When you first get sober, your motivation may be high. Life is new and exciting; the world is full of possibilities. As time goes by, though, the shininess of early recovery fades. Even when sobriety is infinitely more rewarding than your old life, you start taking things for granted. Eventually, the motivation that fueled your days starts to wane, and the risk of relapse rears its ugly head. One of the biggest challenges comes when you find your motivation to stay sober dwindling.
The Definition of Motivation
The expression, “He lacks motivation,” is often used negatively. This type of criticism is usually not a true reflection of what is happening because even someone who sits around all day might be motivated. The problem is not that they lack motivation per se, but that they are, instead, motivated to do what others would consider wrong. Therefore, you can define motivation as the driving force behind an action.
There are two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. If you do something because you feel it is good or right, that is intrinsic motivation. If you do things because of external pressure or influence, that is extrinsic motivation.
Recovery is a Journey, Not a Destination
People giving up their addictions and living “happily ever after” is a fairytale. You became addicted in the first place; take away the drugs and alcohol, and that reason is probably still there. One of the reasons people start using or drinking is ineffective coping strategies – they cannot deal with “life on life’s terms.” If you have been relying on a substance as your solution to life’s problems, and you give up that solution without making any other changes, you will be right where you were when you started. You will have to do some real work not only to leave your addiction behind but to build a life. When you finish rehab, you don’t graduate. Your journey has barely begun.
Obtaining Serenity and Emotional Sobriety
People who establish a meaningful life in sobriety have developed what is known as “emotional sobriety,” the ability to handle their emotions appropriately. Someone who is emotionally sober does not have to run away from life or hide behind it inside a bottle. Instead, they have the skills necessary to deal with whatever life brings. They are willing to feel their feelings.
Serenity is closely related to emotional sobriety but can take much longer to develop. A goal of 12-Step programs, serenity, is a stage of recovery where you can handle anything that happens throughout your life without inner turmoil.
Serenity comes from facing life. As you deal with your problems, you develop new coping skills, which you can add to your “recovery toolbox.” As time passes, you will have a tool that is appropriate for nearly every occasion. At this point, you will have achieved serenity, and your life will become more manageable.
Why Motivation Dwindles in Long-Term Sobriety
You can find yourself lacking motivation after being sober for as little as a week or as long as a decade for various reasons:
You have “built-in forgetters .” People in recovery have notoriously short memories when it comes to the pain of the past. Mainly once you have made amends and healed some relationships, you can start remembering the “good times” you had with your substance of choice. Known as romancing the drug or drink, this type of thinking can easily cause people to lose their motivation to stay sober.
You might have unrealistic expectations. When you start your recovery with unrealistic or unreasonable expectations, you are bound to be disappointed. This disappointment invariably undermines motivation. You didn’t destroy your life overnight, so you’re not going to be able to clean it up overnight, either. You took a meaningful step by putting down the substance, but there is still much work to be done.
Your pink cloud is out of vapor. If you came into recovery with all pistons firing, you could quickly run out of steam. This type of deflation is particularly likely to happen to you if you went through the “pink cloud syndrome.” The pink cloud syndrome occurs when you become so enthralled with life in recovery that you somewhat lose touch with reality. You find it easy to stay sober and, in so doing, you take your sobriety for granted. When the pink cloud goes away, you crash down to earth, and you can become disenchanted when you discover that staying sober takes work.
You might have veered from the path. Sometimes you lose your bearings in recovery. You might get caught up in life and forget to keep doing the things that brought you to that life in the first place. Losing your way is okay, as long as you recognize it when it happens and get back on the path.
When Lack of Motivation Turns Into Dry Drunk Syndrome
When you lose motivation in recovery, there is a danger of becoming stuck. When you get stuck in your recovery, your life is no longer satisfying, and you are at risk for relapse. But even if you don’t relapse, there is still something called dry drunk syndrome that can wreak havoc with your life and the lives of those around you. When you are a dry drunk, you view your sobriety as a punishment, almost a prison sentence. You’re not happy, and your behaviors can be just as sick as they were when you were using. Dry drunks have no emotional sobriety and no real happiness.
How to Keep Your Motivation For the Long Haul
There is an effort necessary to stay motivated in long-term sobriety. Here are some strategies that those who have long periods of recovery have successfully employed:
- Doing service. The Preamble of Alcoholics Anonymous states, “Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.” Unity, recovery, and service are the essence of the 12-Steps, and service is the tie that binds them. AA says that you cannot keep what you have without giving it away, which is at the core of service work. Working with others reminds you where you once were and what you have to look forward to should you relapse. By helping others in their recovery, you are investing in your recovery.
- Staying involved. Being a part of the recovery community doesn’t end when treatment ends. Joining a recovery fellowship is the best way to keep motivation high.
- Writing. Journaling is an excellent tool to keep you motivated in recovery. If you are journaling, you are reflecting on your life and can more acutely see your growth. If you feel like you are starting to lose enthusiasm for your sobriety, you can look at earlier entries and gain new inspiration.
- Finding a spiritual path. Spirituality and religion are not the same. No one will tell you that you have to find God or go to church to have good sobriety. Things like meditation, mindfulness, and yoga are all spiritual practices that will significantly increase your recovery motivation.
Regardless of how long you’ve been sober, there will probably come the point when you find yourself losing your motivation. When you find yourself looking for inspiration, it can be helpful to go back to the beginning. Sit with yourself, reflect on how far you have come, and look at what you did to get there. Those are the things you need to continue doing to stay sober. But if you are still struggling, it might be that you need to inject some new ideas. Some examples may include being of service, staying involved, writing, or finding a spiritual path. The Personal Recovery Assistants at Hired Power are experts at getting to the root of the problem and finding new ways to get you motivated. Call them at (800) 910-9299 to find out if they can help you get a fresh perspective on ways to improve your sobriety. Remember, your recovery is a journey, not a destination. Try to enjoy the ride!