Integrating recovery and everyday life can be challenging. It is a journey of personal growth that requires you to leave behind past habits and build up new healthy ones.
When you were struggling with addiction, you probably spent a lot of time hiding your addictive behavior and substance abuse and denying to yourself and your loved ones that you had a problem. In recovery, you need to learn to be open and honest about your feelings.
Communicating honestly with friends and loved ones is fundamental to staying sober in the long term. Addiction is a chronic disease caused by changes in the brain that may result in strong urges to use a substance even after addiction treatment and long periods of abstinence. These urges can be hard to resist, and you may need the support of others to overcome them.
Talking about the urges and challenges you face allows people around you to support you and help you develop strategies to maintain your sobriety. This might involve helping you remove certain triggers from your environment, taking you out for a walk as a distraction, offering encouraging and motivational words, or sharing experiences. Either way, research suggests that peer support substantially reduces relapse rates and increases self-determination among people in recovery.
If you are facing a challenge in your recovery journey, there are many people you can turn to for help. You may want to talk to someone you met at a support group meeting or share your feelings with the group as a whole. Speaking with people from the fellowship and others in recovery can be an invaluable source of support – they may share the same experiences as you and can offer a deep level of understanding.
If you are still attending outpatient treatment or seeing a therapist or counselor, you can speak with them too. They will help you work through the issues you are facing and develop the skills to overcome them.
You can also ask friends, loved ones, and other people you trust for help. Even if they have had no experience of addiction, they can provide a listening ear and help you make sense of your journey ahead.
Early recovery is challenging, and it is normal to experience low moods or worry for short periods. Sometimes the journey ahead can feel long and overwhelming, and it can be difficult to find your feet and develop new passions in sober life. Friends, family, and other support networks can help during these times.
However, if you are experiencing longer periods of anxiety, low mood, mood swings, or other signs of poor mental health, you should speak to a medical professional. You may need to see a licensed therapist to help you maintain good mental health and live the joyful and productive life you deserve.
Looking after your mental health also helps you stay away from substance abuse – almost half of people with a substance use disorder also suffer from an underlying mental disorder, and feelings of depression and anxiety are a common reason people turn back to drugs.
While honest communication is a fundamental part of all relationships, you don’t need to tell everyone everything. Understanding when sharing a story with someone may not be appropriate is a key part of building strong relationships with healthy boundaries.
If a friend or loved one has signaled to you that they are not in a place to hear your problems right now, try to speak to someone else about it. Respecting their boundaries in this way will help you maintain a supportive friendship in the long run.
You also may want to avoid off-loading on people who may worry excessively about you but are unable to offer the support you need at that moment – your parents may not want to hear that you dreamt about drugs the night before, for example. That said, everyone’s relationships are different – and you are best placed to judge the balance between respecting others’ boundaries and receiving the support and help you need.