If you’ve been in recovery for any period of time, you’ve likely dealt with unpleasant experiences and difficult emotions. Feeling uncomfortable in recovery sucks and there are no two ways around it. Not only are we facing something we don’t want to deal with, but we no longer have a way to anesthetize. And then, of course, if we’re in a twelve-step program, there’s that popular little acronym, HALT. It stands for “Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired.” In other words, don’t be too much of any of these things. It’s a great suggestion, but sometimes when the pot gets stirred, our serenity is impacted, or our actual foundation (physical and mental) is shaken, the suggestion is easier said than done. Like, what if we have loud neighbors keeping us up at all hours of the night, or we get stuck in the office late without anything to snack on, or we have a loved one placing unreasonable demands on us? And then there are more extreme examples, like when we’re faced with illness, disease, situations that threaten our safety, death, and the list goes on. It’s easy for the folks around us to say, “hey, HALT!” But guess what? When the sh*t hits the fan sometimes, it’s not always so simple.
That being said, those of us in recovery, and particularly those of us that work programs like AA, NA, SMART, or similar, have tools for dealing with uncomfortable emotions. That’s not to say that difficult situations can ever be turned into non-difficult situations, but we do have the ability to shift our perspective. And, as addicts who’ve managed to put together a significant period of clean time, we tend to be pretty resilient humans. After all, the vast majority of addicts who try to get clean don’t usually stay sober. Those of us who do are the exception and not the rule, which is pretty miraculous in and of itself. Remember this, and trust that there’s a power greater than you on your team, regardless of whether or not you believe in a Higher Power. That “power” might even be your fellows in recovery, but whatever it is, there’s definitely something pretty awesome working in your life if you’re staying clean.
Here are some tips we’ve found super useful to help us shift perspectives when times get tough in recovery:
- Trust. This can be a really challenging one for a lot of us, particularly when the going gets tough. But it’s what we’ve already touched on – the simple fact that those of us who manage to put together any clean time are the exception. And we’re resilient. Letting go and trusting that we’re being taken care of is what we did when we first got clean. This act of letting go has the power to carry us through just about anything. Trust this.
- Stay in the present moment. This is another one that can be difficult for a lot of us, but it works in alignment with trust. Trusting that we’re being taken care of lets us stay present. 99.9 percent of the time, we tend to be ok right now. Ask yourself questions like, “Do I have a roof over my head, do I have enough food and water to get through the day today, and can I get to a recovery meeting?” Usually, we can answer yes to these kinds of questions. In extreme cases when we can’t, help is usually just a phone call away. Recovery really is about taking things day by day.
- Get yourself to a meeting. Again, it doesn’t matter which program it is, but staying close to a group of other addicts in recovery is one of the best tools to help us stay clean and get through the tough times. There’s so much power in connection – don’t underestimate it. A lot of our fellows have faced similar challenges to our own, and the bonds we form in recovery can carry us through almost anything, including our darkest days. Just stay close.
- Meditate. Okay, another one that sounds tricky when we’re going through tough times, but it sure does work wonders. Yes, shutting off our thoughts when life gets messy is hard, but we don’t have to actually shut them off. We can just be quiet observers of those thoughts – this helps us to put things into perspective. If you can’t get quiet on your own, there are tons of great guided meditations out there, and sometimes just a gentle meditative music track can help. Check your smartphone for meditation apps, and also try searching on apps like Spotify for meditation music.
- Know that it will pass. There’s a popular saying in twelve-step recovery – ”this, too, shall pass,” and it’s so true. It will. Nothing in life is permanent. In fact, change is really the only thing in life that’s certain, so here’s yet another reminder to trust. Trust that your situation, whatever it may be, is temporary. Even if it results in the worst possible outcome, you’ll move through it.
It all boils down to living life day-by-day. Recovery is not a race, it’s a very slow marathon and there’s no finish line, so try not to look for one. You’re sober today and this is all that matters. You will be okay but just stay in this moment. And be nice to yourself today. Again, you’re staying clean and this is no easy feat, which makes you a friggin’ miracle. Own it.
Kembali is here for you…
If you or someone you love is struggling to get or stay clean, Kembali can help. Contact us today to learn about our four-week treatment program. We also offer a Recovery and Beyond Program for anyone who’s clean and would like to address other issues coming up for them in recovery. We never have to do this alone.