Pain is inevitable. Life will be tough sometimes, that’s the reality. For people in early recovery, this is the most pressing of all realities. For a long time, we’ve anesthetized our feelings with drugs and alcohol. Living in a perpetual state of numbness, it becomes second nature to ignore and excuse all feelings from our life. We seek and experience bliss only through a combination of chemicals, so when life shows up, many of us don’t know how to handle it.
Coping through early recovery is a completely new skill. Having relied on escapism through active addiction, it’s hard to fathom a new life without immediate relief from “bad” feelings. Realizing that these feelings don’t last forever is the first step. In active addiction, regardless of how good the high felt – how good I felt in the moment — that feeling went away. The good news of recovery is this – those now exposed feelings of pain, suffering and sadness will dissipate as well.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned through recovery is the importance of positive reinforcement. On a daily basis I try and build habits that will help me deal with the inevitable: life. When those normal feelings of pain creep in, I’m prepared. Mirror affirmations, reminders on my phone, daily exercise, eating healthy, trying to do the next right thing — all of these seemingly small things have such a giant impact. When discouraging thoughts set in, I have built the necessary will and tenacity to push through it. By proving to myself that I can accomplish all these little things, the big things seem a little bit more manageable.
Affirmations – Learning to say and hear “I love you”
Although it seems trivial, looking in the mirror and telling myself that I’m a good person has worked wonders for me. Every morning before I shower, I look in the mirror and say “I love you”. Believe me when I say this practice is isnt’ something I would have expected to work for me, but it has. Beating those three little words into my subconscious helps me project those words outwardly. I feel better, more confident, more focused on self care. Simply reminding myself of my own worthiness over time makes me a better person. Once I’m capable of loving myself, it makes me capable of being able to provide love to others. Both inwardly and outwardly, it leads my mind into a state of progression. I want to work on myself. I want to do better, I want to continue growing and learning, constantly, making me better able to combat slip backs in negative behavior.
I have five reminders on my phone every day. Morning, noon and night, messages pop-up: “You’re a good person.” “Don’t give up.” “It’s worth the effort.” I cannot ignore the messages – they are set to disappear only after I click on them. When I’m having a good day, they solidify why that day is good, and when I’m having a bad day, they help give me the boost I need just to make it through the rest of the day clean and sober.
Like the mirror affirmations, these reminders are a conscious motivator. I may not immediately feel better, but the after burn of these is something measurable. I wake up happier. I go to bed at night in peace.
Exercise – Rebuilding strength and commitment
The gym is one of the cornerstones of my continued recovery. I honestly don’t know what I would do without it. Not only is it a great stress reliever physically and mentally, it also provides an outlet for that addictive behavior.
Active addiction required our singular focus, and that level of obsession isn’t something we can break overnight. In recovery, many of us direct that obsession into a much healthier outlet. We’ve destroyed our bodies for years and we learn quickly that it will take time to build them back up. In parallel to the work we do every day to stay clean, the workouts we do require effort, patience and vigilance. We build daily habits that deliver visible results – in how we feel physically, and how we feel about ourselves.
The right combination of tools and behaviors isn’t the same for everyone, but one thing is universally true: combating the disease of addiction requires attack from every angle. Just like two heads are better than one, the more coping skills, the better. You can start small, but you have to start, and that first step is always the hardest.
Sometimes we just have to hold on. Sure, there are things we can do, and those things do help. The most important thing to remember is to have faith and hope that things will get better. As long as we don’t use, no matter what, things will work out, no matter what.
Stay strong, stay in the center,