If you’re tired of people always asking you how you feel, now that you’re in recovery from substance abuse or addiction, maybe it isn’t so much that they’re asking the question, but that you feel that you don’t have a very good answer.
You don’t want to examine your feelings, period. Isn’t that what immediately springs to mind? Didn’t you already spend far more time than you liked probing your feelings and thinking about what prompted you to start down the road of abuse and/or addiction? After all, therapy wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. A lot of it was uncomfortable, maybe sometimes even downright disturbing.
There were all those painful truths that you had to admit – to yourself, if not to your counselor. It didn’t feel good then, and, remembering it now, it probably still makes you a bit uneasy. Getting past such a focus on your former self-destructive behaviors and making a new life in recovery has taken quite a bit of doing, granted with a lot of help from your sponsor and fellow 12-step group members, your loving family and close friends.
Everyone, it seems, is eager for you to be on the road to recovery, to get back to your old but new-and-improved self.
So are you.
The problem is, and if you’re reading this right now, you know it well, that you just don’t feel any enthusiasm. Not about what you’re currently doing, not about your prospects in the immediate future, and not about life in general.
You want to be enthusiastic. You want to feel joy in the simple things again. You just don’t know how. Does that about sum it up? Fear not, you’re not some weird example of humanity that has to live out on the fringes of life, destined to live a boring existence in sobriety. You can learn how to live life fully and well, to discover – or rediscover – your enthusiasm, both for recovery and for life itself.
How? Here are a few suggestions that have worked fairly well for others. They may work just as well for you, or, and this is much more likely, they’ll serve as a springboard for ideas that you come up with and put to use to jumpstart your enthusiasm.
First, A Word About Setting Goals
Everyone in recovery needs goals. You’ve been advised about this time and time again during rehab and it’s talked about constantly in the rooms of recovery. But where should you begin? The prospect is daunting. On the one hand, you know you want to put something down, just to satisfy your sponsor’s queries as to how you’re coming along in this area. But you also want to do it for yourself, just to see if you can arrive at some goals that seem worthwhile to you.
It may be helpful to think about your initial goal-setting as a slow and steady process. Many newcomers to recovery have found that setting small goals is a lot easier than going for the big ones right off the bat. Granted, it’s great to have some long-term goals that you’ll eventually work toward, but if you start off with a number of big ones and no small ones that you can go to work on quickly, you’ll wind up feeling defeated before you even start.
The key is to craft simple and easy goals that you can reasonably accomplish in the near future. You need some successes in your corner. This will help you to feel more in-charge of your recovery and it will also prove a boost to your self-esteem. There’s nothing like a few successes to make you feel better about yourself.
And when you feel better about yourself, it’s much more likely that you’ll look at the next goals on your list with a little more motivation and enthusiasm. You may not be jumping up and down just yet, but you will feel like you’ve got momentum going and you want to capitalize on it.
What kinds of goals are simple and easy? How about making it through one week clean and sober? That’s about as basic as it gets and is a common goal for nearly every person who embraces recovery. Seven days, lived one at a time, doing what you’ve got on your daily schedule – that’s all it really takes.
From there, you add more small goals. Each one serves as a building block in your recovery foundation. As you attempt new goals, take the necessary actions to achieve them, you learn by doing. As you learn, you grow. As you grow, you get stronger, more self-confident, more motivated and more enthusiastic to keep on going.
How to Get Over Feeling Numb
A big problem for some in early recovery is that they don’t feel anything at all. This may be a holdover from just having gone through detox for chronic addiction coupled with complications from long-term physical abuse resulting from such addiction. The body, as well as the mind, doesn’t heal overnight. Sometimes months will pass before you begin to feel some semblance of normalcy.
Now, no one wants to feel numb. That’s like being dead, only you’re still walking around. You see other people laughing and interacting and having some sort of joyful experiences in life, yet you feel nothing. Well, maybe you feel a tinge of jealousy or envy. That’s to be expected. After all, you want those good feelings, too, right?
The reality is that you’ll heal at your own pace and there’s nothing that you can do to change that. For some, feelings will begin to return quicker than others. But it isn’t the timing that’s as important as your attitude toward healing. You know it will take time, so you have to adopt a proactive and positive attitude toward your own healing process. You will heal when you’re ready to.
That said, there’s nothing wrong with going through the motions to keep yourself busy and actively involved with others in recovery. Talk over what’s going on with you with your sponsor and any members of the group that you’ve gotten close with. Since others have been where you are right now, they may have some invaluable suggestions that can prove useful to you. If nothing else, you’ll have the satisfaction of talking with someone who understands what you’re going through. That can mean a great deal. It helps you feel like you’re not alone. You’re not going crazy. It isn’t forever. You do have hope.
Be Grateful For Little Things
Maybe you’re not gung-ho with excitement and enthusiasm just yet, but you do know how to express gratitude for what you have received. This doesn’t have to be anything big or even something that you say out loud to others, especially if you’re unaccustomed to proclaiming your gratitude this way.
Think about what you’ve already accomplished in getting clean and sober. While you certainly didn’t do this on your own – you had a lot of help from therapists and counselors and others in rehab that you interacted with, both one-on-one and in group settings. Getting the toxic substances out of your system may have been a painful, stressful and seemingly never-ending experience, but once they were gone, you began a journey that is just now beginning to bear fruit. This is a tremendous achievement and something that you should be profoundly grateful for.
Why? The reasons people are thankful for their sobriety are many and varied, almost as numerous as there are individuals in recovery. Like recovery itself, each person’s reasons for being grateful are different, unique to their circumstances, personality, the addiction they’ve overcome, and many other factors.
But one thing is universally true: When you’ve kicked addiction, you’re glad it’s behind you. It doesn’t matter if your recovery is in the initial stages or if you’re many months or years sober, being in effective recovery is a beautiful thing. It foretells hope and possibility, engenders passion for discovering new things, meeting new people, and starting over fresh.
Yes, you have a do-over. This is a clean slate, an opportunity for you to begin anew, to create the life that you want for yourself in recovery.
Okay, maybe you’re not all that sure at this point what that might be. That’s fine. No one expects you to have everything all mapped out. How could you? You’ve only just begun.
But the simple things in life – sunsets, the laughter of your children, your spouse’s warm smile and loving touch, the ability to get up and greet each new day without feeling dread and the gut-churning need to find and use – these are things to be grateful for.
The best part about expressing your thanks is that you clear space for even more blessings to occur. Instead of harboring distressing thoughts about what you don’t have or how you don’t feel, you’re allowing room for you to grow. This is a gift and it is yours for the taking.
Simple Tips You Can Use
Now, for the simple things you can do to help get your enthusiasm back. Don’t worry. None of them is complicated and you can do them at your own pace. Just do them. Remember that it isn’t anything that you’ll be graded on, as there is no test. Each is something that you do according to your own style and pace.
- Learn something new each day. – The best way to jumpstart your enthusiasm is to throw yourself into learning with a passion. Okay, maybe passion isn’t the word that describes how you approach learning, but the point isn’t how you describe it but that you do it. There are countless opportunities to increase your knowledge each and every day. If you’ve always taken a certain route to work or school, for example, you can discover new surroundings by taking a different route. You may find a restaurant that you want to visit later or spot a bookstore that looks promising and decide to stop and check it out. As you go through your day, if you come upon something that you know nothing about, but are interested in learning, take the time to look into it. At the very least, jot it down and do some research on it later when you have some free time.
- Find some new friends. – There’s no better time than the present to increase your social sphere by making some new and sober friends. These don’t necessarily have to be the people you interact with or see in the 12-step rooms, although they may very well be the ones you feel will be the easiest to approach and engage in conversation. As you make your way in recovery, getting your various sobriety milestones firmly in your plus column, feel free to branch out and join groups or participate in activities where you’ll have the opportunity to meet people with like interests. Looking forward to spending time with your new friends is a sign that you’re beginning to feel some sort of enthusiasm. Another word for enthusiasm is anticipation. When you really want to be with your friends, that’s a good sign.
- Speak – and do – from the heart. – Sincerity and genuineness should be what you strive to show in everything that you say and do. When you speak and act from the heart, what you’re doing is acting in an honest, sincere and genuine manner. There is no artifice involved, no ulterior motive, no seeking for something in return. Giving may not be the first thing that comes to mind, not when you’re in early recovery, but when you find that you’re able to think outside of your own concerns, worries and problems, when you are focusing on how you can best serve others or make their lives a little more comfortable, then you’re acting in a true and genuine manner that comes straight from the heart.
- Be like a child and express joy and wonder. – Little children seem to have the boundless capacity to express joy and to find the wonder in everyday things. While adults tend to lose this capacity over time, it isn’t an inevitable consequence of growing up. You can learn how to recapture that childlike feeling of wonder and joy, of delight at simple things. It does take practice, but it is so worth it. The best part is that the more you feel joy and wonder, the more wonder and joy you will experience. If this isn’t enthusiasm, then nothing else is.
- Carve out some me-time each day. – Recovery can and does entail a lot of work, repetitive actions, daily chores and tasks, routines and agendas. But it also involves discovery, including self-discovery. In fact, one of the greatest gifts of recovery is the limitless possibilities for self-discovery. In order to figure out what some of these things are, you need some time to devote to such exploration, to pursue that which you find truly fascinating or what you’ve always wanted to do or see or learn. This means you need some time to yourself. Just a little time each day will do just fine. Whether it’s an hour to read your favorite novel or a half-hour that you write poetry or any other activity that sparks your interest, it’s time that is more than well-spent. Me-time helps generate enthusiasm in recovery and helps make living in sobriety much more enjoyable.
- Finally, make time to dream. – You need something to look forward to, something that may seem more or less out-of-reach for you today. Give yourself permission to dream. Remember that while you live in the present today, the actions you take today, the plans you lay down, and the hopes and dreams you have, will fashion the tomorrow of your recovery.
You probably recall that time when you first began rehab. Back then, you may have thought that the road ahead would be difficult, perhaps impossible. Clean and sober may have seemed out of reach for you, particularly if you were addicted for a very long time or had multiple addictions.
Now that you’re in recovery, the future is probably still a bit cloudy, maybe more so than you ever thought it would be. Here’s a secret: That will all change in time. But for now, keep this in mind. As you move forward with your recovery plans, charting goals and putting down action items for how you get there, you will start to see a bit further into the distance. The horizon will seem to stretch away, allowing you to see more choices as they appear in your life. And they will appear. When you feel yourself lifted up by your dreams, charged up and energized by your enthusiasm, filled with hope and joy, you will truly know that you have embraced life in recovery. All things are possible. Believe it, work hard at it, and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Before you know it, you’ll no longer be irritated by people asking how you feel. They won’t have to ask, since your enthusiasm will be written all over your face. Far from having lost your enthusiasm, you will have recaptured it better than ever before. You’ll be living a life of joy and promise in recovery – and it doesn’t get any better than that.