3 Common Dangers to Avoid in Longer-Term Recovery
If you've been in recovery for months or even a few years, you may come to the point that you think you've got this recovery thing down, and there are no dangers left to avoid in terms of recovery. You've begun to work on repairing your relationships. Maybe you've got a great new job or mended ties with family and friends. You may even start to feel a bit of that serenity that people talk about in 12-step meetings. All of this can be a good thing, but it doesn't mean you're cured of your addiction.
Addiction is a disease. While you're taking care of life on life's terms, everything will change in an instant if you choose to pick up a drink or drug.
Dangers: Thinking and Behavior in Recovery
With more power over the decisions in your life comes more responsibility. There will come a time soon that your recovery is tested. Long-term recovery is an exciting accomplishment, but no one is immune to dangerous thinking or behavior. Backsliding can easily lead to a full-scale relapse if you're not paying attention to your sobriety program. Here are three dangers to watch out for:
- Forgetting you are powerless. You gain confidence and begin to feel pride in your life. You may have a job or a relationship that makes you feel good about yourself, and choose to spend more time on that than your actual recovery. It's easy to get lost in things and people that make you feel good. But recovery isn't about "feeling good" - it's about doing good and continuing to work on yourself, your defects, and taking the time to make the twelve steps and integral part of your life.
- Spending most or all of your time in a romantic relationship. Codependency is a common issue in recovery, and it can be quite painful. People in recovery are taught that they shouldn't enter into any new relationships in their first year of recovery. That's because early recovery is a time to concentrate on yourself and your behaviors. It's easy to "lose yourself" in a relationship to the point that the other person, and the feelings you have for them, is an addiction. Love can be intoxicating, and your self-esteem may start to depend on the other person. And just because you're told that you should wait "one year" to look for romance doesn't mean that you'll be ready for a relationship at one year sober. Many people aren't prepared to handle the emotions a relationship can bring, even after a year clean.
- Taking risks for the thrill of it. People with addictive personalities are often thrill-seekers at heart. They get a "little kick" out of breaking the rules and "getting away with it." You may start speeding when there are no police around. Or maybe you start stealing office supplies to take home. You might be married but love to flirt with the woman at the coffee shop every day. Or maybe you decide to skip 12-step meetings because you're tired of the commitment. All of these behaviors are dangerous because they're based on a feeling of entitlement. You don't think the rules apply to you, so you're going to bend them a bit. When you "get away" with the behavior for long enough, it can snowball. You may get in trouble with the police or your workplace. Relationships might suffer. Or maybe you'll feel too ashamed to show your face at a meeting because of the damage your behavior has caused.
Humbling Yourself and Re-Engaging
Life is about choices. Mistakes happen when we make the wrong ones, but it's not the end of the world. If you were perfect, you certainly wouldn't be in recovery in the first place. It can be humbling to admit you're struggling because of your own behavior, but sharing with others will help lessen the burden.
If you're feeling guilty, scared, or having trouble because of your behavior, the first thing to do is "own it." Tell your sponsor, share at a meeting, and listen to the feedback of others. When you're feeling overwhelmed, it's time to hold on to your recovery as hard as possible. "Keep coming back", even when you feel bad. Recovery can bring you progress, but there's no perfection.
Asking for help when you've fallen into a trap in recovery will help you save yourself. There's nothing you can face in recovery that somebody else hasn't lived through. So if you find yourself engaging in destructive behavior, it's okay to feel bad about it. It's okay to say you don't know the way out. Just remember that you're worth saving, and this too shall pass. You don't have to face anything alone.
Sober Living Options
Are you looking for sober living in the San Diego, California, area? We have a place for you to call home! Living with others in recovery offers fellowship and a way to be accountable to others. Our programs are an excellent launchpad for people new to recovery who need time to transition to daily life. We offer options for housing and aftercare. Call to hear more about how we can help you by calling 760-216-2077.