Sometimes in recovery, it can feel like we’re behind peers who never had addiction. The years we drank or used drugs could have been spent working towards life goals. When I first got sober, I tried to work on every goal at once. I finally had the capacity to do so—and felt like I was making up for lost time—so I got a little ahead of myself.
This is a pretty sure way to cause burnout. Getting sober is already a huge physical and emotional transformation. It’s important to go easy on yourself as you experience massive change. You will grow in recovery; you don’t have to force it.
Focus on Your Own Trajectory
That’s not to say that getting sober automatically makes things better, without any action on your part. Recovery allows you to do the hard and incredibly fulfilling work of growing. But it’s not helpful to try doing things on someone else’s timeline.
It’s human to compare your life trajectory to that of others. Other sober people can be good role models, but even they will have a different timeline than you. They might have gotten sober at a different age; they may have prioritized different things at various stages of recovery; they probably don’t want the exact same things out of life as you do.
It’s important to remember that no one’s path is the same. If it helps, write that down and put it somewhere you will see it regularly. It’s not always easy to remember. Many of us have internalized that certain life events are “supposed” to happen by certain ages. Some people might have shame or regret about perceived wasted time. Social media doesn’t help; people tend to only post the highlights of their life.
More Opportunities for Growth and Self-Awareness
I went to graduate school with multiple people who were in their 70’s—we are always learning and growing and changing. Active addiction often keeps us stagnating. There’s an idea that when you get sober, you’re emotionally the age you were when you started using substances. Try to revel in the fact that you can now grow so much, no matter what rate it’s at.
Not only is there no set timeline for how things “should” go; you might not even want the same things as others. Recovery is an incredible opportunity to get to know who you are and what you actually want when your top priority isn’t alcohol or drugs. It’s understandable to try to speed up this process, but it has to unfold over time.
Process Your Emotions
You can’t change the time you spent in active addiction, but you can choose to move forward with more intention. It’s important to allow yourself to feel your grief, guilt, regret, or whatever other feelings arise. But it’s also important to try not to live there. Recovery will provide tons of opportunities for growth.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is help and hope. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for mental health disorders and addiction in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you grow in recovery. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.