If you want to succeed in long term addiction recovery then you are going to need to actively manage your resentments and your self pity.
What I mean by that is that you cannot just ignore these issues and assume that they will fade away, just because you have stopped drinking or abusing drugs.
Every addict and alcoholic who is struggling to build a new life in recovery is going to have some “internal baggage” in the form of negative emotions. Every single person is going to have either some resentments or some self pity that they are going to need to deal with.
Therefore, my challenge for you today is that you examine your own life and your own past and figure out what it is that you are hanging on to, and what you could potentially let go of and move past. For some people it is going to be resentment against others, and for some it is going to be self pity, which in a way is like resentment towards the self.
So before you can do anything about these problems you must first acknowledge and admit that there is a problem in the first place. That means that you need to get in touch with what is really going on inside. If you struggle to identify these issues then I have 3 recommendations for you.
The first suggestion is that you get involved in substance abuse therapy with a real therapist. This is easy and fairly normal if you have just exited a 28 day program, because most treatment centers will set you up with an SUD therapist as part of your aftercare. If you are talking with a therapist on a weekly basis then they can help you to identify your core issues and work through them in a healthy way. I highly recommend therapy if you are in early recovery from substance abuse. Not only will it allow you to stay clean and sober, but it will also improve your quality of life in sobriety. If you are serious about recovery then my suggestion is to get serious about therapy, and invest your time and effort into following the advice of a professional therapist. It helps quite a bit.
My second suggestion to you is that you sit and meditate. This is really pretty uncomfortable for people in early recovery because for a long time they have been self medicating with drugs and alcohol and generally avoiding having to get in touch with their inner self. If you sit in silence when you are clean and sober then your mind starts to allow certain thoughts to bubble up through the silence. When you sit and meditate regularly then it will expose what your subconscious mind is really concerned with. If you sit and meditate every day for a few weeks in a row then you are going to be much more in touch with what is really going on inside, and what your real emotional issues might be at that time. If you are curious about how to do seated meditation (there really is no wrong way) then you can find someone to help guide you. One easy way to do this is to find a Refuge Recovery meeting, in which they do guided meditations with the group every single meeting. Worth checking out for most people, and could be potentially life changing if meditation really “clicks” for you.
Just a side note: If seated meditation really is impossible for you, then you might try exercise as an alternative to this. You can get much the same mental benefits of seated meditation through many forms of exercise. Yoga and Tai Chi in particular are really good, but even walking or jogging can be excellent in terms of emotional and mental benefits. I highly recommend this as well.
Now a third suggestion that has been extremely powerful in my own life is the idea of writing in a daily journal. If you sit down and force yourself to write every single day then you will simply spill your thoughts on to the page, and this will eventually give you a really good idea of where you are at and what your real issues are. In some ways this is even more powerful than meditation because when you are writing your thoughts down you force your brain to clarify and sharpen those thoughts. So you are really going through a mental process when you write in a journal and it forces your brain to get really specific about what is going on inside, what is bothering you, what you are worrying about lately.
If there is no problem then there is no problem. Which means that if your brain is not spending time worrying or obsessing over something then that whatever that thing is not really an issue for you. It’s not stealing your brain cycles or wasting mental energy, so it is a non issue. The stuff that is consuming your mind and eating up mental and emotional energy is the stuff that is really the problem. And if you use any of these techniques then it should be fairly easy to identify those issues.
Now once you identify your “emotional baggage” then you can set about fixing it. Again, I recommend professional therapy as a first line of defense here, but going to AA, sharing with peers, and working with a 12 step sponsor can all be helpful as well.
The idea is to find solutions to your problems. Our old solution was to self medicate with drugs or alcohol. New solutions in recovery are healthier alternatives.
For example, when I was in early recovery I reached a point in which I realized that my brain was engaging in self pity “without my permission.” What I mean is that my brain was running a script that was left over from my days of addiction, in which I had to feel sorry for myself in order to justify my drinking and drug use.
Now that I was clean and sober, my brain was still doing this! It was still running through the self pity “loop” if you will.
So I had to identify this, and then figure out a solution.
The solution was to raise my awareness, so that I would notice when my brain was slipping into self pity mode. And once I was aware of it, I had to have a way to stop it, a way to redirect myself.
So it was suggested to me from therapists, from my sponsor, and from my peers in AA that I needed to use gratitude to fight back against self pity. So I made a list, and I forced myself to make a new list every single day, to jot down a few things I was grateful for, to keep a list in my pocket, to keep reminding myself that my life and my sobriety was a miracle and that I was really lucky to be sober and happy today.
So that was the process: I first had to identify the self pity, then I had to raise my awareness, then I had to find a solution (gratitude) and implement it on a consistent basis.
You can use this same process in identifying and working with resentments that you might have. The program of AA lays out a method for dealing with those resentments in the fourth and fifth step, and you can certainly work through that with a sponsor. Or you can get a therapist and work through your resentments that way. Either way, you need to actively make a plan to figure out these negative emotions are in your life and then work to eliminate them.
Once you are free from resentment and self pity you are able to take your recovery to the next level. You free up your mental and emotional energy to be able to focus on more positive things, and your life in recovery will never be the same again.
Once you “do the work” that I am talking about here, your life in recovery will just keep getting better and better every day as you remain sober. But, you have to do the work!