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How to Find Happiness in Recovery


Ending addiction out of fear is unlikely to keep people sober for long. The real reason for why people give up alcohol or drugs is that they want to be happy. The problem with fear is that our memory of the thing we are afraid of will fade over time, and this means that our motivation to stay away from the fear object will wane. When we are doing something because it makes us happy though, it keeps us motivated and moving in the right direction. This means that finding happiness in recovery is not just desirable but crucial.

Dangers of Unhappiness in Recovery

It is normal to have bad days in recovery, and we would not be able to appreciate the good days without the bad days. The problems begin when recovery becomes one bad day after another. This can happen, and it is a sure sign that we have somehow gone off course. Persistent unhappiness in recovery is dangerous because:

  • The biggest danger is that the individual will use their unhappiness as a justification to relapse. The person may believe that if they are not happy, there is no point in them remaining sober.
  • When people are persistently unhappy in recovery, they can more easily develop dry drunk syndrome. This means that they are physically sober, but in many ways they continue to act as if they were caught up in addiction – they continue to behave badly and this negatively affects themselves as well as other people.
  • The person will be missing out on the joys of recovery. It is possible for people to enjoy real serenity and inner peace in recovery, and if they are not moving towards this state, it means they are doing something wrong.
  • If the individual is unhappy in recovery, they are likely to be difficult to be around. It can mean that they suffer from increased loneliness, which only exacerbates their sense of unhappiness.

Reasons for Persistent Unhappiness in Recovery

If people feel persistently unhappy in recovery, it is a definite sign that they have somehow ended up off course. The most common reasons for persistent unhappiness would include:

  • Some people do not want to feel happy in recovery because they are looking for a justification for relapse. This type of person is sabotaging their own sobriety, and this can be something that they are doing almost unconsciously.
  • A common reason for why people become unhappy in recovery is that they have unrealistic expectations. They may have been expecting their life to become perfect as soon as they gave up alcohol or drugs, and the fact that this has not happened means that they now feel disillusioned and disappointed. This means that the individual can fail to see all the good changes in their life because they are too fixated on their disappointments.
  • A high number of people who enter recovery are dealing with a dual diagnosis. This means that they have a mental health problem such as depression alongside their addiction, and it may have been this that led them into alcohol or drug abuse in the first place – an attempt at self-medication. The problem is that many people who have a dual diagnosis are not aware of it, and this means that they fail to receive treatment. Until the dual diagnosis is dealt with though, the individual will struggle to find happiness in recovery.
  • If people do not develop new coping strategies in recovery, they will struggle to find happiness. They will have been using alcohol or drugs to help them cope with life, and they now need something to replace this coping mechanism. In many instances, the individual will have fallen into addiction at a young age, before they had the opportunity to develop effective coping strategies. This means that they now feel unable to cope in recovery.
  • If people wait around for happiness to find them, they are unlikely to have much success. They are more likely to become bored or dissatisfied while they wait.
  • Early recovery can be full of traps and wrong turns, and this is why it is important for the individual to have some type of programme and plenty of support. This way they can follow in the footsteps of those who have successfully gone before.
  • It is a bad idea for people in recovery to spend too much time around negative people because this kind of stinking thinking can be contagious.

How to Find Happiness in Recovery

In order to find happiness in recovery, the individual needs to:

  • It is vital that people fully commit to recovery. This means that there will be nothing to hold them back from finding happiness in this new life – they will not be looking for excuses to relapse.
  • It is very important that people have realistic expectations for recovery, and that they are able to recognise the progress they are making. It can take a long time for the individual to build a successful life in recovery, and the goal is always progress and not perfection.
  • If the individual is persistently unhappy, they should mention this to their doctor. It could be that the individual is dealing with some type of undiagnosed mental health problem such as depression. Until the problem is treated, it will continue to get in the way of happiness.
  • It is vital that people develop new and effective coping strategies because this is the path to happiness in recovery. Every time that the individual picks up a new effective coping strategy, it is like adding a new tool to their toolbox. Once their toolbox is full, the person will be able to deal with anything that life sends their way, and this means that they will enjoy a great deal of inner contentment.
  • It is up to the individual to take action to make their life happy. This means finding things that they enjoy doing, and building up a social network.
  • It is important that people in early recovery receive suitable support and encouragement. It can also be a great help if they have some type of recovery programme to follow.
  • It is a great idea to write a gratitude list on a regular basis, as this will remind the individual of all the good things they have in their new life. It is so easy to take things for granted, but a gratitude list can prevent this from happening.
  • Techniques such as meditation can be a great help when it comes to cultivating inner contentment. It shows the individual that real happiness comes from inside of them, and it is not dependent on external conditions.
  • In groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, they recommend that newcomers stick with the winners. This is very good advice and spending time with people who are generally positive and happy can make people feel happy and positive.

It is important that people in recovery get a moderate amount of exercise and eat a good diet. It can be difficult to enjoy happiness when people feel lethargic and unhealthy.

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