How Do You Escape a Recovery Rut?
Recovery from addiction isn’t a steady progression. There are times when you are super focused on it and make a lot of progress and there are times when you are distracted, indifferent, or depressed and can’t be bothered. Motivation is never constant. Many people find they are motivated and engaged early on when they still remember vividly how bad life was when they were actively addicted, when they are most hopeful that life can change, and when they are making a lot of progress quickly.
However, as recovery gets easier, it can also get boring. You forget what the big deal is and it’s harder to see progress from day-to-day. When you get complacent, you are in danger of backsliding. The following tips can help you escape your recovery rut and start making progress again.
Review Your Recovery Plan
The first thing you should do is have a look at your recovery plan and see to what extent you are still following it. Instead of just looking down the list and mentally checking boxes, spend about a week actually keeping track, in writing, of how you spend your time. You may be surprised by the disparity between how you think you spend your time and how you actually spend it. When you find some way that you’ve deviated from your recovery plan, try to correct it.
For example, you may discover that it’s actually been a while since you’ve been to a meeting or that your daily exercise has become weekly exercise. The whole purpose of a recovery plan is to help you stay physically and mentally healthy, maintain some accountability, and stay focused on recovery. It’s easy to start cutting corners when recovery gets less challenging and that can lead to trouble.
Pay Special Attention to Self-Care
Self-care is an especially important part of any recovery plan and it’s something many people find easy to neglect. It includes things like eating healthy and exercising, but it also includes things like taking time each day to relax, spending time with supportive friends, doing fun things, and getting enough sleep. We often sacrifice these things when we’re busy or stressed, but that’s when we need them the most.
Relapse is a process that typically starts with emotional relapse, and emotional relapse is typically caused by poor self-care. Fortunately, at this stage, it’s pretty easy to turn things around if you focus on self-care. Make sure you’re following your recovery plan, that you’re eating healthy and exercising, sleeping, taking time to relax, socialize, and have fun, and so on.
Talk to a Therapist
If you’re following your recovery plan and you still feel stuck, it may be time to talk to a therapist. Ideally, you’ll already be seeing a therapist regularly for at least the first year of recovery, but that’s often not the case. If you get to a point where you feel stuck, like you’re not seeing progress, or maybe you are seeing progress but you still feel awful, it could be that you have some co-occurring mental health issues that need to be addressed. At least half of the people with substance use disorders have co-occurring mental health challenges including anxiety disorders, major depression, PTSD, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and others.
These issues tend to drive addictive behavior and it’s very hard to stay sober with an untreated mental health issue. Even if you did have therapy as part of treatment, it’s possible that the issue persists or that something new has come up. If your mental health issue is well-controlled, your therapist may be able to help you figure out why you feel stuck.
Having a regular routine in addiction recovery is a two-edged sword. On the positive side, a regular routine reduces uncertainty and stress, it helps you automate healthy decisions, and it helps ensure you’re giving adequate attention to your recovery priorities. On the downside, it can get boring. You feel like you’re just living the same day over and over without much challenge or engagement.
If it’s the monotony of your daily routine that’s dragging you down, change something, anything. It doesn’t have to be something big. In fact, too big of a change can be stressful and distract from the productive parts of your routine. But there is plenty of room for tinkering. You might decide to take a different route to work or text a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Maybe you can go on a media diet or read a book that’s outside of your usual tastes. A change in perspective can make a big difference.
Take On a New Challenge
Along similar lines to making a change, it may be time to take on a new challenge. The point of recovery is not that it’s supposed to be challenging for the rest of your life. It’s supposed to get easier with practice, allowing you to do more in other areas of your life. If you’re sticking to your recovery plan and managing your mental health challenges, maybe you’re just bored and need something to do.
Maybe it’s time to get a job or take on more responsibility at work. Maybe it’s time to pursue another goal, like going back to school or learning a second language. Striving toward meaningful goals may be the next step in your recovery and feeling bored or restless may indicate it’s time to take that step.
Finally, it may be time to change the way you engage with recovery. When you’re first starting out, you need a lot of help and support. Later on, you don’t need so much help but it’s still important to stay engaged with your recovery community. That might mean taking on a more active role, like volunteering.
There are plenty of opportunities to help out at 12-Step meetings. Even if you don’t volunteer in any official capacity, you can get to know new people and help them feel welcome. This strengthens the group and it strengthens your own recovery.
Recovery from addiction doesn’t stay the same all the way through and you can run into problems if you try to resist these changes. On the one hand, you have to keep paying attention to the basics, the things that work. On the other hand, you have to be responsive to changing circumstances and your own growth.
At The Foundry, we know that recovery doesn’t end after 30 days of inpatient treatment. That’s why we include three to six months of partial care following treatment, to help clients transition back to normal life and deal with new recovery challenges. To learn more, call us today at (844) 955-1066.