By: Sarah Allen Benton, MS, LMHC, LPC, AADC
Recovery is an ongoing process and those fortunate to have long-term recovery have one thing in common- an ability to recommit themselves. It has been observed that people often get sober and as a result expect that life should go their way—a reward for their “good” behavior. However, that is not generally what happens. Many sober individuals with Substance Use Disorders (SUD) report that their lives often get worse before better. While this may seem unfair, it is actually a blessing in disguise- for it can ensure that the motivation to remain sober becomes internal and not based solely on external rewards. For example, a person gets sober and then receives a new job, a romantic relationship and everything external in their life takes a positive turn. Inevitably a negative situation will arise and the individual may struggle to cope and feel that there is no point to being sober because life is not going their way. In contrast, when a person is staying sober despite difficult circumstances initially, they are able to increase their distress tolerance and to realize that recovery is about slow internal growth and not dramatic external rewards. It does not matter what the conditions are in early sobriety for an individual—positive or negative, for over time difficulties will arise. It is imperative to learn how to deal with the good, bad and indifferent waves that life will inevitably bring forth.
Initially, getting sober may feel exciting, new and fresh—the world suddenly appears different and a person may feel better mentally and physically. However, this “pink cloud”, as many have labeled it, will wear off and “reality” of this lifelong venture will set in. It is crucial to have a support system in place as well as outside help for co-occurring mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
The In-Home Addiction Treatment model (IHAT) of care is equipped to address all domains of an individual’s recovery- peer support, attending self-help meetings, community resources, therapy, family therapy and more. The IHAT Institute is training healthcare professionals with this innovative model. It is an important time for providers to be able to deliver flexible care as well as telehealth during these unpredictable times.
Recovery can feel bundane and tedious and it is up to the individual to take a look at all facets of their lives to see what actions they need to take in order to get back on track. This is the process of “re-committing” and it involves acknowledging areas of weakness or lack of focus and then self-correcting. The IHAT team can support individuals in determining which area of their life they need to focus on in order to be set up for successful recovery.
There are many aspects involved in having stable recovery. Some common areas in which individuals may lose their commitment or balance with over time are:
· Attending self-help meetings
· Dealing with resentments and anger
· Maintaining balanced nutrition
· Attending regular mutual-help meeting (A.A., SMART Recovery, Women for Sobriety)
· Attending therapy
· Staying in contact with sober peers
· Not engaging in other addictive behaviors
· Taking prescribed medication
· Being honest
· Pursuing spiritual practice
· Following through with daily responsibilities (ie, work, paying bills, chores)
· Giving back to others
· Involvement in healthy relationships (friendships, family and romantic)
One pattern that can lead to relapse is, for example, not attending mutual-help meetings for a period of time and then feeling discouraged, giving up all effort in other areas of recovery and possibly relapsing. However, no one is perfect, and everyone with long term recovery has had a time when they were lacking motivation in one area or another. The key is to observe what aspect of life is out of balance and to work on making adjustments without giving up completely. Sometimes creating small and obtainable daily goals can help a person to get back into their routine. Having the IHAT Treatment Team as a support network can allow individuals to identify areas of struggle and recommit quickly—no one has to be alone on the path towards recovery.