journey of recovery has no real ending point and so it should be enjoyed in itself.
Giving up an addiction is a wonderful achievement, but it is only a starting point. It clears the way so that the individual can begin their journey into sobriety. Now that they have physical sobriety their next goal will be to achieve emotional sobriety. It is this type of sobriety that will allow people to get the most out of their life and it involves:
* The ability to live in and appreciate the present moment
* No longer being a victim of emotions
* Avoiding emotional extremes
* Find it easy to regulate their behavior. This means that they are unlikely to fall into addiction ever again or develop other maladaptive behaviors.
* They suffer less from stress and stress related illness.
* Such individuals will no longer be afraid of life.
* They find it easy to develop meaningful relationships with other people.
* They will be positive thinkers.
Emotional sobriety cannot be achieved overnight. It develops if the individual is willing to deal with life in an honest and open way. It requires facing challenges and learning to overcome them.
People are unique and they will each travel their own journey in recovery. It can be helpful to break this journey into stages so long as the individual keeps in mind that these are only a very rough guide. The most common stages of recovery that people talk about include:
* The individual will acknowledge that they have a problem with alcohol or drugs.
* They develop the willingness to change.
* They will investigate recovery options.
* They will take action to end their addiction.
* The individual gives up alcohol or drugs and goes through withdrawals.
* In early recovery people will begin to learn about living a life free of alcohol and drugs. For many individuals this will occur in rehab.
* Recovery maintenance means that the individual continues to do the things that will keep them sober. During the first year it is recommended that those who have gone through rehab attend a booster session or find some other way to renew their motivation to stay sober.
* After about two years the individual will enter advanced recovery. The journey is not over but people will usually have fallen into the rhythm of living sober by this stage.
* It is suggested that serenity is the final stage of recovery. This is where living becomes almost effortless and the individual feels at peace most of the time.
It is helpful for people to have goals in life. This can act as destinations along their journey in recovery. It is not a good idea to make these goals the focus or to take them too seriously. If people become too obsessed with achieving things they can miss out on what they have in their life now. They are always thinking that happiness is over the next hill. This means that they spend their life seeking and never finding. John Lennon summed up this situation well with the song lyric, life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.
Humans can be goal orientated or process orientated. Those who are goal orientated will be focused on how best they can achieve their ambition. They tend to see the process of getting from where they are now to their goal as an inconvenience that they need to overcome as fast as possible. Those individuals who are process orientated realize that they will spend most of their life on the journey towards goals. They are far more focused on the actual process than the goal. This means that they are not waiting for their life to happen but are happier to live in the moment.
The only time that people really have is this present moment. If they are always thinking about what they want to happen in the future they can miss out on what is happening now. This is not a good way to live and can lead to a great deal of dissatisfaction. It can also mean that people miss out on the high points of their life because they were too focused on their next goal. Learning to live in the moment is a skill that is highly recommended for people who wish to build a successful recovery. The ability to do this is a sign of emotional sobriety. Overcoming this tendency of the mind to always be moving away from the present is a challenge, but it is undoubtedly worth the effort.
Mindfulness meditation is a wonderful technique for teaching people how to live in the moment. It is all about paying attention to what is here now. The meditator learns to be more objective about what is happening inside their mind. When the individual’s thinking moves towards the past or the future, the person who is mindful will be able to gently bring it back to the present moment. They may have to do this hundreds of times in just one meditation sitting but this practice means that they get better at it. Eventually the meditator is able to take this mindfulness into their daily life so that they present more of the time.
Life can be wonderful when everything is going great, but this is not usually when people learn and develop. It is common for people to view any problems as negative and a hassle, but in fact these challenges can be their greatest friend. When people face an overcome a new challenge they will usually pick up some new coping strategies. This means when they are faced with similar challenges in the future they will know how to cope. Eventually people can reach a stage that they have overcome so many obstacles in life that living becomes easy. No matter what challenge comes their way the individual will know how to deal with it.
Recovery never really ends because there is always more work to be done. The aim is progress and not perfection, but it is good for people to keep moving towards perfection – even though they know that this is probably unobtainable. Some people may look upon the development of serenity as the final goal of recovery. It is true these individuals will have a great sense of mastery over their own life, but it probably doesn’t mean that all the work is done. The journey of recovery continues right up to the last breath and it may well continue on after this as well.