Keeping the long view

Rehab for alcohol or drug abuse or addiction, treatment for compulsive gambling, compulsive sex, workaholism, overeating, and/or other process addictions no doubt took a lot out of you. On the one hand, you’re glad to be through that phase of overcoming your addiction. On the other hand, you are understandably eager to get back to your life and pick up where you left off.

Not so fast. This should be a gradual transition into everyday life. Returning home can be a joyful or stressful situation, or both. You are not the same individual today that you were when you entered treatment. For one thing, you’re no longer filled with toxic substances. You’ve had some time to learn about the disease of addiction and at least began the process of learning about and practicing some time-proven coping strategies. You’ve simply got to allow yourself some leeway here so that you can begin the real recovery work: learning to live a healthier lifestyle in sobriety.

Of course you want things to get back to normal. But the new normal for you is considerably different than the normal life you had prior to rehab. That’s a fact. If you have committed wholeheartedly to recovery, you know that you cannot return to those old ways. You’ll have to part with former friends or acquaintances you associate with your past drug and alcohol use, your gambling buddies, casual sexual encounters – along with the places and things where you used. There is no possible way that you can have one foot in both worlds. You’re either in recovery or you’ll soon find yourself back among the addicted, living only to satisfy your incessant urge to use.

This strategy encourages you to keep the long view of recovery. Recognize that this isn’t a one-time thing, something that you try for a few weeks to several months and then go back to your former life. You’re going to be in recovery – should you decide that this is the life you want to live – for the rest of your life. As such, there is no immediate timetable that you have to adhere to, nor should you pressure yourself to quickly achieve goals that you are clearly not ready to tackle.

What does the long view mean? Quite simply, it means that you give yourself as long as it takes to master a certain skill, to feel comfortable being able to cope with cravings and urges, to learn how to better communicate with others, to begin the process of mending damaged or fractured relationships, to make amends for the wrongs that you have done that have brought pain to others as a result of your addiction.

Sure, the list of what you feel you need to do, as well as what you think right now that you want to do is probably quite long. For some, however, the list is incredibly short: stay sober and don’t slip. By keeping the long view of recovery, you know that you have time to make steady and measured progress toward goals that are reasonable and realistic for you to attempt. As you gain strength in recovery, you’ll be adding to your goals and your horizons will broaden.

But for now, just remind yourself that you will recover day by day, by living day by day, in the present, and fully committed to sobriety.

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