Staying sober is fairly straightforward when life is going smoothly. Those who have been sober for a few months may even forget they ever even had a problem. It is during those times when things turn sour that people can really struggle to keep away from alcohol or drugs. Those individuals who are in early recovery can also find it hard to cope with the highs of sobriety as well. This is because they have developed such a strong connection between doing well and rewarding themselves by abusing chemicals. It is usually the disasters that prove to be the most troublesome for people recovering from an addiction.
The word disaster is commonly used in everyday speech but there can be disagreement about what it actually means. This is because what can be classified as this type of event is purely subjective. What one person classifies as a disaster, another individual might view as a minor hiccup. The dictionary defines _disaster_ as a sudden calamitous event that brings great damage. In recovery, a disaster can refer to any situation in which the individual feels overwhelmed.
Just because people manage to stop abusing alcohol or drugs it does not mean that there life will be free of vicissitudes thereafter. Unfortunately, this is not how it works. Nobody gets a free pass in life. The most common calamitous events that people are likely to face in sobriety include:
* Death of loved ones
* Chronic disease
* Their children getting sick or injured
* A child leaving home
* Breakup of their marriage
* Loss of their job
* Being forced to retire
* Losing their savings because of financial mistakes (either by them or other people)
* Chronic unemployment
* Loss of their home because of inability to pay the mortgage
* Natural disasters
* Manmade disasters
* Relapse of friends back to addiction
* Failing at something that felt important (e.g. an exam or driving test)
* Rejection from a romantic interest
* Discovering a dark secret about somebody close
Those individuals who have developed some emotional sobriety will be better able to handle these misfortunes than those who are emotionally immature. Emotional sobriety refers to the ability of people to handle their own emotions. It is sometimes also described as the willingness to feel your feelings.
Those individuals who have developed this type of emotional sobriety do not become some type of unfeeling iceberg – that would not be such a desirable state. These are the signs of emotional sobriety:
* An emotional sober person is less likely to be overwhelmed by strong emotions. This means that when disasters strikes they will be able to avoid going into panic mode.
* These people will suffer much less from the physical and mental health problems that occur because of an inability to cope with stress.
* These are individuals who are able to live in the moment most of the time. They are not always thinking about their past or worrying about their future.
* Emotionally sober people do not feel that they need to numb their feelings in any way. This means that alcohol or drugs no longer have much appeal to them.
* Such individuals are not such a victim to mood swings.
* They are not constantly seeking for new ways to fix their life.
* Most of the time, the emotionally sober will hold a positive outlook on life. They feel optimistic about the future and content with their current conditions.
Serenity is the final goal of many spiritual paths including the 12 Steps. This is the quality of feeling calm or tranquil despite external conditions. The individual who has developed a high degree of serenity will be generally unruffled no matter what is going on in their life. They have developed such functional coping strategies that they automatically know how to handle any situation. Of course, these people will still become upset when loved ones become sick or die, but they have developed an inner peace that is unshakable. This level of serenity means that they can help other people come to terms with disaster.
Disasters of one sort or another are almost guaranteed to happen to people in sobriety. It is not really possible to avoid them. All that can be done is to be prepared for them. These are some steps that people can take to be more prepared for future misfortune in the course of recovery:
* The key to coping with disasters in recovery is to have good coping strategies. These strategies are often compared to tools in a toolbox. The more of these coping strategies that the individual has accumulated, the more likely they will have something suitable when a problem arises. It can be helpful to think of serenity as being similar to having a full box of these tools.
* Those people who belong to 12 Step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous are advised to regularly attend meetings even when they feel secure in their sobriety. Some old timers refer to their continued attendance at these meetings as being similar as putting money away in the bank for a rainy day. In the future if things go wrong they will be more easily able to cope because of the strength they gained from those meetings they went to when times were good.
* Keeping a journal is another effective way to prepare for the future. This is because such record keeping allows the individual to more easily see the ebbs and flows in their life. They get to see that disasters come and disasters go, but the tide always comes back. The individual can read back on their diary entries to see how they coped with disaster in the past.
* Mindfulness meditation is a highly effective technique that can make the individual deal more easily with any calamity that befalls them. This type of meditation allows people to understand what is going on in their heads much better. This means that they become less of a victim to their own thinking. The individual who has developed mindfulness is able to take a step back in the midst of disaster; rather than getting swept up in the panic.
* Those individuals who have some type of spiritual practice may find that this is a great comfort in times of unrest. Religion and philosophy give life meaning and can provide solace and strength during troubled times.
* Those individuals who are self-absorbed will tend to find disasters harder to deal with. This is because they will only be able to view it on personal terms. Even a natural disaster will appear as a personal attack. Developing the habit of thinking more about other people can actually turn out to be a great strength in times of trouble. This type of personality trait can be developed in sobriety. One way of doing this is to become involves in some type of service. This doesn’t have to be just helping other addicts but that can be a great option.
* It is important that people have realistic expectations of life in recovery. It will be possible for them to build a great life, and if they are industrious they will be able to achieve many of their dreams. There are going to be bad times as well because this is just part of the human condition. If people expect to be somehow exempt from such disasters then they will be setting themselves up for disappointment – nobody gets a completely easy ride through life. The good news is that it is usually by making it through these disasters that people in discovery find true happiness and peace.