How To Deal With Letdowns During The Recovery Process

How To Deal With Letdowns During The Recovery Process

dealing with letdowns during recovery

Failure and rejection often constitute blessings in disguise, but establishing a mindset that would allow you to see that is rarely easy. I mean, who can actually say that he’s grateful for not receiving a well deserved promotion? What bride thanks her lucky star for being left at the altar? Only after you realize, for example, that the promotion actually implied a larger workload or that the man you might have married that day was a violent, obsessive and insanely jealous person, can you perceive that the “failure” was in fact a streak of luck.

Recovering Alcoholics and Letdowns     

It’s particularly dangerous for a former alcoholic to let failure cloud his mind for a number of reasons. During recovery, the addict is still working on boosting his self esteem and a letdown could actually shatter all that hard work. Therefore, as he perceives a setback as having “apocalyptic” proportions, he develops a fear of failing which, more often than not, will make him stop trying. Furthermore, returning to the former maladaptive behavior – be it narcotics, alcohol, etc. – as a way to silence the voices of fear and disappointment is quite probable.

My Experience with Setbacks in Recovery

My therapist often warned me about monitoring my perception of letdowns – no matter how small – during the first year of sobriety, but I didn’t think much of it then. She had enough experience with recovering alcoholics to know that even seemingly unimportant setbacks have the potential to trigger a relapse, if you blow it out of proportions. I had to admit she was right when I got all worked up about an available position for which I thought I was the perfect candidate; needless to say, I was not the one to get it.

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Now, if I had paid a bit more attention to the details of the position, I would have realized that it was not a promotion at all. In fact, in addition to a strikingly similar salary, a desk on the same floor and a meaningless title, this job also implied a ton of responsibilities. It was basically a lot of stress and a high workload, so you’d have to be stupid to even apply for it, much less become frustrated for not receiving it.

Well, naturally I didn’t see it like that. I wasn’t counting my blessings for actually being allowed to keep my old job in spite of the time I had spent away from the office, in rehab. The self-centered behavior typical for the “alcoholic me” was emerging once more and I had to bite my tongue really hard that day not to badmouth the management. When I got home, I was so pale that my wife got worried something terrible had happened.

Therapy Helped

I did the right thing that day and scheduled an emergency session with my therapist, who was glad I called. I won’t bore you with the details of my session, but what really matters is this:

  • Take the failure off your mind for a while and reexamine its true nature only after your emotional connection with it has dissipated.
  • Humor is your greatest ally.
  • Try to look at all the facets of a letdown and you might discover that it actually holds a hidden opportunity.
  • Use the setback to learn something, whether it is about yourself, your approach to solving problems or the people around you.
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