The goal of recovery? To live an unfettered life

To people who are “tired” of being in recovery I say, “Stop letting recovery be tiring.” While I get that restoring a life after an addiction takes daily focus and commitment, I also think that too much focus on recovery can atrophy someone. Really.

Think about it: Addiction is a compulsive disorder based on relieving anxiety. Making recovery a source of anxiety will trigger the cycle within which an addiction flourishes. Seems pretty logical, but all too often, people focus too much on the things they’re “supposed” to do and think while “in recovery.” So, what do I recommend? Well, since there’s no one hard and fast way to be in recovery, it can be a hard question to answer.

For me, though, I look at recovery the way I look at any learning endeavor. When something is new to someone, it takes a lot of practice to allow the new thing to become second nature. For example, my son recently received his learner’s driving permit. Though he doesn’t like to admit it, when he’s behind the wheel, he’s a little afraid. He holds on to the steering wheel for dear life and looks both ways, several times, before he crosses an intersection. He drives well under the speed limit and adheres to every single rule of the road. He’s thinking the whole time he’s driving and is hyper-aware of what he’s doing.

I was just like him when I started driving, but now, I’m way more relaxed. While I still follow the rules of the road, I don’t really need to think about them as much while I’m driving. Now, I can drive without hyper-focus. Because I’ve been doing it for such a long time, driving is now second nature to me and I don’t really remember what it was like to be afraid behind the wheel. Though I still pay close attention and watch for other drivers, I’m not afraid or overly tense when I cruise around town. I suspect that as my son drives more and more, he’ll gain confidence and maybe relax a bit.

Same with recovery. When someone first enters recovery, he or she should be hyper-aware of the situations that could trigger a relapse and learn how to “be” in those situations without relapsing. At first, it may be even better to avoid those situations as much as possible. However, in time, someone should become more and more confident that he or she can in fact manage his or her life without substances. Within that confidence, “being in recovery” doesn’t have to be tiring. Most people live without the idea that they’re in recovery; they just simply live.

That’s the goal, really, of a recovery program: To live an unfettered life. Really, anything else is a shackle in and of itself.

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