Why do we get sober? Most of us choose to begin living a life of recovery because our old way of living became far too painful to bear. The overwhelming sense of self-hatred we awoke with every morning, the despair we felt when we considered all of the opportunities we had missed and relationships we had destroyed… the utter defeat we suffered every time we filled a glass – after vowing, hours beforehand, that we were finally finished for good. Every day was the same; gray, hazy, and characterized by the crushing feeling that nothing was okay. We get sober because we want to reclaim our lives – because we don’t want to squander them in futile misery until we die alone, surrounded by empty bottles. We get sober because we are tired of merely existing; tired of waking up every morning wishing we hadn’t.
It is not uncommon for us to forget all of this at one point or another along our journey of recovery, and begin feeling dissatisfied with the current state of things. We may feel bored, restless, or stuck in a rut. We may even convince ourselves that our lives would be more exciting and fulfilling if we took up drinking again. Alcohol – cunning, baffling, powerful! These insane and insidious thoughts will creep into our brains and take root, slowly growing into gnarled ideas. Eventually they will grow into sick and self-defeating plans, if we don’t find them and bring them to light and destroy them with a careful combination of reason and action.
Action is the most important, because we have been known to acknowledge how insane they are and entertain them regardless.
Getting Out of a Rut in Sobriety
The truth is, we have the inherent power to reclaim our lives at any point in time. As soon as we begin to take action and move towards change, we are well on the way to becoming unstuck. If you feel as if you have hit a plateau in your recovery, or if there is something or someone holding you back, consider the following:
- Feeling stuck is a sign.
If you feel stuck, it is probably a good indication that something in your life needs to be changed. Perhaps you have been stuck working the same thankless ‘9 to 5’ for years, or perhaps you have been stuck in a dysfunctional and unhappy relationship for fear of being alone. Perhaps you simply need a change in perspective, or a change in attitude. Whatever the case may be, it has become apparent that whatever you are doing is no longer serving you. A lot of the time, we will avoid making changes that we know deep down we need to make because we are afraid of change. Fear of change is normal and expected. Remember – as scary as change can be, what is even scarier is allowing fear to prevent you from growing, evolving, and achieving ultimate fulfillment.
- Accept the answers that you are given.
If you have been praying for answers for years, chances are that you have received them – you just aren’t happy with the answers you have been given. A big part of getting unstuck is accepting that the right thing to do is not always the easiest, and that it may even be a bit uncomfortable. Growth can be painful, and taking the initiative to break free from futile patterns takes a great amount of courage. However, the power to accept and facilitate change is entirely in your hands.
- Recognize excuses.
You have probably stored away hundreds of viable reasons as to why now is not the right time. You may have expertly disguised fear, insecurity, or pure laziness in a thick cloak of rationality, convincing yourself that your excuses are entirely valid. In order to get unstuck, you must stop making excuses. If you wait around, twiddling your thumbs and staring at the sky until the answer falls gracefully into your lap… you will be waiting forever. Put in the footwork, and focus on your forward progress rather than the laundry lists of reasons as to why change should be indefinitely postponed.
- Dwelling on the past will keep you tethered.
If you spend your time dwelling on the past, you will inevitably miss out on today. All of that stuff that should have been, could have been, would have been… none of it matters! If it was supposed to happen it would have, but it did not, so it is time to move on. Even if you desperately want to move on with your life, residing in the past will render you completely and utterly unable. You may have unresolved trauma you need to work through alongside a professional therapist. You may have lost a loved one, or humiliated yourself in front of your peers. Rather than constantly reliving old pain, take some time to adequately deal with it. Otherwise, it will forever keep you chained to your personal history, preventing you from starting anew and making a vital change.
- Feelings are not facts.
How many times have you heard this well-worn phrase? Turns out, it is used so very frequently because we need to be reminded so very often – your feelings are temporary, and they can be successfully altered! One way to begin changing your feelings is to begin changing your perception of things. Sure, you have been through some tough times. But what have you learned along the way? Try turning the negative into a positive. The best way to begin changing your feelings, however, is by taking action. Rather than sit and stew in a bitter morass of despair and self-pity, try doing something different. Rather than sit at your desk with your head in your hand thinking, “Gosh, I hate my job,” start looking for new options and sending in applications.
- Real growth begins on the inside.
When we begin to feel stuck, we like to start looking outside of ourselves for something or someone to blame. It is important to bear in mind that your life is your responsibility – you will not begin to change if you do not accept that the change needs to come from within. You may feel that you need to gain more external possessions in order to feel fulfilled – a nice home, a better car, a more lucrative career, a loving and compassionate partner… but the only true growth comes when we grow deeper into ourselves. Internal growth is so much more fulfilling than a steady accumulation of external achievements, though society often tells us otherwise. Allocate ample time for yourself, and work on the things that truly count – self-love, acceptance, gratitude, and willingness.
- Life is short.
You are human, and being human, you come fully equipped with a wide array of social anxieties, doubts, fears, and insecurities. You may fear that if you leave your current job you will never find anything that pays quite as well – if you leave your current relationship you will never find true love again. There is always, always, always something bigger and better than you ever could have imagined waiting right on the other side of crippling fear and self-doubt. When you let go of the idea that you need to lead the life you are expected to lead, you open the door to living a life of authentic happiness, self-actualization, and lasting gratification. Life is an adventure – make it fun!
- You are stronger than you think.
Try to remember that we tend to grow the most after a long period of immovability. For this reason, being stuck is sometimes a necessary part of the plan. And while the idea of becoming unstuck may be appealing, wiggling yourself out of habit and routine may prove to be a bit more intimidating than you initially anticipated. Perhaps you find that taking a big stride forward is a little too daunting. No worries. Take a small step first, and then another. You are certainly strong enough to take the next step. Remind yourself of that, and try to be kind to yourself as you do. Sometimes, the only thing that keeps us stuck for so long is our inability to see the true power and capability we possess.