Being in a rut during your addiction treatment is dangerous. The reason that it is so dangerous is because it actually feels comfortable to be in a rut.
Why is it comfortable? Because that is what our addiction felt like as well–no real forward progress. No positive action. No momentum. We were just coasting through life during our active addiction, and once you get into this rut or lull in recovery, you start coasting during your recovery too. The only difference is that you are abstinent while you are coasting this time.
But a rut is still a rut.
To put it a bit more specifically, “being in a rut” is really a lack of personal growth. Which is another way of saying that you have stopped learning, stopped pushing yourself to take positive action, and stopped testing out new lifestyle changes and positive habits.
Let’s take a closer look at these concepts in order to get the maximum value out of these ideas.
When you first get into addiction treatment, everything is new and you are taking all sorts of advice and suggestions. Your journey likely started when someone suggested that you attend an inpatient treatment center. So you went to rehab and you started learning about addiction and recovery. They probably recommended exposed you to AA or NA meetings when you were in treatment as well.
So you go to treatment and you start following advice. If you do this earnestly and you have actually surrendered completely to your disease then you will be open to new learning experiences. This is key to success in early recovery. You cannot conquer addiction on your own and you need outside help, advice, and input in order to succeed. Your own ideas are not sufficient to overcome your own addiction. The tendency for self sabotage is just too strong in early recovery, which is why they say that you have to “turn it over” in order to succeed. You must figure out how to get out of your own way.
As you continue through early recovery, not using drugs or alcohol will slowly become more and more natural to you. At first it is awkward and strange to be clean and sober simply because you are not used to it. Later on though you become more and more comfortable with sobriety and eventually if you are working a real program of recovery then it even becomes easy.
This is the dangerous part of long term sobriety because this is how you can get stuck in a rut. This is when you can easily become complacent, when everything is going fairly well for you in recovery.
The danger is that you get lazy and you are no longer pushing yourself. Now the first couple of days, weeks, or months that you are in this rut you may be just fine. This is because life is naturally going to be fairly calm and sedate most of the time, so you will not necessarily have huge challenges or disruptions hitting you every single day.
However, due to the random nature of life, we know for a fact that eventually, at some point in the future, every person is going to experience some sort of drama in their life. And when that hits, if you are still in your “recovery rut,” you will be in serious danger of relapse.
The key is that you have to somehow stay “plugged in” to recovery, which really means that you need to stay plugged in to the process of personal growth. If you are serious about avoiding complacency then that means you are serious about learning and taking suggestions and pushing yourself for positive changes–even after you have several months, years, or decades of sobriety.
There is a balance in long term sobriety between two concepts. One concept is that of self acceptance, and of acceptance of life in general. You can practice acceptance and just kick back and relax and try to appreciate your life in general.
The other concept is that of personal growth. You can get upset about certain things in your life that you do not like and that you want to change, and then you can work hard at changing those things. Or you can figure out a dream or a goal that you want for yourself and you can work towards it.
The dynamic is between personal growth and self acceptance. These two things are often in conflict with each other–in many aspects of your life you will have to choose one or the other at a given moment. Kick back and relax with gratitude, or dive into change and fight for personal growth?
You will notice that this is actually one of the most basic and fundamental concepts in recovery, as this dynamic is actually discussed quite directly in the infamous serenity prayer. Do you push for change, or do you kick back and just accept things? And how can you know which is the right path for you today?
This is why you should be seeking mentors and asking for advice and guidance in recovery. Not only when you have 3 weeks sober but also when you have 3 years sober. Having a sponsor or a therapist or a coach who can tell you when to push and when to relax is invaluable.
So how do you avoid complacency when you feel as if you are already stuck in a rut to begin with? How do you jump start your life again in recovery?
I have a few suggestions that have worked for me.
One, I suggest that you start a new exercise program. Yes, I am talking about physical exercise. Talk with your doctor first, of course, but I highly recommend getting your body into motion. This will give you a natural boost of momentum that can then carry over into the world of recovery. If you take action physically then it becomes more natural to take action in your recovery.
Two, I would suggest that you start attending a new meeting or group. I did this recently and it helped me a great deal, simply because I was meeting new people, hearing new perspectives, and bouncing some different ideas off of my own head. You may be already attending certain groups or meetings in your routine, but I would suggest that you shake it up and try to incorporate at least one meeting or group each week that is completely new to you. Maybe even from a completely different program, such as Yoga or a meditation group.
Three, I would recommend that you start writing in a daily journal. Write down today’s date, then just spill your thoughts and feelings on to the page. Do this every single day. Keep doing it until it becomes a habit. This will do a couple of things for you: One, it will help to cleanse you emotionally when you “vomit on the page” all of your thoughts. Once you get that out, it frees up your mind.
Two, it will give you some clarity as to what your current goals are. Writing your thoughts down can lead to greater clarity and direction.
And three, writing in a journal will allow you to look back one it one day and see how far you have progressed.
Good luck with these suggestions, and good luck to you on your journey!