Hope and Full Recovery From Addiction
I was asked the other day “is full recovery from addiction possible?” and that is the question that consistently is asked, and needs to be consistently addressed, because those who struggle with addiction, eating disorders, self-harm, etc. truly need to hear an answer from those whom are in recovery from addiction or recovered. Anyone who follows me on Twitter, or reads my blogs, knows that I believe in full addiction recovery. I know it is possible not only because I am living proof, but because I see people daily who are also living proof.
Addiction Recovery Means Facing Our Fears
I believe the question is asked because people are scared, struggling, and feel lost and dismayed that their fighting is getting them nowhere. Perhaps a person is struggling more, facing a relapse, or deep within their tenth full relapse. I cannot repeat enough, nor loud enough, that I absolutely believe addictionrecovery is possible, and believe that hope in that is a key cornerstone to those fighting for recovery.
"Strong hope is a much greater stimulant of life than any single realized joy could be." – Friedrich Nietzsche
Life in general can be hard, we face struggles, and the point isn’t to avoid them, it is to find a way to help cope with them in a healthy way, in both mind and spirit. When in recovery from addiction, hope is a key perspective to embrace.
Recovery From Addiction Means Embracing a New Perspective
When I was in early recovery I struggled, tripped, fell over and over and thought recovery just wasn’t for me. I wasn’t willing to give up my old behaviors and was able to rationalize that they weren’t that bad, anything to avoid the fight for recovery. It took a long time to see that the perspective I was choosing wasn’t one of hope. Once I started to look around me with clearer (and sober) eyes, I started to see people surrounding me at all different levels of recovery, and saw myself piece by piece within their stories, their feelings, and hope built more and more.
I realized that having strong hope in recovery from addiction, was just as important as embracing a “one day at a time” perspective, seeking therapy, seeking a support system, having courage to change, and determination to never give up no matter how many times I fell. There are many ways to help you embrace an attitude of hope:
Take time to write down all that you have done in your day!
I think acknowledging the progress we are making is so important. Often we get stuck thinking we are making no progress in the recovery journey. If you keep a list, and look back over a few months you will see progress happens, just one day at a time and builds over time.
Relapse does not mean you are a failure, or aren’t still moving forward in your recovery.
I think a lot of people get tripped up over relapse, they lose hope, and worry they are back at square one, but this is not the case. You are constantly learning in recovery, and with each relapse you learn new triggers, and can apply new tools to help you stand back up and fight for recovery. We never start in square one; we just may have stopped moving forward. Keep pushing forward knowing that you have learned from the past, will continue to learn, and there is hope that with each new day you are moving farther in your recovery.
Hope isn’t static – it will grow over time.
Every day, you may learn to embrace a little more hope. Do not be so hard on yourself for not feeling like you have “enough” hope. Your recovery path is different from others, and the hope we are building will take time. After years of addiction, eating disorders, self-harm, etc. you may have lost any hope you ever had, and it will take time to build a reservoir of hope you can tap into on the hard days.
Manage your expectations in recovery.
I know that many people may be overachievers, perfectionists, and want to be recovered fast, and with little effort. You may feel frustrated when you see others doing so well, and you feel like you are fighting harder and harder and not getting anywhere. It is important to stop comparing to others, and lower your expectations in recovery. You will be progressing at your own speed, and having hope and accepting a mindset of being present in the moment will help you take one step at a time. This isn’t a race, and finding a support system to help you along the way, can help slowly build hope in the recovery process.
I believe embracing a mindset of hope is returning more and more to our authentic selves, working with and embracing who we really are.
Healing may not be so much about getting better, as about letting go of everything that isn’t you – all of the expectations, all of the beliefs – and becoming who you are.
Rachel Naomi Remen
Sebelius, K. (2012, January 5). Hope and Full Recovery From Addiction, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, July 10 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/debunkingaddiction/2012/01/hope-and-full-recovery
Author: Kendra Sebelius
I like the focus on hope. I'm taking an on-line course that emphasizes it. At first that was confusing--give me ways to cope, then maybe I'll start to have hope. Then I started thinking about the brain science of addiction and realized that hope is a fact. If I resist and abstain, my brain will rewire itself in ways that will rid me of my addiction. This is what happened when I quit smoking. Now, years later, I never consider smoking again. The urge to smoke, which was once so powerful, is completely gone, due to changes in my brain after quitting. The same will happen with my porn/masturbation addiction, once I stop and stick to it. I have a long ways to go, but I can have hope knowing it's not just wishful thinking.
[...] all recovery warriors, that you must take care of YOU first, and others second. A lot of people recovering from addiction ask me about mentoring, sponsoring, and how I became an advocate/activist in this field. The first [...]
Sweetie, I wish I would have found you years ago. You know, before things got lifethreatening and now I am under constant care. Do I believe there is full recovery? Yes. My cousin had Anorexia for a few years when we were younger. She is now a healthy, happy mother of 2 who never had a relapse. Not one time. My last relapse is at the worst possible time. I am fighting so many demons.
I have bookmarked your wonderful site and will come and visit often. You are such an inspiration to me. See you on twitter.
Thank you so much Nancy for our conversation last night, and for you comment and support here. I truly appreciate it. You are absolutely a fighter! Never ever give up hope! Hugs!
Kendra - this is a wonderful post! SAMHSA's new working definition of recovery:
The new working definition of Recovery from Mental Disorders and Substance Use Disorders is as follows:
A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.
Your words have explained so much more, and is helpful to boot! Someday I hope my son Ben will want to read posts like yours. For now, he finds support at his AA/NA meetings, and from his professors and employer - but in times of relapse, the support is more difficult to find.
I agree with Amanda that your words are for everyone!I used to lead Weight Watchers meetings and could use your post there too :0
Randye (Mental Illness in the Family HealthyPlace blogger)
Thank you so much Randye!I saw that SAMHSA definition and I thought it was a really interesting and important definition to see especially since in terms of research we need clear and concise definitions.
Good luck to you and your son Ben. The journey is hard, but absolutely possible.
Thank you again!
This is such an important message Kendra. My recovery led me to becoming a mental health professional because help from a professional was so instrumental in my finally "getting" it. I see "recovered" as having reached a tipping point where my self acceptance and love are genuine and resilient enough that I am no longer vulnerable to the impulses that led me to the "quick fix" behaviors that reinforced the negative beliefs and feelings I had about myself. This leads to self respect and a deep and lasting appreciation for the serenity and contentment that comes from healthy living. Focus on the positive and gratitude have become a way of life. This is what being "recovered" means to me. Thank you for putting it so clearly!
Thank you so much David for your kind words and thoughts on recovery! I am so glad your own personal recovery led you to become a professional and help others! I think it is truly important for us each to have our own definition of recovery, as well as have a standardized for research definition.
Brava for this post! Everything you wrote is applicable to recovering from a diagnosis of a serious mental illness as well as addiction. I would even go so far as to suggest that regardless of age or issue(s) your words of wisdom are for everyone!
Thank you Amanda! I actually had not written it for "addiction" only but for a wide range of struggles, including mental health and eating disorders. I am glad you could see the application to mental health struggles as well! Thank you for your comment!
Thank you for posting this. This is a message people need to hear. I am a professional counselor and so often my clients are so hard on themselves for not being perfect at their recovery and you captured it in your article. Thank you. This is an important message.
I absolutely agree!!! The desire to be perfect in recovery is a huge struggle. We really need to continue to share how important it is to let go of perfection, be patient in the journey, and holdo n to hope no matter what. Thank you for your comment!