Empowering Change

7 Roadblocks Every Recovering Addict Will Face

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The road to freedom from addiction isn’t the same for everyone. No two people are exactly alike, and every addict’s path to recovery involves unique obstacles, pitfalls, and risks. This doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared, though. In fact, there are several – if not many –recovery roadblocks that most addicts will encounter. Some of them can be avoided, and others can’t – but one thing is certain: You can overcome them with commitment and the right treatment options.  

1) Negative thinking.

Negativity kills motivation. This doesn’t mean you should live in denial; it means you should navigate your current circumstances (though painful) with the expectation of a better future. If giving up is an option for you, you could slide into a “defeatism” mindset, making it difficult to stay on course. If you feel completely defeated, you could lose your motivation to get better and, in the end, inhibit your treatment.

There is no easy way to avoid negativity. If there was, no one would suffer from a defeatist mindset, right? Like every part of your recovery, positive thinking is a challenge – but it’s worth it, too. The best way to avoid negative thoughts is to pay attention to how you think and talk. Is everything you say pessimistic and gloomy? If so, it might be time to adjust your thinking.

How to manage negative feelings:

  • Be aware of your emotions. Learn how to identify your feelings accurately so you know when you’re starting to slide into a negative mindset.
  • Figure out why you feel defeated. Did you set a goal and fail? Were you hoping to be further along in your recovery by now? Simply understanding the reason behind your feelings can help you manage them.
  • Make positivity a goal. Positivity is more than an emotion – its’ a mindset. During recovery, your goals should include positive thinking, because good mindset will help you achieve your bigger, long-term goals.  

2) Overwhelming Guilt and Shame

Addiction always has a reason. Maybe you had a prescription and things got out of hand; maybe you were abused and wanted to escape; maybe you were depressed and needed to “feel good,” even if the feeling wasn’t real. Regardless, acknowledging that you have a problem can come with feelings of guilt – even shame. For some, these feelings are strong enough to pose a threat to their sobriety.

Wallowing in these emotions is not constructive, though, and shame has no place on the path to sobriety. Instead of focusing on what you’ve done, recognize your mistakes and move forward with your life. While supportive, non-judgmental friends and family are an important part of overcoming these feelings, the first (and most crucial) step is learning how to forgive yourself.

3) Getting to the Root of the Problem

For many people suffering from addiction, sobriety starts with a clear understanding of why. But the answer to “Why am I addicted?” isn’t an easy one. Sometimes, its’ easy to identify at least one reason for addiction, such as a past trauma or abuse, but one reason rarely causes addiction. In many cases, underlying emotional, physiological, or psychiatric issues contribute as well.

Dual-diagnosis is the only way to uncover these issues. Generally speaking, dual-diagnosis couples addiction recovery with psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. This approach can uncover many issues related to your addiction, such as:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Panic disorders
  • Trauma
  • Depression
  • PTSD
  • Other mental health issues

By treating mental health disorders alongside addiction, you can get to the true, underlying reasons behind your addiction and begin to work toward sobriety. If you’ve tried rehab in the past and failed, it’s possible your treatment center didn’t provide the full spectrum of help you needed for substance abuse and mental health. By solving these issues at the same time, you can build a foundation for lasting sobriety and avoid relapse. 

4) Relationships (Old and New)

Whether it’s meeting someone new or mending the ties broken by your addiction, relationships are one of the most common – and unpredictable – parts of recovery. That doesn’t mean they can’t have a positive influence on your sobriety, though. You just have to be honest, open, and understanding as you try to re-forge relationships that suffered from your substance abuse.

  • Recovering broken relationships – Sometimes, addiction takes a toll on the most important relationships in your life. As you focus on sobriety, it’s important to make amends with family members, too. The first step is asking for forgiveness. Every relationship requires communication, and by communicating honestly and openly with your spouse, family, and friends, you can begin to heal the relationships your addiction may have broken.
  • Starting new relationships – In the early stages of recovery, it’s important to focus on your sobriety. This means starting a new romantic relationship, for example, might not be advisable. It might not be impossible, but focusing on a new relationships can pose additional challenges to your immediate sobriety. Before you enter a romantic relationship during the early stages of recovery, consider whether or not it could affect your sobriety in the future.

5) Too Much Too Soon

Maybe you feel ready to tackle sobriety without the protection of in-patient rehab, or maybe you aren’t sure what will happen when you try to adjust to your new life as a recovering addict. Either way, it’s easy to feel like you’ve lost too much time because of your addiction – and now is the time to make it up. This reaction is extremely common, but it’s also risky.

When you feel like you need to rush back into your old schedule, you may find out the hard way you aren’t ready. Often, this comes from thoughts of “I need to prove myself,” or “There’s so much time I need to get back.” Although these thoughts are well-intentioned, they can also lead to an overwhelming and busy schedule filled with work, community involvement, and projects you might not be ready to take on.

How to avoid taking on too much, too fast:

  • Recognize the problem. You might feel like you have to make up lost time, but this isn’t necessarily true or prudent.
  • Know that the opportunities for community involvement, friends, work, volunteering, etc. will still be there in the future. You don’t have to start right now to participate.
  • Remember that recovery is a learning process. You don’t have to assume more responsibility than you need to right now – just give it some time and you’ll be ready.
  • Most importantly, prioritize your recovery above everything else. If anything, even something that’s objectively good, distracts from your recovery goals, put it off for now. 

6) Running with the Same Crowd

Not every relationship will be the same after your recovery. In the time immediately following rehab, you may need to cut ties with friends who perpetuated or enabled your old, destructive habits. It’s true that recovery can be a lonely time, but it’s important to only reconnect with people who will support your sobriety. If this means completely changing your friend circle, that’s okay. Just remember even limited amounts of time with friends who don’t support your sobriety goals is something you want to avoid, even if the alternative is temporary loneliness.

How to make new friends after rehab:

  1. Remember that making friends takes time. Be patient.
  2. Find people who support your goals and want to see you succeed.
  3. Develop acquaintances who will develop into friendships with time.
  4. Mend relationships with friends you pushed away because of your addiction.  

7) Relapses

Some people approach relapses as a natural but frustrating part of the recovery process; others view relapse as a failure that pushes them back to square one. Regardless of your perspective, relapse is – or at least the temptation of a relapse – is a very real possibility for any recovering addict. If you relapse during your recovery, remember this: it is a temporary failure, not a permanent one. The most important thing a recovering addict can understand is that recovery is a lifelong process of healing, and having a temporary setback doesn’t mean you can’t succeed.

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