By Haley Kennedy, Recovery Coach – 10.8.2021 –
Recovery from substance use disorder is much more than the mere abstinence from a substance. Although abstinence can be a fundamental part of the process, it doesn’t necessarily equate to recovery. SAMHSA defines recovery as “a process of change through which people improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives, and strive to reach their full potential”; meaning we can drastically change and improve our physical health, mental health, spiritual health, financial health, relationships, parenting skills, career capabilities, and the overall direction of our lives through the recovery process. But recovery isn’t only about all those drastic life changes — recovery teaches us valuable life lessons; like…
Our lives have meaning and purpose.
Everyone is free to find and define their own sense of meaning and purpose in their lives, and it can come from a variety of areas, such as career, family, nature, spirituality or religion, among others. Finding recovery is often a catalyst for us to examine our sense of meaning and purpose in the world — by being a better parent, colleague, friend, employee, community member, or exploring spirituality.
Furthermore, many of us have found that the suffering we endured during active addiction has led us to a place of personal transformation, and in some instances, we even use our experiences to help others with similar struggles; some of us find that giving back is central to our recovery.
Having a sense of meaning and purpose in life affects our general wellbeing and quality of life — impacting us physically, mentally, spiritually, financially, relationally, and every which way in-between.
Self-Esteem comes from within ourselves.
Self-esteem is one’s attitude towards themselves; more specifically, do they have a positive or negative view of themselves. Oftentimes active addiction leaves us plagued by immense feelings of shame and guilt due to the rippling impact of our substance use on ourselves and loves ones, resulting in a negative sense of self. And sometimes, the fact that we cannot stop leaves us with low self-worth because we feel “weak”. But this is unfortunate, because that low self-worth tends to exacerbate the substance use, because we find solace in the fact that it either distracts or numbs us from the feelings of inferiority and insecurity, and can also give us a false sense of confidence.
Naturally, recovery tends to increase our sense of worth and self-esteem due to the simple fact that we were able to stop using and engaging in compromising behaviors that often coincide with using. And little by slow, we learn how to “do the right thing” and continue to build our self-esteem while also repairing relationships, careers, our health, self-respect, dignity and confidence.
The importance of gratitude.
Finding recovery shows us, or reminds us, that even when life doesn’t appear to be going the way we want it to, there is always that even when life does not appear to be going your way there is always something to be grateful for. Gratitude plays a fundamental role in our mood, our behavior, and our outlook on life — improves mental health, decision making, relationships, resilience, sleep, empathy, and much more.
Show up for life.
Substances provide an opportunity to escape reality. So, when we begin to recover, we find that not only are we facing reality more often, but that there are other forms of escapism that may persist — binge watching Netflix, social media, shopping, gambling, food, etc. Learning how to be mindful and present in the moment saves us from obsessing over the past (breeding depression) or being fearful of the future (breeding anxiety). And I have found that when I am focused on being present in the moment, I also realize more of the things that I have to be grateful for.
There is always hope.
One of the first things we’re taught when starting our recovery journey is to have hope that things, and our lives will get better — a.k.a. “hold on pain ends.” Hope can seem to be frivolous to some when it comes to battling substance use, but hope is a primary agent of change, because without hope we wouldn’t have the determination to achieve our goals. And quite frankly, when we’ve made it this far — either embarking on, or continuing in, our recovery process — how could we not believe that there is hope? There is always hope. No matter how dismal things appear, no matter how problem-prone we seem to be, no matter what setbacks we suffer, there is always hope.