How to Develop Strength and Resilience in Addiction Treatment

How to Develop Strength and Resilience in Addiction Treatment


When you first get to addiction treatment you are neither strong nor resilient.

I know this because I have walked into an addiction treatment facility myself, humbled and broken, with barely any will to live remaining. I did not know how I could possibly live a life of sobriety, and I was not sure that I even wanted to try.

Quite frankly, I was afraid of living clean and sober. I was afraid of finding out who I had become in life.

Part of successful addiction recovery comes directly from surrender. Sure, you might walk into treatment and feel as if you are strong and ready to conquer the world, but that is not how real recovery begins. If you are feeling strong and powerful when you walk into treatment then you are not in a state of surrender, and you are not about to learn a new way of life that allows you to turn everything around. You simply aren’t ready for recovery yet, and your arrogance is proof of your denial.

Instead, the struggling addict or alcoholic who really walks into treatment with a fighting chance at real recovery is someone who is truly humble and in a state of total and complete surrender. They do not feel strong and they do not feel resilient. They are humble and weak and afraid of sobriety.

So this is ground zero; this is where it all begins. The moment of surrender in which the addict or alcoholic decides that they really DO want to live. So they decide to give treatment a chance and they become willing to do whatever it takes.

This is the beginning of strength. The decision to surrender, to let go of denial, to realize that there just has to be a better way. So the struggling addict gives in to the idea that maybe they really don’t have all of the answers, that maybe someone else could possibly help them, that maybe they do need to slow down and take some direction and advice.

The decision to go to inpatient treatment is perhaps the healthiest start to your journey in addiction treatment. Going to treatment is a signal that you are serious, that you are willing to do whatever it takes in order to recover.

Some people make excuses and they are not willing to go to inpatient treatment. Such a person is still in some amount of denial, and they are arguing that they do not need inpatient treatment, or that it is just too much effort for their situation, or some similar argument. In this case the person is setting themselves up for failure because they have not yet surrendered fully. They think that they are being “strong” by not needing to go to rehab, but the reality is that they are setting themselves up to fail. If an addict or alcoholic is dictating what they will and will not do for their recovery then you can be pretty sure that this person is not yet done drinking or using drugs. They may admit that they have a problem but ask yourself this: Have they fully accepted a solution? Are they willing to do whatever it takes? Are they willing to do exactly what they are told to do, what is suggested to them by the professionals? Because if not then it is likely that they are still in denial, that they have not fully surrendered yet.

When you finally surrender fully and go to inpatient treatment you begin the journey that will rebuild your strength in recovery.

In the long run–big picture here–recovery is all about finding new solutions in your life.

If you think about your struggle with addiction then you can look back and see that you were attempting to solve problems in your life by self medicating. Eventually the addict or alcoholic reaches the point in which every unwanted emotion that they face is a “problem,” and every problem is medicated with their drug of choice. This is how they end up running away from themselves by self medicating–they refuse to feel their emotions and face their feelings, face the person that they have become. So they just keep running away from their problems and self medicating with drugs or alcohol.

When you make the decision to get into recovery you are making the decision to face reality, to stop running away from your problems, and to face your emotions and your life head on.

This will eventually make you strong–so long as you can figure out new solutions for how to deal with life, how to cope with reality, how to manage your emotions, and how to do all of it without resorting to your drug of choice.

If you go through a 28 day inpatient treatment program (highly recommended by the way) then you will begin this process of finding new solutions while you are in the safe environment of a rehab facility. The nice thing about being in treatment is that there is virtually no threat of relapse while you are there, and you can start to see what works and what does not. Honest communication helps, as does leaning on your peers and therapy staff when you have problems.

Our old solution was to get upset or experience some sort of discomfort in our lives (usually emotional discomfort at the most basic level) and therefore we would try to medicate that discomfort with drugs or alcohol.

The new solution that we learn about in treatment is to address the discomfort and to confront it in a healthy and responsible way. Another way to say this is: If you want to avoid relapse, then you need to build the kind of life for yourself where you are not constantly tempted to relapse.

Now don’t take that the wrong way–we will always potentially have cravings and urges in the future. Any addict can suddenly have a trigger and want to use, so we need backup plans and contingencies for that situation. We have sponsors and therapists and AA meetings and ways that we can deal with triggers and urges.

But also, part of our new solution is that we are going to eliminate a whole bunch of cravings and urges that otherwise might have tripped us up in life. Part of our strength in recovery comes from how we design our new life and the habits that we choose to sustain our new life.

For example, at one point in my recovery journey I started getting into shape, and I started jogging on a regular basis. I had no idea at the time but this was something that would have a major impact on my sobriety and on the strength of my recovery.

Fast forward over ten years later and I am still jogging on a regular basis, drawing a huge amount of strength from the exercise, even just from the meditative aspect of exercise alone. Even if there were no other benefits to exercise, just the emotional balance that I get from regular workouts is a huge asset to my recovery.

I point this out because–quite frankly–I never thought that exercise was important or relevant to my recovery.

The key is that I took a suggestion from someone. My therapist told me to get into shape. My sponsor urged me to get into shape. I had people at AA meetings telling me that they exercised regularly and that it had a huge impact on their sobriety.

So I kept hearing this theme and eventually I acted on it. This is where I became stronger–not from the exercise necessarily, but from the fact that I took some advice and I acted on it.

And that is what I want for you–I want you to learn to take suggestions and test out the ideas that you are given. This is how you grow strong in recovery. From testing out new ideas and seeing how they apply to your life.

Good luck!