It’s easy to think the odds are against you when you’re in recovery. The National Institute on Drug Abuse tells us 40 to 60 percent of people in recovery relapse. The Fix tells us nearly 80 percent of opioid users relapse even after treatment. If relapse is so likely, how do we stay positive, stay hopeful and, most of all, stay sober?
First of all, I’m not a statistic. You’re not a statistic. If you hear discouraging facts about recovery, remember these are broad, sweeping facts. They aren’t you. You are an individual with your own personal story, experience and future. There are no “odds.” There is just you and your experience and journey of growth.
So why do we only highlight the failures? Better yet, why do we even portray them as failures to begin with? You know and I know that relapse isn’t an end. Even if you have a setback, you can still beat the odds! You most likely decided or tried to quit a few times before finding the right treatment plan or recovery program. You’ve most likely met someone in recovery who relapsed two, three or even more times but is in a great place now. If you haven’t, browse stories online or talk to peers in person — you’ll quickly find someone who fits this “statistic.”
So were any of these first attempts failures? No! They are the first steps to getting where we are today and to where we want to be tomorrow. Yet these experiences become the “odds” that seem so stacked against us.
“As part of my recovery, I had to learn how to experience the feelings and stop running from them. I’ve had to. My life depends upon it because quitting is no longer an option, especially in regards to my recovery.” – Abby F.
So how do we defeat the odds? Or rather, how do we defeat this black-and-white idea of success and failure? Whatever your challenge may be, keep trying. Don’t give up. Learn from your own story — what works for you, and what doesn’t? Each time you slip, stumble or face a challenge and get back up, you learn more.
Don’t discount your own strengths or experiences. You’ve faced tough times before. And what happened? The tough times passed. You grew, you changed, you got stronger. You’ve already defeated the odds that say you can’t, that say you won’t.
So many of life’s obstacles are simply our reactions to our challenges. How we look at them, how we feel about them. Psychology Today tells us, “Your perception of obstacles makes a difference. Some people see obstacles as a puzzle to solve. Some see obstacles as an opportunity to grow. Others see obstacles as threats. Still others see obstacles as meaning they cannot succeed.” You may not even think about obstacles at all — you may just react with your emotions. So before you let the odds defeat you, look at those odds. Look at your challenges. Put everything in perspective, or if need be, change your perspective!
Life isn’t always easy for anyone. We all have challenges, struggles and setbacks. But that also means we all have successes, accomplishments and times of happiness. When things seem impossible or the odds feel against you, listen to stories from other people in recovery. Really listen, and hear that they struggled — and that those struggles passed. Everyone has challenges, and you’re likely to find someone with a story, or parts of their story, similar to yours. Ask what they did, try some of those strategies yourself, and reach out to the recovery community that is always there for you.
And if you haven’t already, share your own story! Let others find familiarity and comfort in your journey. Let them know they aren’t alone, they aren’t a statistic and that ultimately the odds don’t matter. What does matter is where you were, where you are and where you want to be. And as you share, you just might learn a little more about yourself and your own strengths. When you stop and reflect, you’ll be surprised at how far you’ve come and what you’ve learned.
Putting your journey into words can also help you set some goals and make some plans. Not just broad, sweeping ones — of course we want to stay sober — but smaller, specific ones. Ones we can see, measure and accomplish. Maybe you want to start with just getting out of bed or taking a shower on a tough day. Maybe you want to start going to therapy again or add an extra support group meeting to your weekly schedule. You can set fun goals too! Maybe you want to take a pottery lesson, explore a local park or join a rec sports team. Defeating the odds isn’t just about “work.” Or rather, the “work” of recovery can look a lot like fun and play too.
Never be afraid to rest, refresh and relearn. Sometimes challenges seem less daunting, less overwhelming, when we really pause to examine them. Maybe there’s a simple solution, or maybe you’ll see you’ve already gotten past the most challenging part. Maybe if we look at the big picture, we’ll see the challenge itself isn’t so big. Or we’ll see that we can benefit from the challenge in some way. We can become stronger, better informed or more compassionate. The odds are in our favor. And they are opportunities that give us hope!
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