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10 Strategies for Dealing with Dark Days in Recovery


right-directionOne of the things you are likely to hear from people who have been sober for a bit of time is that ‘a bad day in recovery is better than the best day in addiction’. There is some truth behind this statement, but it would unrealistic to expect that there are going to be no dark days in sobriety. In fact, thinking this way could put you in danger because it means you will not be prepared for the bad days when these do come.

The fact that you have given up alcohol or drugs is almost certainly going to lead to significant improvements in your life, but it will not all be plain sailing. You are likely to face some dark days in the future, so you need to be prepared for this. It is just an unpleasant fact and there is no getting away from it. It is not uncommon for those who have been sober a few years to enter a long stretch of dark days, which can be a real test of their recovery.

If you have strategies for dealing with the bad days, it will make things much easier for you. Here are 10 things you can do when faced with this type of challenge.

1. View the Dark Days as a Period of Growth

When things are going well in life, it is natural to just coast along without having to make any real effort to concern yourself with personal growth. It is only when things get hard that you are forced to leave your comfort zone and begin taking action to improve your situation. Going through adolescence involves plenty of uncomfortable growth spurts, and this type of process does not end when you enter adulthood.

It is will be much better if you look at the dark days as just periods of growth rather than evidence that you are no good. One of the benefits of keeping a journal is it can allow you to look back on previous dark days and see how these periods led to improvements in your life. Depending on your spiritual orientation, you may believe there is some external force orchestrating these testing times, but even if you do not believe this, it is much better to act as if this were the case.

2. Consider the Possibility that You May be Depressed

Sometimes there can be a medical reason for why your life has shifted to a more sombre mood. If you have been persistently lacking in energy and feeling a lack of purpose in life, it could mean you are depressed. There is a strong link between alcoholism and depression and many people get sober but fail to get this mental health problem treated properly. This is why it is so important that you get a medical opinion if there is any chance that depression could be the cause of your persistent low mood.

3. Have Faith that the Tide Always Turns

Things may appear dark now, but these feelings are not going to last forever. The tide always turns, so it important to have a bit of faith that this is the case. Think back to your dark days and how there were many good days after this – remember how desperate you felt at the end of your addiction, yet your life improved once you broke free of addiction.

4. Spend Time with Others

The temptation during these dark days is to just hide away from the world and try to lick your wounds. This is okay for a day or two, but it can actually be the worst thing that you can do as it means you are alone with the source of the problem – your own thinking. The situation can appear far worse than it actually is if the only assessment of it is coming from your own brain. By spending time around others it not only boosts your mood, it can also help you fact-check your own thoughts. It can be a help to hear how others have handled their dark days. The other great benefit of spending time with others is it can pull your thoughts away from focusing so completely on your own thoughts and concerns.

5. Show Yourself Some Self-Compassion

It is usual for there to be a lot of negative inner-dialogue during this period when your mood is low. This voice inside your head can be like a bully who is kicking you while you are down. The only way to combat this negativity is to develop some self-compassion. There are times in your life where you may need your inner dialogue to give you a bit of a pep talk, but bullying negativity is never a good thing. At this point in your life, you need your inner-voice to be comforting, and you need to offer yourself the same level of compassion as you would to a close friend who is suffering.

6. Decide If This Is a Sign That You Are Off Track in Life

One of the reasons why you may be experiencing a deterioration in your life is that you have somehow gone off-track. It can also be a sign from your subconscious that you need to take your life in a completely new direction. If you have managed to develop the ability to listen to your intuition, it is going to serve you well in helping you get out of this rut. Otherwise, you may need to speak to friends about your suggestion and try some journaling. Once you identify the source of your current dissatisfaction, you will need to make some changes.

7. Go to More Fellowship Meetings

If you belong to a fellowship group like Alcoholics Anonymous, now would be a good time to increase the regularity of your meetings. This can be a particularly treacherous period in sobriety, so if you are not properly supported then there is a high risk that you could relapse. Share about how you are feeling and listen to what others have to say. It can also be a great help if you have an understanding sponsor who is there to listen to you.

8. Considering Seeing a Therapist

If there is no sign of your low mood improving, the best thing to do may be to begin seeing a therapist. It could be that these symptoms are due to some underlying issues that have not been dealt with, and you might not be able to do this work alone. A therapist is skilled at helping clients identify blocks in their life and this professional can guide you to an improved relationship with the world.

9. Use Mindfulness to Become More Objective about Your Situation

If you have been regularly practicing mindfulness meditation, it can be a wonderful resource to keep you in balance right now. This technique allows you to observe your thoughts and mood in a more objective way, so you can begin to see this period as something that is just happening right now rather than it being all that you are. The real benefit of mindfulness is that by observing your mood and thoughts without resistance, it can speed along the process of recovery from these dark days.

10. Don’t Drink or Use Drugs

It does not matter how bad you are feeling right now, if you turn to alcohol or drugs it will only make the situation worse. This is not something that you can run away from and you need to stick in there and take the positive action that will get you through this tough time. You will have plenty more happy days in the future, and you are likely to come out of this period stronger and better able to deal with life – so just hang in there.

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