One of the stereotypical personality traits of addicts is impatience. It may be a generalization, but many people who become addicted to drugs and alcohol exhibit some quality of impatience in their lives. It goes with the territory. In addiction, we want to feel differently, and we want it now. That’s why we use drugs and alcohol. Drug abuse is just part of the problem, or even a symptom. The deeper problems are difficulties coping with reality, wanting things to be other than how they are, and perhaps some underlying mental health disorder, trauma, or difficulty.
Patience is something that we can build over time as we train our minds to respond better. When we get sober, we may not have the best level of patience, but we can work on it. As we bring awareness to when we’re impatient, we can choose to respond differently and try to rest in acceptance. Here are a few different ways in which we can investigate patience in our recovery.
We absolutely must learn to be patient with ourselves in recovery. When we get sober, we may have an image of an immediate change happening. I know I thought this myself. Part of me expected that when I got sober, my problems and difficulties would just magically go away. I guess I didn’t think it through all the way, and it was more of a felt sense or hope. To be fair, my life did change pretty quickly when I got sober, but I certainly wasn’t suddenly worry-free.
Being patient with ourselves doesn’t mean we allow ourselves to behave poorly or continue in harmful actions. However, we don’t need to beat ourselves up quite as harshly as we often do. We can find a happy middle ground. We are patient with ourselves, but don’t permit poor behavior. When we make mistakes, exhibit poor judgement, or cause harm, we take accountability with gentleness toward ourselves. We are works in progress! All of us. See if you can take accountability and set intentions to grow without being too demanding on yourself. This isn’t black and white; it takes some investigation to see what feels right for you.
Patience with Others
W also need to learn to be patient with others. This need may arise in many forms. First, it’s inevitable that other people will push our buttons. We will find ourselves agitated, irritated, and struggling with others. This is just part of life. When somebody pushes our buttons, we need to learn to have patience. We cannot afford to cultivate resentments left and right. This doesn’t mean we allow others to walk all over us or push us around, but we also don’t need to respond with anger or harmful behavior. By practicing patience like this, we can prevent quite a bit of difficulties for ourselves and for others.
We also need to be patient with how other people view us. When I got sober, it took quite some time to build my relationships with my family back. We think sometimes that when we get sober we are new people and others should treat us as we are, when the truth is that others don’t always see it like this. Try to have some understanding and patience. You’ve likely behaved in a certain way for months or years, so people may be careful to trust you again. This doesn’t feel great, but with patience you can show them your new self.
Patience with Life
We also have to have patience with life and the evolution of our new clean and sober goals, intentions, and adventures. Part of getting sober is learning to build a new life for ourselves, and this is sometimes a slow process. From getting a job and going back to school to rekindling relationships and learning to interact with the world in a new way, it can take effort and time to find our place in life.
Once we do find our place, things don’t always happen as fast as we want them. We want a new job, a significant other, or a new car. And as addicts, we want them yesterday! Have some patience. Try to relax and enjoy the journey, as you’ll never have this day again.