The Virtue of Patience in Recovery

It is a cliche, but there is a great deal of truth in the idea that patience is a virtue. In fact it would be fair to say that anyone who wants to achieve something meaningful in life will need to develop at least some of this attribute. In modern western culture there is a great deal of emphasis on quick results, but this way of thinking can actually be harmful. It is particularly important that those people who are recovering from an addiction learn to be patient. It will take a bit of time and effort before they manage to rebuild their life. Those people who are expecting quick results will usually be disappointed.

Patience Defined

Patience can be defined as tolerant and even tempered perseverance. It has also been described as the ability to bear pains and trails calmly without complaint. Those who are patient avoid acting rashly and they have realistic expectations about results. The individual who has this type of mental fortitude is able to delay gratification in the hope of future reward.

Benefits of Patience

Those who are patient do not demand instance results. This ability to wait for things is beneficial because it means:

  • Most of the good things in life take time and effort. Those who are patient will be willing to putting in the required energy in the hope of future rewards.
  • There can be a great deal more satisfaction to be enjoyed when people have needed to wait for something and work hard. The fact that the prize has not come easy makes it more valuable.
  • The reasons why most people fail to achieve their dreams is that they give up when faced with hurdles. Those who are patient will be willing to stay the course until they reach their goal.
  • Patient people tend to be able to keep their emotions in check. This means that they are easier to be around and so make friends easily.
  • Those who rush to get a job done will usually end up with results that are inferior. In order to get better results the individual has to work patiently and carefully.
  • This type of person will usually be process orientated rather than goal orientated.

Process versus Goal Orientation

When it comes to achieving something in life it is possible to be goal orientated or process orientated. Those people who are goal orientated are focused on achieving their mission in the shortest possible time. They will tend to view the process of making the goal happen as something that is in the way.

Those people who are process orientated tend to look at things in a completely different way. They work towards the goal but their attention is on the process. They make the journey to fulfilling their aspirations as satisfying as possible. This is a far more intelligent way to live because humans spend more time working towards their goals than they do actually achieving them. Those people who are process orientated have learned the secret that much of the happiness of achieving a goal is to be found in the process. This means that they are not in a rush, and they make no attempts to cut corners.

Patience and Realistic Expectations

The other great benefit of patience is that it means that people have realistic expectations in life. They appreciate that meaningful things require time and effort, and they are not put off by this. Such people will be optimistic about their abilities to make their dreams a reality, but they will also have a realistic understanding of what will be involved. If the dream means enough to them they will be willing to make the necessary sacrifices.

Realistic Expectations in Recovery

Addiction can cause a great deal of havoc in a person’s life. Most of those who fall into substance abuse will not have a satisfying lifestyle to begin with, and their addiction will just make things a great deal worse. It can take many years before the addict reaches a point in their life where they become willing to stop the substance abuse and by this time their life may be a real mess. Giving up the addiction will be a great start, but it is unrealistic to expect that things will be put right overnight. It can take a few years in recovery before the individual finds the peace and happiness they so desire.

Dangers of Unrealistic Expectations in Recovery

Unrealistic expectations for life recovery can be dangerous because:

  • If people expect their life to become perfect as soon as they stop drinking they are going to be disappointed.
  • When unrealistic expectations fail to be met the individual may use this as an excuse to relapse back to their addiction.
  • In order to build a successful recovery it is necessary to put in a great deal of effort and time. Those who expect instant results will not be willing to put in enough energy into their recovery.
  • Those who expect too much will be easily disheartened. There are good days and bad days in recovery and people need to be able to tolerate both.
  • Unmet expectations can lead to stinking thinking and dissatisfaction. Even if the individual manages to stay away from alcohol and drugs they could still develop dry drunk syndrome.
  • When life does not live up to expectations it can mean that people end up with symptoms of depression.
  • It can sap away motivation so that the individual just gives up.

How to Develop Patience in Recovery

There are some people who just seem to have been born patient. It is in their nature and requires no real effort. Other people really have to work hard to develop a degree of patience because it does not come naturally to them. Most addicts will fall into this category. It is possible for people to learn to be patient by:

  • Once people experience the process of making sacrifices in order to gain future rewards it builds their confidence. The next time they have to go through this process they will find it easier to be patient.
  • It is important that people learn to avoid quick fixes and short cuts. These often end up leading to extra work or inferior results.
  • In the modern world there is a great deal of emphasis on the idea that faster means better. It can take a bit of effort to get away from this type of thinking but it is better to do so.
  • A practice like mindfulness meditation can teach people to appreciate the present moment so that they are not always striving for future rewards. There is plenty to enjoy right now but people can miss this if they are always thinking about what is over the next hill.
  • It is helpful if people deliberately take on hobbies that require patience and persistence. Activities such as gardening or art can be great for teaching this virtue – and so can more physical activities such as martial arts or yoga.
  • It is good to remember the song lyric by John Lennon, life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans. Ambitions and goals are just something to work towards but the real happiness in life can only be enjoyed now.
  • Many people in recovery have low self efficacy and this means that they do not have much believe in their own ability to achieve goals.
  • This is why it is a good idea to set easily achievable goals in the beginning before attempting things that will require a great deal of patience.