One of the problems with addiction treatment is that your life is generally pretty full of chaos that is left over from your addiction. And so while you are attempting to become calm and serene and peaceful in early recovery, drama just keeps popping up, seemingly from out of nowhere.
This is combined with the fact that while you are going through detox from drugs or alcohol, your perception of any little amount of drama or chaos that pops up is going to be magnified. I can remember when I first attempted to quit nicotine cold turkey, and I was going through nicotine withdrawal, and there was all of this drama happening at the time, and I can remember exclaiming: “I can’t quit now, there is just too much drama going on. This is the wrong time to try to quit!”
Well, I had to make a few subsequent attempts to quit nicotine before I realized the truth, which was that being in nicotine withdrawal was what was “creating” the drama. It wasn’t bad timing or bad luck, it was the fact that I was “on edge” from going through withdrawal, and that amplified every little bit of chaos or drama that was surrounding me.
So when you are attempting to get clean and sober, when you are attempting to seek treatment for addiction, you need to realize that this effect is very possible, and that all of the little things are going to seem like a big deal.
Now having said that, there are many things that you can do in order to deal with the inevitable chaos and drama that is likely to ensue during your early recovery journey. Here is what I would recommend that you do.
First, don’t try to somehow become clean and sober while avoiding inpatient treatment. You know what I am talking about: the typical 28 day program where you go stay and attend groups and have a therapist and so on.
I know that many addicts and alcoholics who are struggling would like to believe that they do not need inpatient rehab. This is a very strong tendency of denial, to think that we are better than that, to believe that we are above that, to secretly believe that we are “not that bad.” We compare ourselves to others and secretly believe that we are smarter than that, that we don’t need to go to inpatient treatment.
But we are wrong to think this way, and every struggling addict or alcoholic can benefit a great deal from inpatient treatment. This is the single best choice that you could make in order to better be able to handle the stress and chaos that comes along with early recovery. They say that early addiction treatment is an “emotional roller coaster,” and the extreme swings in emotion have the potential to make you relapse. If you are in treatment, in a controlled environment, with a group of your peers, you are much better equipped to handle the adversity that comes along with early sobriety.
Once you get into an inpatient treatment center you are in a prime position to learn about some of the tools that can help you to overcome stress and anxiety in early recovery. When the chaos or drama hits you after leaving inpatient rehab, you are going to need solutions in order to maintain your new found abstinence and sobriety.
This should become a new theme in your life, that of “seeking solutions.” The reason that this must be a recurring theme is because you are going to keep experiencing new and different problems in your life. The nature of chaos is that it is…..chaotic. Unforeseen problems are going to emerge in your life–not necessarily every day, and it isn’t all doom and gloom either. But given enough time in recovery, there will be issues that pop up and you need to have a strategy in place to be able to weather the storm.
So how do you do this? How do you prepare for the unexpected? How do you protect your recovery in a way that is sustainable?
Certain principles and recovery concepts can definitely help you. One of the most powerful ideas that you can grasp in early recovery is the idea of positive habit formation. If you just do something positive as a one time event then the power of that event is very limited in scope.
On the other hand, if you establish a new positive habit, such as daily meditation for example, then the benefits of that habit will continue to kick in over and over again in the long run, and possibly even have multiplicative effects as you continue to deepen your practice. The same could be true for other habits such as journal writing, physical exercise, or attending support groups or therapy. Those are the kinds of habits that can make a lasting impact on your life and become a protective barrier against the threat of relapse.
The problem that many recovering addicts and alcoholics experience is that when the chaos really hits them hard they are not prepared to react to it. They are caught off guard and they are reeling from an unforeseen event and they don’t know what to do.
We assume that when such a tragedy strikes us that we will know to reach out for help, that we will know that we should get to a meeting or to therapy, that will will know how to react and rebuild from there. But the truth is that unless we are already in the habit of doing those things, unless we are already in the habit of going to therapy, unless we are “plugged in to meetings” on a regular basis, then it is going to be far too awkward in the moment to pick up those tools and use them.
Therefore the solution is to be proactive in your early recovery journey and start building this positive lifestyle. You can take some steps to reduce the chaos in your life, but you cannot eliminate all of it, and therefore you are going to need to pick up some coping skills and turn them into lifelong habits.
For me, the habits that have been most helpful in protecting me from chaotic events have been regular exercise, seated meditation, therapy, journal writing, and social support from the recovery fellowship. What I would encourage you to do is to explore these various tactics and test them out in your own life. It is only after you have given each habit a thorough chance in your life that you will know if it is truly helpful for you or not. Good luck in your recovery journey!