A big part of recovery is learning who you are when you’re not under the influence of—or recovering from—substances. This can sound daunting, but in my experience it’s one of the most rewarding parts of being sober.
It’s Okay to Feel Behind When You Get Sober
Many of us started drinking or using at a young age and—by the time we get sober—may feel like we’re behind in knowing who we are. It’s important to be patient; this process takes time and is ongoing. It might help to see this as a unique opportunity. A lot of people get stuck in their ways, or go through the motions to fit with an identity that doesn’t feel true anymore.
The fact that you made this big life change—which can feel like it upends your identity—is a chance to explore. We’ve written on this blog about cultivating a beginner’s mind, which refers to entering an experience as though it’s your first time. That attitude is helpful for self-discovery.
How Can You Learn Who You Are in Recovery?
Journaling, especially when done consistently, is a great way to build self-awareness. When you have a journaling practice, you start to see patterns emerge. If there are parts of yourself you’re particularly curious to understand, you might make prompts to journal on those topics.
For instance, if you’re not sure what you want out of relationships, some prompts could be, “what is a moment I remember being fulfilled within a relationship?” “What feelings did that bring up?” “where have I felt stuck in relationships before?” When you feel like you have a better sense of what you want, you can ask yourself prompts for how you might seek it out.
Therapy helps you understand yourself and your motivations on a deeper level. This self-awareness is something you’ll carry with you through all aspects of life. It will improve your relationship with yourself and others. Therapy can also help you recognize the reasons you drank or used drugs. This gives you compassion for yourself, and helps you find healthier ways to meet those needs.
When it comes to finding a sense of self, being told to “try new hobbies” can sound trivial. But learning the types of activities you’re drawn to can tell you a lot about your interests and values. A friend in recovery recently told me that when he first got sober, someone told him that if he’s invited to do something beneficial—whether to him or to someone else—he should say yes.
This attitude means that you’re staying open to new experiences. Even if it ends up not being for you, you learned something valuable.
The first couple years in recovery as your brain and body heal from substance use, you tend to see the biggest changes. But as long as you’re sober and able to grow, you will. That means who you are isn’t a fixed state; it’s something that’s constantly shifting in big and small ways. Recovery allows you both to grow and to tend to that growth mindfully.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is hope. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you learn who you are without substances. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.