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How to Deal with Hard Times in Recovery

When people manage to walk away from alcohol or drugs it is going to usually mean that their life will improve significantly. The individual will have the chance to start again, and they will be in a good position to take their life in a positive direction. It is important to have realistic expectations though. Getting sober doesn’t mean that life is going to be all rosy from there on – in fact, it is almost certain that people will experience hard times in recovery.

Why Do People Experience Hard Times in Recovery?

There are people who do all the right things in recovery, but they still end up having to deal with things going wrong. This might seem a bit unfair until we understand that it is unreasonable to expect that life is always going to be good to us. All humans will experience good times as well as bad times, and there is no real way to get around this. The real goal of recovery, then, is not so much to be given a free pass for life, but to have the ability to deal with whatever comes our way.

If you become sober with the expectation that it is always going to be sunny days ahead, you are likely to be very disappointed. Life just isn’t like that for anyone. This type of expectation can actually be disastrous because it is almost certain to mean that the person will end up being disappointed. They might then use this disappointment as an excuse to return to addiction. It is vital that people have realistic expectations for recovery – things will almost certainly get better but there will be bad days as well as good.

Unnecessarily Hard Times in Recovery

There are different types of hard times that people will experience in recovery. There are the hard times that occur because of events outside of our control. We have no real control over the economy and we cannot stop loved ones becoming sick or dying on us. There is also likely to be times when we face failure even though we have tried our very best. Of course, there is also another type of hard time that occurs because of our own actions. These are the unnecessary hard times that could have been avoided.

A problem that people can have in recovery is distinguishing between the hard times that are of our own making and those that are beyond our control. This is summed up in the serenity prayer:

God grant me the serenity,

To accept the things I cannot change,

Change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

It can take time, but it is important that people in recovery learn to distinguish between the things within their control and the things outside of their control.

Things That Can Go Wrong in Recovery

Many things can go wrong in recovery that we have no real control over, things like:

  • losing our job due to a downturn in the economy
  • being caught up in a natural disaster
  • a loved one becoming sick or dying
  • it could rain every day for weeks on end
  • becoming seriously ill
  • developing a metal health problem
  • becoming the victim of a crime
  • failing to get the job we really wanted
  • being rejected in romance
  • our loved ones refusing to forgive us even though we are trying hard to change
  • losing all of our money
  • being accused of something we didn’t do.

All of these events may be completely out of our hands. They are things that happen to us even though we have not done anything to cause them.

How to View Hard Times in Recovery

It is possible to see the hard times in both a negative and a positive way. We can decide that the universe is attacking us unfairly, or we can decide that we are being challenged. A very positive way to look upon hard times is to see them as a chance for us to develop and grow. The reality is that when things are going really well for us, we will tend to just stagnate. When we are challenged though, we are forced to change in order to survive this new situation. Nobody likes to have to deal with life when things go bad, but it is possible to view this whole situation as less about being a victim and more about being a developing human.

Hard Times as a Path to Serenity and Emotional Sobriety

It is possible to view the hard times as a path to serenity and emotional sobriety. When we are faced with a difficult event, we are forced to develop new coping mechanisms. This should mean that if we have to face the same thing again we would be better able to cope because we will already have the tools. It is sometimes helpful to view the development of serenity as a path where we are continuously adding new tools (coping mechanisms) to our toolbox. We eventually reach a stage where we feel able to cope with anything – this is what serenity and emotional sobriety means.

How to Cope with Hard Times in Recovery

Hard times are almost certain to come our way in recovery, so we need to be able to cope with them. Here are a few suggestions for how we can do just that.

  • When times are hard it is important to get plenty of support – this is easier for people who belong to a support group.
  • Seek advice from people who have been in a similar position.
  • It is important to understand that things will get better – the bad times do not last forever.
  • Trying to maintain a positive outlook can be a great help. It is worth considering the idea that something really good may come out of our current pain.
  • If the current situation was avoidable, it is important that we learn from our mistakes.
  • If the current situation was unavoidable, we need to practice some acceptance.
  • Even if the current situation was unavoidable, it is worth looking to see if there is anything we can learn from the situation.
  • It is important not to isolate when things are going wrong – it is important to be around other people who can offer us support and encouragement.
  • If we are faced with a problem that seems overwhelming, it can be helpful to break it down into manageable chunks.
  • If we feel that our sobriety is at risk, we need to make staying sober our priority – it should be our priority anyway because if we lose this we love everything anyway.
  • It is worth keeping in mind that there is no problem that a drink or drunk cannot make worse.

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