5 Signs You Are Getting the Most from Recovery
Clean and Sober yet Stuck at Suvarnabhumi Airport
Imagine you went to the trouble of flying all the way to Thailand, only to spend your three-weeks of holiday camped in the airport. By remaining at Suvarnaphumi International, you can escape much of the hassle of navigating a foreign country, but you will also be missing out on an incredible adventure. We face a similar situation in recovery if we settle for just being clean and sober.
The way we escape substance abuse is by leaving our comfort zone and making some radical changes to our lives. This is no small thing. Most humans struggle to make even minor alternations to their habitual patterns (just think of all of those broken New Year’s resolutions), and we also have the complication of physical and psychological addiction. Establishing ourselves in recovery requires a huge amount of courage and effort, so it is a real shame if we then settle for a new life that is less than what it could be.
The problem is how do we tell if we are getting the most from recovery? Well, here are 5 signs you are definitely on the right track:
1. You Have an Improved Ability to Manage Your Emotions
Emotional sobriety refers to the ability to regulate your emotions. It means that you no longer feel any need to escape your feelings by turning to substance abuse or other maladaptive behaviours. We are able to do this because we realise the problem has never actually been the emotions but our thoughts about how we ‘should’ be feeling (i.e. ‘I shouldn’t be feeling this way). The reason we struggle to sit with our feelings is we lack self-compassion, but this is a skill we can learn in recovery.
2. You Feel Comfortable in Your Own Skin
Most of us have difficulty providing an exact reason for why we ended up addicted to alcohol or drugs. One common experience most of us share though is that we remember feeling ‘uncomfortable in our own skin’ and alcohol or drugs seemed to make this better. This feeling of being out of place in the world arises because we spend too much time caught up in discursive thinking. By practicing mindfulness, we can learn to feel once again at home again in our bodies.
3. You Think More about Other People
I like to refer to those of us who end up in rehab as ‘high maintenance’ people. What I mean by this is that in order for us to stay afloat in life, we need to devote most of our energy on ourselves. A sure sign that we are making solid progress in recovery is we are requiring less and less self-maintenance as our issues are being dealt with. As this self-cherishing diminishes, we naturally spend more time concerned with the needs of those we care about. Then we make the amazing discovery that real happiness is not about thinking more about ourselves but thinking more about others.
4. You Avoid Unethical Behaviour
Our actions say far more about us than our words. It is easy to ‘talk a good recovery’, but it is our behaviour that is the real litmus test of progress. People can get away with unethical behaviour without it leading to relapse, but if our goal is the serenity available through solid recovery, the journey is going to require more from us.
The path towards solid recovery gets narrower as we go along. This commitment to ethical behaviour arises because an essential part of the journey is developing compassion for ourselves and other people. We don’t want to suffer because of our actions, and we don’t want other people to suffer because of our actions, and this is what drives us to behave ethically.
There is a great joy to be found in behaving ethically. It also means we sleep easier at night, and it greatly improves our relationships.
5. You Live More in the Moment
‘Just be in the now’ has become a bit of a cliché, but the less mental energy we devote to thinking about the past and future, the more we will be able to appreciate what is right before us now. When we see for ourselves how discursive thinking is just a poor replacement for reality, it becomes much easier to live in the moment.
Some additional signs you are getting the most from your recovery:
• You have developed the willingness to live life on life’s terms
• Other people are finding you easier to be around
• People come to you for advice
• You feel a sense of compassion for complete strangers
• You hold your opinions lightly
• There is a sense of inner ‘okay-ness’ that never goes away no matter what is happening
• Your life has a sense of purpose