One of the best things about escaping an addiction is that the individual gets a second chance in life. No matter how fall down they have fallen as a result of their addiction they should now be able to experience some success in their life. After the struggle of addiction it is wonderful to have things to celebrate at last. The individual deserves to be rewarded for their successes, but it is also important to remember that there can be dangers associated with the good times as well as the bad times. It is therefore vital that people in recovery learn to enjoy their success without putting their sobriety in danger.
If people become sober and it does not make much difference to their life they are unlikely to put much effort into maintaining their recovery. The benefits of experiencing some success include:
* The better life becomes in recovery the less reason the individual will have to return to their addiction.
* Most addicts suffer from low self esteem and this negatively impacts their experience of the world. One of the best antidotes to low self esteem is success.
* Success encourages people to keep going. The desire to experience more success can encourage the individual to achieve things that they might once believed were impossible.
* Success might not only improve the life of the individual but also their family.
* Those people in recovery who find success are a wonderful inspiration to those who are struggling to get sober.
* Success is a reward for a job well done. Those who do not achieve success can feel frustrated and resentful.
* The pain of addiction fades into memory after a few months or years. Success can act as a new motivation to keep people sober.
* Success in life can be a good guide for progress. It can indicate to the individual that they are on the right track.
There can be pitfalls associated with experiencing success in recovery. These are more likely to be a problem for those who are newly sober. Those individuals who are secure in their sobriety will be able to enjoy success just like everyone else. The dangers include:
* The addict learns to associate substance abuse with reward. This means that when they achieve some success in recovery they may develop a craving for alcohol or drugs to assist their celebrations.
* It is common for people to celebrate success with alcohol. They may try to pressurize the recovering alcoholic into joining them.
* The individual may feel like they deserve to drink or use drugs as a reward for the good work. The fact that they can’t do this may lead to resentment which can be a trigger for relapse.
* If things are going particularly well for the individual they may view this as a sign that they are cured from their addiction. This may lead to the idea that it is safe for them to drink or take drugs again.
* Success can also mean that the individual loses focus on what is important in their life. They may stop doing the things that have been keeping them sober.
* After the euphoria of a great achievement there can be a feeling of anticlimax afterwards. This can lead to feelings of disappointment and can also act as a trigger for relapse.
Romancing the drink or drug occurs when people begin to remember the times when substance abuse seemed to be enjoyable. When the individual first becomes sober the pain of their addiction will be fresh in their minds. The memory of this pain is effective at encouraging the individual to stay on the sober path. As the saying goes though, time heals all wounds. Eventually the memory of how bad things were can fade, and the individual can begin to remember how they once loved alcohol and drugs so much. Such thinking can easily lead to relapse. It is vital that when such thoughts arise the individual reminds themselves of just how bad things were at the end. Romancing the drink or drug can occur at any time including when the individual has achieved some success in life.
Some individuals become so satisfied with their successes in early recovery that they can develop pink cloud syndrome. They are high on life and have a great sense of freedom. The pink cloud is a welcome experience after years of addiction, but it can have its dark side. The individual can feel so good that they begin to question if they ever had a problem to begin with. Staying away from alcohol and drugs feels so effortless that they no longer feel the need to do the things that were keeping them sober. Another danger with pink cloud syndrome is that when it ends the individual can feel hugely disappointed. They may then decide that recovery is not as wonderful as they had thought and decide to relapse.
If people have been addicted to alcohol or drugs in the past it may mean that they are more likely to develop similar problems in the future. Addiction substitution is where a person in recovery turns to another maladaptive behavior in order to escape their life. This could mean becoming obsessed with work or developing a fitness addiction. Those individuals who experience success in one area of their life may be tempted to pour more of their resources into that one area. Eventually this becomes an obsession and they neglect other important aspects of their life. It is vital that people in recovery strive for balance so as to avoid the dangers of addiction substitution.
Those individuals who escape an addiction can expect to experience plenty more success in their life going forward. This is not to say that riches will fall from the sky, but being sober means that people are now able to do the things they need to achieve their ambitions. Success is there to be enjoyed and the individual will be able to do this safely by:
* Finding suitable ways to reward their success. The reward that each individual chooses will depend on their preference, but it could include going for a meal, buying something nice, or even going on a tropical holiday.
* It is a good idea for people in early recovery to seek some extra support when they are going through a celebratory period. This will help to remind them about what is important and keep them grounded.
* Those individuals who have kept a recovery journal may benefit from reading back on this. This will remind them of where they have come from and help combat and thoughts that romance the drink or drug that may occur as a result of success.
* It is best to avoid celebrating success in a bar or at a party that is going to involve a great deal of alcohol consumption.
* If the individual is in a position where they need to attend an event where alcohol is served they need to do all they can to protect their sobriety. This could involve going to a recovery meeting beforehand or bringing along a sober friend with a strong recovery.
* The feeling of anticlimax after the euphoria of success has worn off can be a shock to the system. If the individual is prepared for this come down it will make things much easier.
* Techniques such as mindfulness meditation can help people deal better with extremes of emotion. That way when they are faced with a great deal of success they will still have their feet planted on the ground.
* It is not a good idea for the individual to become too obsessed with just one area of their life. Just because they are experiencing some success does not mean that they should neglect other things.
* Humility is a wonderful tool in recovery. It means that the individual will not allow their successes to go to their head.
* Learning to feel good about the success of other people is a sign of emotional growth. Celebrating the failures of other people is a sign of emotional immaturity – this is commonly referred to as Schadenfruede.