Long-term recovery is all about perseverance. Some common reasons why people enter addiction treatment include being desperate for any sort of change, wanting to appease loved ones, or being motivated by avoiding jail time. During treatment, there’s often a period where these individuals feel motivated and optimistic about their long-term prospects. However, recovery goes on and on. Perhaps the biggest challenge is keeping at it when your lowest point is a distant memory and there’s no end goal in sight. There is no shortcut to perseverance; you just have to persevere. However, the following tips can help keep you going.
The first key to persistence is to create for yourself a compelling vision for your recovery. Too often, people focus on what they don’t want to happen. They think about their lowest points in active addiction, how awful and ashamed they felt, and how they never want to go back there. There may be times when this is a good motivational tactic, but ultimately, it’s not helpful to constantly think about what you don’t want for your life.
Instead, think about what you do want out of recovery and out of life. Allow yourself to think about what your perfect life might look like and how being sober will contribute to that vision. Perhaps most importantly, identify your key values. Perhaps it’s family, learning, or being of service to your community. Take some time at regular intervals to write about your highest values and how sobriety helps you honor those. Having a compelling vision and clear values can give you extra motivation when you don’t feel like working on your recovery.
When you have a compelling vision for recovery, keep in mind that it may take a while. Addiction is deeply ingrained, and progress just takes time. Typically, it gets much easier after one year and after five years. Expecting the process to take a while saves you from a lot of disappointment when things don’t turn around immediately. Just remember that if you keep doing the right things, you will eventually get the results you want.
If there’s a cheat code for perseverance in recovery, then it’s creating healthy habits and routines. When you do this, you automate healthy decisions so you don’t have to make good choices through sheer force of will every time. This takes a bit of effort at first, but it will save you a lot of effort in the long run.
Pick one new habit at a time—perhaps you want to start exercising. Know that you’re going to have to keep at it for probably two months before it feels automatic. Pick an activity that you already do every day or almost every day and anchor your new habit to that. It might be waking up in the morning or coming home from work, for example. Next, start small. You might come home from work and immediately change into your exercise clothes and that’s it. Later, you might change into your exercise clothes and then walk for five minutes, then 10 minutes. When you are first forming the habit, you don’t want it to feel challenging; you just want to tick the box until the habit is set. Then you can gradually ramp up the challenge. After a while, it takes effort to not exercise or not go to meetings, or whatever habit you have created.
Since there’s no real endpoint for addiction recovery, it helps to set goals so you have some definite aim. These should support various aspects of recovery. So, for example, one common goal is to attend 90 12-Step meetings in 90 days. This is also a clear example of a SMART goal because it is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-limited. Your goals might include finishing your degree or attending all of your kid’s soccer games. It depends on your own situation and priorities.
Another major key is to accept that you’ll have bad days, possibly a lot of them. After a really bad day where everything seems to go wrong, you might feel like you’ll never be able to sustain recovery, that there’s no point, that life is just too bad, and that some people are just doomed to misery and addiction.
Everyone who has ever recovered from addiction has felt like this at some point. Some days just feel like total failure. Remember that even if all you can do is hang on, then the day was a success. You can try again tomorrow and if tomorrow is bad, you can try again the next day. Often, it’s hard to see progress from day to day, and you only really notice when you look back over the last month or the last year. If you’re willing to go from one bad day to the next, those bad days will gradually become less frequent and less bad.
Finally, it’s crucial to have a support system. Remember the old proverb: If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. There will inevitably be times when you don’t feel motivated, when you don’t really care if you stay sober, or when you feel like you have everything under control, so you don’t have to worry too much about your recovery plan. Having a sober network and being engaged will help keep you on track when your internal motivation is weak. A support system creates a greater sense of accountability and ensures you have someone to lean on during hard times. It’s a way of using peer pressure to your advantage.
Perhaps the most daunting thing about addiction recovery is that it goes on forever. That’s too much to think about all at once. If you want to persevere, you have to create some kind of structure for yourself by identifying your values, creating good habits, and setting goals. Having reasonable expectations and social support will help keep you on track. Above all, you have to be patient with yourself and be ok with just making it through the day.
At Enlightened Solutions, we know that treatment isn’t a quick fix. That’s why we emphasize skills, lifestyle changes, and follow-up support to help our clients succeed long term. To learn more, call us today at 833-801-5483 or explore our website.
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