Everyone gets stuck from time to time in their addiction treatment journey.
Now there are really two possibilities here: One is that you are already living a somewhat successful life in sobriety, and you happen to become a bit complacent.
The other possibility is that you haven’t really entered the world of addiction recovery just yet, and you are still a bit stuck in denial, maybe toying around with the idea of trying to get clean and sober.
Let’s take a look at that one for a moment, the idea that a person is still drinking or using drugs, and therefore is stuck in denial to some extent.
Now if that person is in the “pre-contemplation” stage of their recovery, then they are starting to think about the possibility of getting sober, and they do not necessarily know exactly what they want in life, but they know that they do not like what they are currently experiencing. That person is on the fence about sobriety, and they may just need to work through their denial a bit more before they take the plunge, ask for help, and go to inpatient treatment.
By the way, this is my number one suggestion for anyone who is still stuck in the contemplative stages of early recovery–try to work through your denial and figure out if you are truly happy or not with your current life situation.
Your habits and your life choices are what has led you to your current life situation. If that situation is desirable for you, if you are enjoying life and find yourself to be happy, then there is no reason to change your life or alter your life choices. Keep doing what you have been doing and just enjoy yourself.
If, on the other hand, you decide that you do not enjoy your life very much at the present time, and if you do not like the life situation that you find yourself in, you might realize that you are in denial. Now the typical mind game that happens at this level is that your brain attempts to convince you that the reason for your unhappiness is anything other than your addiction. It is society, it is the man getting you down, it is the world plotting against you, it is a broken system that refuses to help you or recognize how amazing your potential is….it is a million and one excuses that you will point at before you admit that maybe, just maybe, your addiction is actually causing your unhappiness.
This is classic denial, and you have to work past it before you can ask for help and go to rehab. Otherwise you will just go through the motions and go back to self medicating at some point in the future.
We obviously want to avoid that. We want to figure out how to really turn our life around and start enjoying the sober life to the extent that we are no longer tempted to relapse.
So getting “unstuck” when you are stuck in this contemplative stage, in my opinion, comes down to seeing the truth for what it really is: your addiction is the cause of your misery, and if you magically had total freedom and unlimited money, you would not be any happier for it because the addiction is creating the misery. We tell ourselves that if this would happen, if that thing would happen, if we just had more money and freedom, then we could use our drug of choice and finally be happy. The truth is that all of those things can fall into place perfectly and we would still be miserable, because it is the addiction that creates the misery, not our excuses that we are pointing at. We must somehow realize this in order to move past denial.
I recommend journal writing. Every day, write down how happy you are, and date the entry. Keep doing this. Over time the alcoholic or addict can look back and realize that their drug of choice no longer works for them. It no longer gives them the happiness that it once promised them.
And of course, once you break through your denial I highly recommend inpatient treatment. Go to rehab, go to treatment, go to a 28 day program. This is the start of a healthy life, this is the easiest way to turn things around and get a fresh start. Keep in mind though that you must work through your denial first in order for treatment to truly be effective in the long run for you.
Now if you are already living in recovery and you feel that you are stuck recently, then that is a complacency issue. So let’s figure this out…what exactly is complacency in sobriety?
To answer that question we must know what active recovery is all about. In my experience, active recovery from addiction is about personal growth, healthy choices, and healthy living. If you are not moving forward in those areas then you are complacent, and thus in danger of relapse.
So we can evaluate our life in terms of holistic health. Ask yourself: “How am I moving forward in my life in terms of physical health? Mental health? Emotional health? Social health? Spirituality?”
If you do not have a good answer for each of those questions then it is an indicator that you have some work to do.
Honestly you do not have to work on every single thing every single day of your recovery. However, if you go for too long while completely neglecting certain areas of your life, this can be a huge problem. That is when the gap is created that can lead to complacency.
One suggestion I have for this is to reach out to a therapist, a counselor, peers in AA or NA, or a sponsor in a recovery program, and ask them to help you identify the areas of potential growth for you. You want to keep moving forward and improving your life as a way to shield yourself from the threat of relapse. As you build self esteem and continue to improve your life and your health this will help to protect you from the potential for relapse. If you are building something positive in your life while moving in a healthy direction then you are far less likely to throw it all away on a relapse. Success in recovery must be created actively. It is not just handed to you and it does not just fall into your lap when you take your last sip of booze. It takes hard work, and the rewards are immense. But you do have to work for it.
Another suggestion for you at this point would be to talk to people in your peer recovery group (such as AA or NA) and ask them what they are working on in terms of their own personal growth. If they need you to be more specific then ask them what they are doing lately to take better care of themselves. Keep asking people this in order to hear a wide variety of answers. You may hear things such as “yoga,” or “exercise” or “meditation” or “therapy” or “writing in the steps” or “going to AA meetings.”
If you keep asking this question of people in recovery–how they are taking better care of themselves–then you will start to build a pretty good profile of what successful recovery looks like. Start taking these suggestions, implementing them into your life, and seeing if they help you to improve the quality of your own life, and of your own recovery.
Recovery is personal growth. If you stop growing then you get stuck, you get complacent, and you could relapse. So you need a way to check yourself, to be held accountable, to have people who check in with you to make sure that you are still making forward progress. Good luck on your journey!