By Haley Kennedy, Recovery Coach – 7.16.2021 –
Once we remove substances from our lives, the hard part is over and it’s smooth sailing from then on, right? Well… Unfortunately, nope… No, it’s not. Quitting substances is certainly one of the hardest things most of us will ever do in our lives but the truth is that life is still there waiting for us. Compared to what we’ve already walked through, a lot of it is going to be good and quite a bit will be the mundane day-to-day type of stuff. Then just when we feel like we’re getting the hang of this recovery thing, a situation comes up that shakes us to our core; those times when we wonder whether we are being tested. But we’re not. We’re just living life and handling what is thrown at us. Here are some things I’ve used to continue to walk a different path, rather than using the difficult times/situations as an excuse to run back to old habits.
Let go of control.
Regardless of how anyone feels about 12 step programs, the Serenity Prayer offers wisdom for times of suffering. And if prayer isn’t your thing, maybe call it ‘The Serenity Mantra.’ Either way, it’s a wise tip passed along from a friend: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I can’t change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
What can’t you change? Work on accepting those things as they are. What can you change? Focus on a simple plan of action or even a single step. You might find that when you take the focus off external stressors, it allows you to focus on positive internal changes.
Stay on course.
Think about the things you did in early recovery: meditating, exercise, volunteering. Now ask yourself, “How many of these am I still doing?” When we start to get things back and our lives become busier, it’s really easy to forget the things that got us here in the first place. But it’s a huge mistake. If those things were effective in getting us through tough times in early recovery, they’ll certainly be just as effective now with whatever new problem we’re facing.
Check your perspective.
Does it feel like every possible thing that could go wrong is going wrong? If your answer is yes, then chances are you’re stuck in a negative outlook. When I feel like that, I like to reflect on how I felt before finding recovery and how far I’ve come. It might not go so far as to solve my problems for me but having an attitude of gratitude will certainly make tough times feel a lot easier.
Play the tape through.
Although substances are tempting because they offer an escape from all your troubles, it’s important to remember they will never solve them, but they’ll certainly lead to more issues. Play the tape all the way through, from the craving to the come down. Substances will never take care of you or your problems, no matter how much you think they will. In times of crisis, this is how you get through now, with a clear head and a ready heart.
Reach out for help.
It’s a good idea to reach out to your support network right about now. These tough times are, after all, exactly what they’re there for. Some of them might have experience with whatever you’re currently struggling with. Or they may not. Either way, just talking to them about it will probably make your problem seem much more manageable. And if you’re lucky, one of them might even have a problem that you can help them with. Helping others is an excellent way to gain some perspective on your own problems, all while making the world a better place.
Today we meet life on life’s terms rather than crawling back into a bag or a bottle. Hard times will come and go. You’ll duck and dodge them, but you’ll also step head on into them, fully prepared with the tools of recovery to feel emotions you once numbed out with substances. Because life isn’t about avoiding the bad times and loving the good times. Life is about being present for all of it.