Addiction recovery is characterized by ups and downs, extreme emotions, and a lot of work on the part of the person in recovery. While the good parts of recovery can feel amazing and wonderful, the bumps in the road can often feel overwhelming. Even those with the best intentions of avoiding relapse at all costs can find themselves considering it – or even doing it – far more often than they would like. It can get frustrating to continually relapse despite a true and genuine effort to stay clean and sober, but no matter what, there is always hope in recovery.
Here are 10 ways to increase hope on your path to recovery and remind yourself that it will get easier if you stick with it:
- Attend a 12-Step meeting. Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are just two of the many 12-Step groups available to you free of charge in almost every community in the country. At most meetings, you will hear a share from someone in attendance that puts your problems in perspective and reminds you that what you are experiencing is not so bad. If you like, and if you feel comfortable, you can also talk about your urge to use and ask for support. Remember, in the rooms, you are surrounded by people who have been where you are, and they are available to assist you in staying sober – all you have to do is ask for help.
- Volunteer at a homeless shelter. There is nothing like spending a few hours serving lunch at a homeless shelter to remind you that your life is relatively cushioned and to introduce you to the stories of people who are dealing with devastating loss and difficulty. In some cases, you may even meet some people who are where they are because of addiction or alcoholism – a keen reminder of the possibilities you may face should you decide to give up hope.
- Make a gratitude list. Though it may seem difficult at first, take the time to write out every single thing in life that you are grateful for – everything you love that brings you comfort and enjoyment in life. From the smell of honeysuckle to a really good meal, or a hug from a close friend or loved one, get detailed and specific. Keep writing until you begin to see how much hope and love already exists in your life.
- Work the 4th step. Taking a fearless and moral inventory of your life in general or the circumstance that is causing you to feel hopeless in recovery can help to shed light on how your perspectives, assumptions, or behaviors may be contributing to the issue. Recognizing your part is just the first step, however. Taking responsibility, and focusing on changing untrue assumptions and correcting self-destructive thoughts and behaviors, can help you to experience more hope in your everyday life and in every interaction.
- Talk to your therapist. A personal therapist is always a good connection and support to have in recovery, especially one who specializes in addiction recovery and who is committed to helping you make choices that will empower your ability to stay sober. If you are feeling like you are losing hope, tell your therapist and ask for guidance and/or coping mechanisms that can help you to turn things around.
- Talk to your sponsor. Similarly, talking to your sponsor about what you are going through may give you the opportunity to learn from your sponsor’s experience. Learn from the tips your sponsor provides and consider implementing one or more of them in your own life.
- Spend time with friends. Good friends have a way of helping to minimize the negative, validate your feelings, and support you in finding more positive things to fill your time. When you’re feeling down or hopeless, don’t isolate. Instead, reach out to others and spend the day doing something you enjoy.
- Indulge yourself in a healthy way. Taking care of yourself doesn’t have to mean giving up everything that is pleasurable in life. You can have fun and indulge yourself on occasion in a number of different ways without sabotaging your recovery. As long as your indulgence doesn’t include drugs or alcohol, or trigger any cravings, give yourself a boost and take a day for you.
- Connect with a new recovery support service. Try something new! Yoga, martial arts, swimming, art classes, spiritual services, meditation, or acupuncture – anything that sounds interesting to you, and that will help you to lower your stress and focus on the positive, is an excellent addition to your recovery regimen.
- Consider a return to treatment. If none of these work for you, and you still feel that there is little hope for you in recovery, consider returning to treatment. Sober living, outpatient treatment services, or even inpatient care may be what you need to recalibrate and regain hope.
Relapse Is NOT the End of Recovery
Addiction is a chronic disease, and as such, it is often characterized by relapse. This does not mean that everyone who is in recovery for addiction necessarily will relapse but it does mean that it can happen. It never has to signal the end of recovery; it simply means the person needs a plan and the support necessary to get back on track.
In fact, many people’s stories in recovery include relapse, and often more than one relapse. Some even returned to addiction for months or years before ultimately making a strong connection with addiction treatment and committing to a life in recovery. Hope is never lost, no matter what the circumstances. As long as you are still breathing, there is hope for a new life in recovery. It’s never too late to try again.