Recovering from addiction is one of the biggest challenges anyone can face. There are many aspects to a successful recovery including building a positive support system, learning new coping skills, making healthy lifestyle changes, and addressing any old trauma or mental health issues. Unfortunately, you can do many things right in recovery and still fail if you make too many mistakes. Here are some of the most common mistakes that undermine people’s recovery efforts.
There’s a lot riding on your recovery from addiction so it only makes sense that you would want to look for indications of how you’re doing. Unfortunately, many people try to gauge their progress by comparing themselves to others. There is quite a bit of research that shows comparing yourself to others is bad for your happiness and mental health. One study found that people who said they frequently make social comparisons were more likely to experience envy, guilt, regret, and defensiveness, and were more likely to lie, blame others, and have unmet cravings. [https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2006-12888-004] Much of the research on social media and mental health has found that social media increases risk of depression when users habitually compare themselves to others. None of these emotions are helpful in addiction recovery.
Beyond that, comparisons are just not very accurate. Everyone enters treatment with a different addiction history, a different personal history, different strengths, and different weaknesses. Everyone progresses more quickly in some ways than others and you never really know what’s happening inside someone else’s head. In other words, comparing yourself to others just makes you feel worse for no reason at all.
No one beats addiction alone. Everyone has help. You need to rely on people sometimes. Having a strong support network is one of the best predictors of success in recovery. Having a strong feeling of social connection gives you a sense of purpose and direction, it establishes expectations for your behavior, it relieves stress and gives you additional resources to deal with problems, and it creates additional accountability because you don’t want to disappoint your friends and family. On the other hand, loneliness often leads to feelings of boredom and depression. It’s essential to connect with positive people as much as you can early on in recovery.
Another common mistake people make is spending time with negative influences once they leave treatment. These are often the same people they used drugs and alcohol with and some of these people may pressure them to drink or use again. It can be very challenging to make a clean break and start making new friends. However, someone doesn’t have to drink or use drugs to be a negative influence on your recovery. People who are negative or critical or people who don’t respect you or your boundaries can cause you a lot of stress, anxiety, and self-doubt. It’s better to avoid these kinds of people if you can.
It may seem obvious that if you’re in recovery, you shouldn’t drink but many people think that if their problem was substances other than alcohol that there’s no harm in having a drink now and then. Unfortunately, for many people, drinking is the first domino. It can be a strong trigger for other drugs, it can put you in situations where you may feel more pressure to use, and it lowers your inhibitions and impairs your judgment. All of these make you more likely to relapse.
After treatment, if things seem to be going well for several months, you might start to get complacent. Recovery is both challenging and exciting at first and you are likely to see a lot of changes in a short time. However, many people start to get complacent after about nine or 10 months of sobriety. They feel like they no longer have to work so hard to stay sober and they sometimes even feel like they’ve beaten addiction. This can lead to all kinds of problems. Most frequently, they will start neglecting parts of their recovery plan like going to meetings, journaling, exercising, and so on. These occasional lapses don’t make much of a difference but once they become habitual, things start to fall apart. They may start bottling up emotions, feeling pessimistic or cynical, and before long they start reminiscing about drinking or drug use, while conveniently forgetting all the problems substance use caused.
At least half of people with substance use disorders also have a co-occurring mental health issue. Common issues include major depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, PTSD, ADHD, OCD, schizophrenia, and personality disorders. These are often the driving force behind the substance use disorder, although sometimes substance use can lead to problems like anxiety and depression. Most quality treatment programs will identify and treat co-occurring disorders simultaneously but not every program is set up to do that. And 12-step programs like AA and NA aren’t designed to treat co-occurring disorders at all.
Most experts agree that you should have at least a year of solid recovery before you start dating again. This may come as bad news for young adults but there are several good reasons for it. First, you need to focus on recovery for a while and dating is a huge distraction. It takes time and energy that you should devote to recovery for a while. Second, it introduces a lot of potential stress and drama into your life. New relationships are great at first, but they can sour quickly, leading to emotional turmoil that you don’t need. Third, many people with substance use disorders have a pattern of unhealthy relationships. Taking some time away from dating allows you to make emotional progress so you can break out of these patterns but if you start dating again too soon, you may find yourself back in the same old relationship rut.
If you have a loved one who is struggling with addiction, Hired Power and our team of dynamic, experienced recovery professionals are here to guide you every step of the way. We offer many services, including helping you choose the best treatment program and transitional services, including interventions, sober monitoring, and personal recovery assistants. Call us today for information on our recovery services: 714-559-3919.
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