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How to Tell If Your Recovery Is On Track


Breaking away from addiction will mean that you are going to be in a much better position to create a satisfying and enjoyable life. It is always important to keep in mind though that giving up substance abuse is just the first step, and you will need to keep on taking further steps to make sure that your life continues to move in the right direction. The most important thing is that you stay on track for happiness. It is when you start to go off track that you will be at high risk of relapse, which also means that you will not be getting the most from your recovery.

What Does It Mean to Stay On Track in Recovery?

The advice to ‘stay on track’ does sound a bit vague, so it is probably best if we dig a bit deeper to produce a clearer definition of what we are talking about. To say that you are staying on track means that you continue to do the right things that will keep you safe from relapse. It also means that you are following a path that produces steady improvements in your life over time. Being on track does not mean that your life is getting better every single day. In fact, you may sometimes feel like you have taken a few steps backwards. It means that over a long period of time there will be signs of improvement in your life.

How to Tell If You Are On Track in Recovery

Here are some of the signs you are likely to notice if you are on track in recovery.

  • You regularly experience feelings of inner contentment.
  • You are getting better at dealing with the vicissitudes of life.
  • You feel grateful for your new life away from alcohol or drugs.
  • You do not hold onto the idea that you will one day be able to use alcohol or drugs again.
  • Staying sober is your priority in life.
  • Other people may have remarked on your positive progress (although you should not be too dependent on this approval to know that you are making progress).
  • You are able to get a good night’s sleep.
  • You have new hobbies and interests.
  • You have strong relationships
  • You feel optimistic about the future
  • You have effective tools to help you deal with stress.
  • You feel confident about the future but this does not mean that you feel complacent.
  • You are steadily working at eradicating the character flaws that led you into addiction in the first place while keeping in mind that the goal is progress and not perfection.

How to Tell If You Have Gone Off Track in Recovery

Going off track in recovery is often referred to as ‘dry drunk syndrome’. It is given this name to highlight the fact that although the person is physically sober, they may continue to act in many ways as if they were still in the midst of addiction. Dry drunk is usually associated with recovering alcoholics, but it can be used to describe anyone who isn’t doing well in recovery. The danger with going off track like this in recovery is that it will mean the person will be at high risk of relapse. Even if they do manage to stay sober, the fact that there are a dry drunk will mean that they will not be getting the most out of their recovery.

The signs that people are dealing with dry drunk syndrome include those listed below.

  • Feeling a great deal of anger and resentment – these are the most dangerous emotions in recovery because it means the individual will not be thinking rationally.
  • Being negative most of the time. They have a very pessimistic view of the future.
  • Being very cynical about recovery, and they will tend to treat sober living as being the same as serving a prison sentence.
  • Being secretive and dishonest. They may also be engaged in unethical behaviour.
  • Turning to addiction substitutions such as workaholism, exercise addiction, or sex obsessions.
  • Romancing the drink or drug – this means that this person looks back on their drinking or drug using days with fondness.
  • Full of excuses for why their life in recovery is not improving.
  • Always blaming other people when things go wrong.
  • Continuing to have low self-esteem even though they have given up alcohol or drugs.
  • Over confident about their recovery.
  • The only thing people dealing with dry drunk syndrome have done is to give up alcohol or drugs, but otherwise they carry on their life much the same way as they did in the past.
  • Continuing to spend time with drinking or drug-using friends. They still like to spend their time in bars.
  • Being very judgemental of other people, and they seem to enjoy hearing about other people who have relapsed.
  • Becoming angry if other people make suggestions for how they could make their life in recovery a bit better.

It is unlikely that anyone in recovery will have all of these symptoms, but even a few of them will indicate that the person needs to take steps to get back on track.

How to Get Back On Track in Recovery

If you feel that you have lost your way in recovery, here are a few suggestions for how you can get back on track.

  • If you are a member of a recovery fellowship, you need to share your concerns about your progress.
  • If you do not belong to a fellowship, it might be a good idea for you to join one.
  • If you have a sponsor, you can discuss your concerns with them.
  • Keep in mind that almost everyone will have periods in recovery when he or she goes off-track. The important thing is that you recognise this and do what needs to be done to get back on track. This is a sign that you need to recommit to your recovery.
  • It might be a good idea to attend some type of recovery booster programme. Many rehabs now offer such programmes for people who are already sober but need a boost.
  • The key to getting back on track is for you to be completely honest with yourself and with other people.
  • Try not to beat yourself up over going off track. If you can learn from the experience, it will not have been a waste of time.
  • It might be a good idea for you to start keeping a journal as this should make it easier for you to spot the signs that you are going off track.

It is important that you are always open to feedback from people you respect, as they will often spot the signs that we are off track before we will.

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