Just like any other journey of healing, whether it be physical, mental, or emotional, addiction recovery is a process that happens second by second – day by day. Recovery begins the very second you decide to change your life for the better, and it continues each day you reinforce that decision with an action. Despite your steady and continual progress, there may be a day when you look back at how far you have come and think to yourself, “Why am I moving so slowly?”
Many individuals who are in recovery for drug and alcohol addiction are also struggling to heal from past trauma, or another co-occurring disorder. For each and every one of us, the path of recovery will be completely unique. Some may move through early sobriety with no major hang up, floating gently along on a pink cloud until something shakes them back to reality. Some may trudge their way through each and every day for the first several months, wondering when (or if) all of their hard work will pay off. The path to wellness and wholeness is rarely easy, but it is always – yes, always – worth the work.
Progress – Not Perfection
The ease with which we recover will be based on a variety of factors, including the severity of our co-occurring issues and disorders, the length of time and extent to which we abused chemical substances, and our willingness to embrace change and engage in thorough self-searching. When it comes to the process of recovery, our ability to be honest with ourselves is key. The more we stand in our own way (and we do tend to do this quite frequently), the more difficult it will be to progress. When we befriend ourselves and learn to be kind to ourselves, we create a more compassionate and lenient environment in which to heal. And we will require a safe and accommodating environment – recovery work is not easy.
The Difference Between Accepting and Condoning
Some may argue that if they accept themselves as they are today, they will have no true motivation to grow or change. Well, listen – self-acceptance does not mean consenting to the belief that things are perfect just the way they are, and that no significant change is necessary. Accepting means recognizing and acknowledging that things are just as they should be in the moment. The truth of the matter is, you are working to overcome a life-threatening addiction, while simultaneously dealing with a host of other emotional and mental issues that may stand in the way of comprehensive recovery. You have developed a focused plan, and you are moving closer to self-betterment one day at a time. Condoning, on the other hand, would mean embracing detrimental behavioral patterns and allowing them to continue without striving for change. If you condone yourself as you are, you are suggesting that recovery is unnecessary – everything is fine and dandy just as it is.
In recovery, it is important to accept where you are in the day while acknowledging that change is both necessary and possible. Avoid shaming yourself or blaming yourself for not making progress more quickly; accept yourself with love and compassion, and recognize that you are doing the best you can.
The Importance of Self-Acceptance
Breaking detrimental behavioral patterns that you have been engaging in for years of your life will certainly not be easy. Essentially, you will need to re-teach yourself how to live. From time-to-time, you may feel your strength being tested; you may feel overwhelmed and exasperated, as if you cannot go on any longer. Remember that if you feel that you are being broken down, it is only so that you can be rebuilt. Self-acceptance is the first step towards unconditional self-love. When you dislike who you are, it is quite difficult to motivate yourself to do the work required of a better life. You may feel undeserving of true happiness and fulfillment. It is normal to feel these things when first entering into recovery. The trick is to fight through these feelings with positive action, until you truly begin to accept yourself as you are. Eventually, you will move from a place of powerlessness to a pace of empowerment – from a place of self-loathing to a place of self-acceptance.
Every day, upon waking, take an honest look at where you are at. Make a conscious decision to take one positive action that will help move you just a little bit forward in your recovery. Perhaps this means calling a sober support and discussing a hang-up, or sharing at a meeting. Perhaps this means making yourself breakfast and allowing yourself time to read one chapter of a book. Remember that you are right where you need to be, and try to go easy on yourself.
You’re doing great.