by Restorations Therapy Center on Friday, May 10th, 2019
A certain amount of optimism is important in addiction recovery. You have to believe that recovery is possible in order to make the best effort. You also have to feel like life can be better without drugs and alcohol. However, life does not always cooperate. Bad things happen, sometimes at the worst possible moment. Sometimes you face setbacks and feel like you’ll never be able to have a successful recovery. It’s these times when it’s especially important to find ways to stay positive. Here are some tips for staying positive when recovery seems hard.
Having frequent feelings of gratitude has been shown to have many benefits including decreasing stress and increasing happiness. When you’re feeling grateful, you’re necessarily more focused on what’s going well in your life instead of what’s going wrong. Most of the things that go wrong are temporary, while many of the good things, such as family, health, community, infrastructure, and so on, are more stable, but often blend into the background because we’re so used to them.
You can nurture feelings of gratitude in two main ways. First, every evening, write down three things that went well that day and why they went well. Be as specific as possible. Second, make a point of thanking people who have helped you out. Write a note, call, or stop by. Be specific about what they did and what it meant to you. It doesn’t even have to be something recent, as long as it was something you really appreciated.
Negative thinking is often the result of cognitive distortions. It’s not so much an event that makes us feel bad as our beliefs about the event. So for example, if you don’t get a job you interviewed for, you’re likely likely to feel much worse about it if you think, “I’ll never get a job; I’m totally useless; I’m going to end up on the street,” and so on. If instead, you thought, “Oh well, it’s encouraging that I at least got an interview. And I was able to get some practice, so maybe the next interview will go better. It probably wasn’t a good fit. If I keep trying, I know I’ll find something,” then you will feel much better about even disappointing experiences.
This is not always easy. In fact, many of our cognitive distortions are so deeply ingrained we don’t even notice them. A therapist can help you spot these distortions and replace them with more objective ways of thinking. This is the approach of cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, the most evidence-backed form of psychotherapy. If you have been through treatment for addiction, you have probably done some CBT, but the trick is remembering to use those skills in tough times.
Social support is one of the best ways to weather a tough situation. It is also one of the best predictors of success in recovery. Spending time with people we like reduces stress and helps us gain a clearer perspective. It’s also comforting to know that people are willing to help us if we need it. Just knowing help is available often makes things easier. When seeking social support, it’s important that you spend time with people who are generally positive. Negative and critical people may only make things worse. If you have a 12-step sponsor, that person should be someone who is generally positive. Spending time around positive people will eventually rub off on you. You will start to feel reluctant to be negative or critical and you will get into the habit of seeing things in a more positive light.
When something goes wrong, we tend to get hyper-focused on the current situation because we see it as an immediate threat. Our attention narrows and we lose perspective. One way to break out of this trap is to remind yourself that you have faced challenges before and come through them. Even things that seemed disastrous at the time may have turned out to be not that big of a deal. If you get into the habit of telling a certain story about yourself, you may start to discount the times in your life when you’ve overcome challenges. You may have to really think to come up with something, but it can make you recognize, at least rationally, that you can survive this new problem too.
Much of what we see in the media is pretty negative. The news is either about divisive and nasty politics, local violence, or natural disasters happening somewhere else. A steady diet of this stuff can make you depressed and anxious. Social media is not good for you either. Many studies have now found that unhealthy social media habits can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety. And comparing your life to the lives others present on social media often makes you feel worse about yourself. If you make it a point to avoid the news and social media for even a day, you’ll start to feel better.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that others have gone before you. Whatever challenge you’re currently facing in recovery, the odds are good that plenty of people have encountered something similar and were able to overcome it. Listen to the people at 12-step meetings who have a strong recovery. Read memoirs of people who have overcome addiction. If those people can do it, you can too.
Exercise is a great way to break out of a negative mood because you don’t actually have to change the way you’re thinking. You just do the exercise and eventually your thinking will change on its own. Exercise has many cognitive benefits including better mood and lower stress. It has been shown to release endorphins and increase levels of serotonin and dopamine, which make you feel better. It also strengthens your brain’s prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for attention, working memory, self-control, and planning. This boost can actually shift your perspective and make your problems easier to solve.
Located in Centennial, Colorado, Restoration Therapy works with patients who are struggling with addiction, intimacy disorders, and trauma who are seeking treatment. In order to offer patients a more holistic view on a healthy sexuality, Restoration Therapy offers individualized and group therapy, workshops, psycho-educational classes, and more to restore the harm brought on by addiction and intimacy issues. For more information, please call us at (720) 446-6585 as we are open Monday through Friday from 8am to 8pm.