Mistakes are inevitable in recovery; the important thing is whether you can learn from them and move on. The following are some common mistakes people make in addiction recovery.
Thinking They Can Do It Alone
A lot of people admit they have a problem but resist getting help. They want to believe they can get sober on their own. It’s understandable that you want to try to maintain control over your life but if you have a substance use disorder, then, by definition, you don’t have control over your substance use.
While you may be determined to get sober today, that determination might vanish tomorrow. What’s more, your best judgment caused you to become addicted; why should it serve you any better now that you want to recover?
If you want the best chance of a strong recovery, you need guidance to know what to do and you need social support to keep you motivated and accountable.
Spending Time with People Who Still Drink and Use Drugs
It’s tempting to think you can still spend time with your friends who drink and use drugs. They may be the only friends you have. You may believe that what they do is their business and it doesn’t have to affect you. This is typically wildly optimistic.
We are all vulnerable to being influenced by the people around us but we all assume we are the exceptions to this rule. Although you may feel lonely at first, it’s crucial to avoid people, places, and things you associate with drugs and alcohol.
Getting Complacent When Things Are Going Well
Another common mistake is to allow yourself to get complacent when recovery seems to be going well. This often happens after nine or 10 months, when your recovery routine and other behavioral changes have gotten to feel pretty easy.
You might start thinking that you can cut corners, such as skipping meetings or going to meetings but not sharing, slacking off on self-care, or neglecting other aspects of your recovery plan. This is a bit like when someone with a mental health issue is feeling pretty good and decides to stop taking their medication. The recovery plan is why things are going well, so just stick with it.
Forgetting About Positive Triggers
If you go through therapy or treatment for addiction, you will no doubt talk a lot about triggers—people, places, and things you associate with substance use that can cause cravings. In addition to specific associations, challenging emotions, such as stress, anxiety, depression, and anger, are also common triggers and you have probably spent some time learning to cope with those in a healthy way.
What people often forget is that positive emotions can be triggers too. Happy occasions, such as getting married, getting promoted, or having a baby can also be stressful. What’s more, being in an especially good mood can put you off your guard.
For example, people often go on vacation and think they’re on vacation from recovery too, or that having a drink-—just one, of course—would make the occasion perfect. It’s important to pay attention to positive triggers as well as negative ones.
Comparing Their Progress to Other People’s
As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and that is especially true in addiction recovery. It’s understandable that you want to know if you’re making progress, but other people don’t provide a useful benchmark.
Everyone enters treatment with different addiction histories, different personal backgrounds, and different personal attributes. As a result, everyone’s recovery will look different. If you compare yourself to others, you will only feel unnecessarily stressed. Instead, just try to make each day better than the day before.
Taking on Too Much Responsibility
After a few months of sobriety, you’re likely to feel much better in a relatively short time. You’re not waking up hungover, your head isn’t foggy, you’re not worried about withdrawal, you’ve probably made some new friends and some healthy lifestyle changes, and so on.
You might feel like you’re ready to take on the world. However, recovery is still pretty new. It’s a good idea to be cautious about taking on new challenges. Give your new skills and habits time to stabilize. There’s no hurry.
Expecting Too Much
Another issue many people have is that they sometimes expect that treatment and sobriety will solve all their problems. It’s important to realize that sobriety mainly keeps you from creating new problems related to substance use.
You still have to work out the problems you caused before and you will still face new problems, just not problems caused by your drinking or drug use. No one’s life is free from problems but sobriety at least makes them easier to solve.
Jumping Into a New Relationship
As it happens, the age—about 18 to 25—when most people develop substance use disorders is also the age when people are dating most actively. As a result, many people starting out in recovery are impatient to start dating again.
However, this is a bad idea for several reasons. Mainly, you need to focus on recovery for a while and you want to avoid falling into old, dysfunctional relationship patterns. Most experts recommend you have at least a year of solid recovery before you consider dating again.
Expecting Others to Change
In a perfect world, your family would participate in therapy during treatment, you would all learn to communicate and respect each other’s boundaries, and when you got home, they would refrain from using drugs or alcohol around you and do everything they can to support your sobriety. However, reality is rarely so kind.
We often have to live with the fact that our families don’t support us as much as we would like. You can ask them to support you more but you have to ultimately accept that you can’t control other people’s behavior.
Being angry about it or believing they must comply with your wishes will only make you miserable. Instead, accept that other people are going to do what they’re going to do and adjust your behavior however you have to in order to stay sober.
Thinking You’re Cured
Similar to complacency, people sometimes realize they’re doing pretty well in recovery and they start to think they can use drugs or alcohol in moderation like a normal person. You might even succeed at first. However, addiction is progressive. Your one beer at lunch will eventually become two, then a couple more after work, and so on until you’re back where you started.
Thinking Treatment Is All You Need
It’s an even bigger mistake to think that spending 30 or 90 days in treatment will break your addiction for good. Going through a quality treatment program is an excellent start to recovery, but it’s only a start. It gets you away from a bad situation, helps you learn many valuable recovery skills very quickly, and helps you establish some healthy lifestyle habits.
However, all of that has to carry over into your normal life for recovery to last. People often get tripped up by the gap between the structured, supportive environment of recovery, and the chaotic, indifferent world of their regular lives.
Typically, some kind of transitional care is needed, whether that’s a step down to outpatient care, a sober living environment, or other transitional services.
No one has a long recovery without making plenty of mistakes. While no one is immune to mistakes, having the right guidance and support can minimize the damage of these mistakes.
At Hired Power, we provide recovery services such as case management, recovery assistants, and sober monitoring to help our clients transition back to their normal lives and stay on track with recovery. To learn more about our services, call us at 714-559-3919.