In active addiction, when you crave something, you immediately seek it. It’s almost impossible to sit with your feelings for any length of time. The prefrontal cortex—a part of the brain involved in decision-making and self-control—is affected by chronic substance use. This makes people more impulsive and impatient.
When you get sober, you don’t automatically become a Buddha. You may still get impatient. When I first got sober, I kept wishing I could speed up time. I was desperate to get to certain milestones. I wasn’t always present in my early sobriety, because I was waiting for the future to arrive.
At over five years in, I still sometimes struggle with patience. But I’ve learned that the growth you experience in recovery is ongoing and lifelong; it requires the ability to live in uncertainty and trust the process. Over the years, I’ve learned techniques for doing so.
One way is to engage in hobbies that require patience. This could be gardening, crocheting, or some other activity that you don’t finish in one sitting. Like recovery, these things take incremental progress, but in the end are extremely fulfilling.
At a year sober, I started teaching myself drums; three years after that, I began taking lessons. Learning something entirely new meant that I was always taking small steps towards a much larger goal.
My drum teacher and I recently spent several months going backwards to work on my hand technique on something called a drum pad, which is not the actual drum set. It got tedious and frustrating not playing on the drum set all that time. But when I went back to the set, I could do a lot more than I’d been able to do before.
Meditation is another great way to learn patience. I’ve heard many people say (and been the person who said) they can’t meditate because their thoughts wander too much. But meditation is about learning to sit with your thoughts, however wandering they may be.
Meditating regularly can help you become more patient, because you have practice sitting in difficult feelings. The impulse to “solve” or escape them—which many of us tried to do with substances and now may do in other ways—lessens.
When you’re feeling extra impatient, journaling can be another great outlet. It allows you to work out frustrations on the page. It might even distract you from what you were impatient about in the first place.
Patience, like most other things, takes practice. This is especially true for people coming out of active addiction. In recovery, we can learn to sit with feelings without having to act, which can bring a kind of peace.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is help and 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 build the skills and patience to change your life over time. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.