Weathering the Storms in Recovery
"It is only in sorrow bad weather masters us; in joy we face the storm and defy it." – Amelia Barr, British-American novelist (1831-1919)
It’s normal to feel down sometimes. In fact, there are times in recovery, especially in early recovery, when it may seem as if all we do is encounter turmoil and stress and challenges too tough for us to bear, let alone get through. It’s at times like this that we need the support and encouragement of others around us. We can find this support readily available to us in the form of our 12-step sponsor and fellow group members, in our loving family and close friends.
This doesn’t make the storms go away, necessarily, but it does make it easier for us to navigate our way through them. At a certain point in time, we may find that we are able to stand up to the storm, face the challenge and work through it, thanks to the strength we have built up for ourselves as we’ve done the work of recovery.
Still, we may find ourselves feeling down or blue at times. There’s simply no getting around it. Some days are like that. We’re not always going to feel on top of things, no matter how many months and years we have in effective recovery. It may be that we’re encountering some financial difficulties or someone we care deeply about has suffered a tragedy or we ourselves have a medical condition that causes us pain or worry. Prayer may help console us and ease our way out of the pain. Being around others may also help, whether or not they’re part of our support network.
Life isn’t predictable. We never know what storms may lay ahead or how we’ll react once we do come across them. We may think we know. We may plan how we’ll take charge and master the situation. But the truth is that we cannot know until we are actually facing the situation, the challenge, the stress, the storm, just how we will act.
We need to prepare ourselves as best we can so that we have alternative actions we can take. Developing a strategy with different courses of action will not only give us peace of mind now, it will also give us a variety of choices available to us at the point when we most need it.
Let’s take a couple of examples to see how this may help us during a stormy patch in recovery. For example, we may suddenly develop an overwhelming craving or urge to go out and use. It’s the holidays, always a tough time for us, and we’re alone and feeling blue. We can’t sleep. We toss and turn and find ourselves laying awake thinking about getting blitzed, feeling antsy and agitated, that gnawing at our brain that makes our limbs twitch and our never-ending thoughts going back to how much easier it would be if we just took that drink, used again, and felt some peace. How do we get past that?
We would be wise to remember that cravings and urges are usually time-limited. For many, they only last from 20 minutes to a half hour. All it really takes to weather this storm is to get through that 20 to 30 minute timeframe. Some suggestions that have worked for others include talking to our sponsor, going to a meeting, rearranging the closets, doing a vigorous workout, prayer, meditating, even counting and doing crossword puzzles. There is no one single solution that works for everyone.
How about a storm that occurs when we find ourselves feeling unprepared to meet a certain challenge? Maybe we’re failing to achieve our numbers at work or have been called out by our boss for failure to produce according to requirements or our marriage or relationship with our children is falling apart. How do we weather this stormy patch? It may be that we need to acknowledge our part in what’s going on and ask for help. That’s probably the toughest part, but once we ask for help, we may be amazed at how willing others are to give us the benefit of the doubt and work with us to overcome the difficulty.
The key point to remember in weathering storms in recovery is that we have to take some sort of action. We can’t just sit back and wallow in despair or give up because we’re afraid that we don’t have what it takes. We actually do, but it may take us some time to really believe that.
The more we’re able to navigate the storms, the more self-assured we’ll feel. We will begin to have confidence in our abilities to not only recognize the challenge but have a toolkit of strategies for how to effectively deal with it as well.