It’s no secret that recovery is difficult. It can save your life and relationships, and help you down the path to true happiness, but the process is not without its obstacles. Remember that recovery is a journey and not a destination. And remember that you are not alone.
Everyone’s experience is unique and very personal, but most recovering addicts encounter many, if not all, of these seven problems that arise in recovery.
1. Temptation to Use Again
If your substance of choice happens to be a legal one, like alcohol, temptation lies around every corner. Drugs have a hypnotizing allure and breaking free is no easy task. Every recovering addict deals with temptation at one point or another. Many even find that temptation is a daily occurrence.
Here are two tips for dealing with temptation:
a. Know your triggers – When does using seem most appealing to you? Maybe it’s a tradition of sipping whiskey with family members at a holiday event? Or maybe it’s the bar you drive by on the way home from work every day? When you know what will trigger you, it’s easier to prepare and avoid those temptations. Maybe you bring a non-alcoholic alternative to the next holiday or take an alternate route home to avoid the bar. It’s not always best to face your triggers head on. Oftentimes, the answer is to steer clear.
b. Consider consequences – Get in the habit of reciting the consequences of a relapse, if only in your head. If you’re consciously thinking about how likely you’d be to lose your job and family, you should be less likely to relapse. Think of it this way: a decision to use again isn’t a one-time thing. It’s a relapse. That doesn’t mean you can’t recover, but it’s infinitely easier to stay on the right track.
2. Finding replacement addictions
If heroin was your drug of choice, it’s important to know that heroin isn’t your only problem. The same goes with any substance you may have abused. You chose this drug for the same reason you might choose any other: It alters your state of mind. Steer clear of any substances that give you a dopamine rush, and be wary of activities that do the same. Replacing one addition with another isn’t productive for recovery.
When you stop using an addictive substance that your body has relied on for an extended period, your brain and body must adjust. This can cause a short-term chemical imbalance that causes withdrawal symptoms like insomnia.
If you’re dealing with insomnia during recovery, know that this symptom is likely temporary as your body readjusts to living without drugs or alcohol. In the meantime, try to get lots of sunshine during the day to ensure your internal clock is set to a natural rhythm.
4. Dealing with Doubt
In recovery, you’ll surely encounter some non-believers. Oftentimes, these are the people who were hurt most by your addiction, which means they are likely to be close to you. Remember that addiction is often a family disease. It can deeply affect everyone.
When you’re having a bad day, this person may question whether you’re back to your old ways. Doubt from loved ones can be especially disheartening when you’re working so hard to stay on the right track.
Here are some quick tips for dealing with other people’s doubts about your recovery:
a. Rely on your network – Identify and reach out to the people who can relate to what you are feeling. Whether you have a sponsor or a network of friends who have been where you are, you’ll need people who understand what it’s like to be in your shoes.
b. Identify their feelings for what they are – If someone you care about is doubting you, their doubt is likely based in fear; fear that you’ll relapse and they’ll lose you again. Whether it is fear or doubt, it is a negative emotion. Now is a time for you to focus on positivity. Actively describe how this person’s doubt has made you feel and then move on.
c. Create small goals for yourself – Write down a few recovery-related goals that you can achieve within the next few days. This will give you a sense of accomplishment and it should renew your resolve to remain sober.
5. Feelings of Anxiety
Anxiety is another common symptom of recovery during the PAWS phase. This is when the body must learn to function without a drug that alters its chemistry. This can be a difficult time, but understand that it is temporary. As your body regulates, so should your mood. In the meantime, try to engage in relaxing activities and avoid stress as much as possible.
6. Feelings of Guilt
Guilt is a difficult feeling to shake, and it can derail the strongest recovery plan, if you let it. The first and best way to handle guilt is to apologize. Acknowledge that you know you’ve done wrong and you are truly sorry. If apologies are not possible or the guilt remains, try to find a healthy outlet. Try volunteering to help others. Nothing can undo the past, but you can control the type of impact you have on people’s lives going forward.
7. Pressure to Succeed
You know that being a productive member of society means more than just staying sober, so you obsess over work and making money. But this obsession can be your downfall, so tread lightly. It’s important to balance home life, work and sobriety when you’re in recovery. It’s okay to reach for success, but don’t get so caught up that your happiness is tied to money or work.
If you’re experiencing one or more of these symptoms, talking can help. Reach out to a trusted friend or family member or seek the council of a professional.