One of the expectations most recovering alcoholics like myself had was that renouncing the vice would somehow magically fix all other problems in life.
In other words, I actually believed that being sober would prepare me for everything that the universe throws at me and that I would emerge triumphant from all my future battles.
Needless to say, it wasnít quite like that and when my expectations were shattered, the bitter taste of disappointment took over.
Why Do We Get Our Hopes Up So High? ††
Well, itís not difficult to understand that, after being told time and time again that alcohol is the root of your problems, the brain begins to associate all negative aspects and problems in your life to the addiction. Ergo, it should also be safe to assume that once alcohol no longer has a grip on you, dealing with problems would become a breeze, right?
For me at least, it was the realization that Iím not miraculously up for a promotion at work simply because I had quit drinking, the arguments with my wife did not disappear overnight, and the bank refused to acknowledge my accomplishment, declining my personal needs loan application.
Bang, just like that my pink cloud of happiness and carelessness was gone.
Why is This State of Mind So Dangerous?
For one thing, you have excessively high expectations OF OTHERS, not yourself. Basically, youíre thinking that everybody else should radically shift their perception of you, recognize your merits, and give you the praise you think you deserve. Since thatís not really going to happen, youíre just setting yourself up for disappointment, which is the first step to spiraling into depression.
I got so upset when the illusion of bliss was torn to shreds that I nearly relapsed for the first time after weeks of perfect abstinence. You see, my disillusioned self nearly gave in to my former maladaptive behavior, aka coping with problems by getting smashed. Fortunately, I did the right thing and turned to therapy for help rather than the bottle. Hereís what worked in my case.
Deal with Disappointments Before They Deal With You
My therapist recommended a plethora of techniques to cope with disillusionment, but some of them just seemed too silly to actually put into practice. Meditation just wasn’t my cup of tea then and I sure as hell wasn’t about to voice out my problems in front of the mirror!
On the other hand, a method that actually gave me some piece of mind was the gratitude journal, a little scrapbook of memories in which I wrote down all the good things that had happened to me since I was sober.
Whatís great about this journal is that, as you put things on paper, you begin to realize that there are so many things to be grateful for and that maybe, just maybe, your expectations were a bit too high. At the same time, whenever I felt the feelings of sadness and disappointment creeping up on me, Iíd just open the notebook at a random page and read a few lines. That always did the trick!
You learned a lot in the rehab center and regardless of whether you prefer meditating, taking a long bath, exercising, or whatever other mechanism you use to keep yourself together post-rehab, you shouldn’t hesitate to turn to it.† † †