Nine Common Mistakes to Avoid in Addiction Recovery
Recovery from addiction is complicated. You have to learn new coping skills, make new friends, make lifestyle changes, and other big changes in a relatively short period of time. There are plenty of chances to make mistakes, especially early on. The good news is that these mistakes don’t have to derail your recovery.
You can avoid many of them, if you know to watch out for them. If you do make mistakes, you can usually get back on track if you catch them early enough. The following are some of the more common mistakes people make in addiction recovery.
Thinking You Can Do It Alone
Perhaps the hardest step is admitting you have a problem, but it’s also hard to ask for help. Many people admit they have a problem with drugs or alcohol, but they want to deal with it on their own. This is usually a bad idea. The thinking that got you into addiction is unlikely to get you out. At the very least, you would benefit from social support like what you would find at 12-Step or other mutual-aid meetings. Additionally, many people need much more support and guidance, such as from a therapist or an addiction treatment program.
Not Treating Mental Health Issues
When most people decide to get help for a substance use issue, the first thing they think of is going to a 12-Step meeting. This is a great first step, and groups like AA and NA have helped millions of people get sober over the decades. However, it’s also important to be aware that most people with substance use disorders also have co-occurring mental health issues such as major depression, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, PTSD, and others. If you try to get sober without addressing these issues, it’s going to be much, much harder.
Expecting Too Much Too Soon
Recovery from addiction is possible — and even likely, with the right help — and life will certainly get better when you’re sober, but it won’t happen all at once. It takes time to form new habits and get used to different ways of thinking. It also takes time for your brain chemistry and body to adapt to life without drugs and alcohol. The early months are typically challenging, and often uncomfortable.
If you expect life to turn around right away, you’ll likely be disappointed. You should probably expect to notice a difference by the end of the first year of sobriety, and then again at five years. In the meantime, you just have to commit to the process.
Comparing Your Progress to Others
It’s normal to want to know how your recovery is progressing, but comparing your progress to others is counterproductive. First and foremost, these comparisons are never accurate. Everyone in recovery is facing different challenges and you only know what others allow you to know. Also, recovery is a cooperative effort. Everyone benefits when they support each other, but making comparisons turns it into a competition. It’s hard to celebrate other people’s successes when you feel like they come at your expense.
There’s plenty of sobriety to go around. Finally, something about the act of comparison itself makes you less happy. It’s far better to judge your progress based on your own goals and values, as well as whether you did better today than yesterday.
Dating Too Soon
Most experts typically recommend that you have a solid year of recovery before you think about dating again. This can be challenging, since substance use issues typically first appear in early adulthood, when people are dating most actively. However, there are good reasons to hold off. First, it distracts from recovery.
Dating can be stressful and time consuming, and if you meet someone you like, you are likely to prioritize that person over recovery. That may be fine as long as things are going well, but it can be a huge liability if the relationship starts having problems. What’s more, people often fall back into unhealthy relationship patterns if they start dating again too soon. A year seems like a long time, but it’s really not.
Thinking You’re Cured
It’s easy to get complacent after a while if recovery seems to be going well. You might start to cut corners like skipping meetings or neglecting other parts of your recovery plan. You might even start to think it would be ok to have a drink every once in a while.
This is much like when people stop taking their medication for a mental health issue because they feel good. You feel good because you’re taking care of yourself, so it’s important to keep doing what you’re doing. Addiction is a chronic condition, and you’ve got to stick with your recovery plan.
If you’re recovering from alcohol use disorder, drinking is an obvious blunder, but many people in recovery don’t see alcohol as a serious problem. They may have issues with cocaine or opioids and see alcohol as more or less incidental. However, alcohol is often a powerful trigger, since most people combine drugs and alcohol. Not only that, alcohol impairs your judgment and self-control, making you more vulnerable to relapse. If you’re recovering from a drug use disorder, it’s important to stay away from alcohol, too.
Hanging Out With the Same People
We are all more vulnerable to peer pressure than we like to think. Even if your friends who drink and use drugs don’t pressure you to use, just being in that environment can trigger cravings and make it easier to relapse. People often struggle with loneliness early in recovery, which is why they hang out with old friends when they know they shouldn’t. The important thing is to create a sober network as soon as possible. Typically, attending regular 12-Step meetings is a good place to start.
Thinking Recovery Ends With Treatment
Finally, a lot of people assume that they can go into a treatment program, have their addiction problem fixed, and not have to worry about it too much after that. In reality, addiction is a chronic condition, and it takes about a year for your relapse risk to fall to 50 percent, on average. It’s especially important that you make a smooth transition from treatment back to normal life, perhaps by stepping down to an intensive outpatient program after you finish inpatient treatment, or by spending some time in a sober living environment. A strong recovery is really about changing your approach to life and not just about abstaining from drugs and alcohol.
Recovery from addiction is hard and everyone makes mistakes. The good news is that mistakes, even serious mistakes and relapses, don’t have to be final. You can learn from your mistakes and try again. At The Foundry, we use a variety of modalities to help our clients address co-occurring issues and make lasting change. For more information about our treatment programs, call us today at (844) 955-1066 or explore our website.