If you’re moving into recovery, it can seem like an uphill battle. Everything you read about addiction recovery reinforces the idea that it will take years for you to be able to live without the influence of drugs and alcohol, that this is hard, and that everything will require dedication and effort. How do you stay positive and motivated throughout that? How do you remember that you’re working to improve your life and that things will get better?
The good news is that rehab won’t be extremely dark. You are likely to have very tough periods. Parts of rehab will be significantly difficult. But, on average, you’ll see incremental improvements and will get to experience small wins and victories to help you keep moving. At the same time, you can also take steps to maintain a positive attitude and to stay focused on the long-term.
Rehabilitation and recovery take a long time. It’s important that you be able to align your goals, your behavior, and your actions with the reasons behind investing in recovery. Most people move into treatment for a reason. In some cases, it’s because you had to, in others, it’s because you already knew what you wanted from life wasn’t going to happen while you were addicted. In either case, it’s always a good idea to sit down and work out the reasons why you want to get or stay clean and sober. Here, you can be as detailed as you like. Try writing out a list of every reason you have to stay in recovery. Then, move the most important ones to the top, so you can remind yourself what you’re fighting for.
Often, it’s the simple but very personal reasons that are truly motivating. Like getting to be there for your kids, getting to be there for yourself, having the mental capacity to work towards your goals. You don’t have to pick one reason and your reasons can be entirely selfish. But, you should have reasons. The most important thing is that you have some idea of why you’re moving forward.
Most importantly, add to that list as time passes. The longer you stay clean and sober, the more reasons you’ll find to stay clean and sober. Often, people in recovery find tiny things like “I can find joy in a sunset” as motivating as larger goals they started with.
Self-help or self-support groups like AA, NA, SMART Recovery, and LifeRing Recovery can all form a very powerful part of helping you to stay positive and motivated throughout recovery. Why? In every step of your recovery journey, you’ll have people around you who have been there, who are going through that, and who can provide inspiration and motivation. If you can see people who have gone through the same things you are now making it and thriving, you can see where you’re headed and why. And, sharing the burden of your fears, your experiences, and your problems with others who understand them will help you to better manage your emotional state. Most importantly, in return, you can offer that same support to newcomers as you move through your own recovery journey, which will help you to stay positive as well.
Good mental health starts with good habits and that often means investing in exercise, healthy eating habits, and tidiness. For example, for most people, clutter actively impacts your mood, reducing your ability to concentrate. Taking time to keep your space tidy can help with your mood a great deal.
Similarly, following a healthy eating plan can help you to stay positive, improve your recovery, and boost your health. That’s especially important considering a large number of people moving into recovery are struggling with nutrient deficiencies. Plus, with nutrient deficiencies mimicking the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and sleep deprivation, eating well over the long-term could significantly improve your overall mood and health.
In fact, nutritional therapy is more and more often included as part of substance abuse recovery, because the faster your body recovers, the faster your mind does.
Good exercise, stress management, and sleep habits will all aid you in similar ways. Exercise gives you energy and helps you feel good, stress management reduces the impact of stressful situations, and ensuring you get enough rest ensures you have the energy to enjoy life while managing therapy, treatment, and any problems life throws your way.
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Humans are social creatures and that will remain true even as you move into recovery. Surrounding yourself with a support network, taking time out to go to social events, and having good social interactions can greatly boost your mood. Of course, it’s important to ensure you’re spending time with the right people. If you spend time with people who drink or use, they could be actively hurting your recovery. Similarly, you want people who actively support and try to uplift you in your recovery.
However, even random social interaction can help. Volunteering at an animal shelter or building houses for the homeless can be as much as social experience as going to group sports lessons or spending time with your friends. If you don’t know what to do, try different things, experiment and see what works for you.
In most cases, you will have specific items or points that make you feel bad. That might be family that doesn’t support you, people you’ve wronged, things that aren’t working in your life, etc. Whatever it is, it’s important to try to work to improve that. E.g., if you really hate your job, look into how you could move into a different one, how you could get training or go back to school to get a different job, etc.
Of course, it’s important to prioritize recovery, especially for the first year. But, negative factors in your life will likely actively harm your recovery. So, it’s important to look at those negatives proactively, not as something you have to live with forever, but rather as something that you can improve and fix.
Making good choices for yourself is an important part of staying positive. That means consciously and conscientiously doing the right thing for yourself and for those around you. These choices might be as simple as laying out your morning’s clothing the day before or cleaning up before bed, but they mean proactively looking out for your best interest, trying to make your future better, and recognizing where effort now goes into your future.
Recovery is a long-term goal and it can feel like you’ll never achieve it. Creating good goal management can help you to stay positive by giving you better perspective of what you’re achieving and why. And, that eventually spills over into every other part of your life. For example, if you can break recovery down into goals of staying sober for X number of days, x number of months, for the next month, you can do the same thing with other big tasks.
Most importantly, breaking big tasks down into achievable and traceable steps allows you to achieve those steps, realize progress, and feel good about that progress. That will help you to stay positive, because you can see how much progress you are making.
Often, staying positive is about accepting that things do go wrong, if you fall down, you get back up and you keep moving. Once you’ve learned the skills to move into recovery, to say no to drugs and alcohol, to cope in different ways, you can keep reapplying those skills, and every time you do, it will keep getting easier. Accepting that you will make mistakes in every part of life is important for your ability to stay on track, to stay positive, and to stay motivated, even as life has its ups and downs.
Eventually, it’s also important to recognize that you don’t have to be positive 100% of the time. In fact, you shouldn’t be. Humans experience a diverse range of moods, a rollercoaster of emotion, and trying to stay positive all the time will be harmful. Instead, it’s important to surround yourself with motivating people, to be positive about your recovery when you can, and to otherwise try to experience life as it comes.