Coping with Stress in Recovery – New Lifestyle versus Completing Goals
Addiction is known as a chronic, relapsing disease. This is because the relapse rates in addicts are similar to type II diabetes relapse rates. An article published on JAMA suggested that 40 to 60 percent of addicts going through their first year of recovery start using drugs again. Coping with stress in recovery is crucial to maintain one’s abstinence.
In this article, we will look at relapse prevention coping skills that you can use to stay away from alcohol and drugs.
The To-Do List
A person leaving recovery will usually be given a fairly big list of things they must accomplish within their first year of recovery. Altogether, it may seem daunting even if each task by itself is simple. Some of the things that are expected of an addict in their first year of recovery include:
- Attend 90 meetings in as many days.
- Find a sponsor who can help you stay sober.
- Make amends with people you’ve wronged, where possible.
- Work the steps of the 12-step program.
- Find adequate social support.
- Work on your moral inventory.
- Be grateful every day.
- Learn how to unwind and relax without drugs.
The above is the list for someone who follows the 12-step program. Alternatives do exists, but the list gives a good idea of what a to-do list after rehab would look like. Coping with stress in recovery can be even more difficult when your list is the thing that scares you – seeing the entirety of what you need to do.
Using a System Instead of Goals
An alternative to the to-do list for coping with stress in recovery can be to make a system that works for you. Addiction recovery should be seen as a life-long process and not something that can necessarily be completed. Coping with stress in early recovery may become easier as time goes by, but as soon as you decide that you have fully recovered and you no longer need the relapse prevention coping skills, then you put yourself in danger of losing all that you’ve created for yourself. The goal of recovery should not just be to refrain from drug or alcohol use, but it should be what comes after: healthy habits, new-found happiness and a new lifestyle.
The following looks at why a system for coping with stress in recovery is better than setting goals.
- Completion of goals – The problem with using goals or a to-do list in recovery is that once you achieve them, motivation tends to fade. Not only can the lack of motivation be a downward spiral, but the overconfidence caused by achieving a goal can actually lead to a relapse.
- To-do list urgency causing stress – While goals can help with coping with stress in early recovery, if some goals are taking too long to complete, it can put pressure and stress on a person. If you set a timeline that you would like to have made amends and the timeline expires, you may feel disappointment and stressed by the apparent failures in recovery; however, you may be right on track with recovery regardless of one or two goals.
- Self-doubt – There is a fear of failure that a person can get when they realize that there are goals on their list that might be difficult to achieve. This fear can result in self-doubt and negative thoughts, ultimately causing anger, frustration and annoyance – classic relapse triggers.
Don’t let a to-do list undermine the hard work you have put in. Look at your recovery as a life-long process more attuned to a new lifestyle than a set of goals.