When we’re in active addiction, we’re often stuck repeating destructive behaviors. We might be too caught up in substance use to notice what our peers are doing. This often changes when we get sober.
When I did, I suddenly felt very behind. For a few years in recovery, it seemed like I was playing catch up. Six years in, I feel solid about where I am in life, but I still occasionally wonder where I would be if I had done things differently.
Addiction is Not a Choice, But Recovery is a Huge Achievement
That wondering and comparing is human, but it can be harmful to get stuck there. Our addictions are beyond our control. While it can be said that we made the choice to pick up our first drink or use drugs for the first time, that is an oversimplification.
So many factors—like genetics, trauma, co-occurring mental health disorders, environmental influences, and much more—can lead us to seek substances. We might not have been taught other tools to cope with things like trauma, anxiety, or emotional pain. Then once we start using substances chronically, changes in the brain reinforce continuing to do so. It’s a very difficult cycle to break.
If you’re sober, you did break the cycle, and that alone is a huge accomplishment. I try to celebrate my recovery whenever I can. It has allowed me to grow and change more than I ever thought possible, and it will likely be the same for you. When you’re newly sober, the feeling of trailing your peers can be overwhelming. Keep in mind that you are likely to grow quickly and significantly in recovery.
Comparisons Can Be Toxic; Focus on Your Recovery
It’s easy to say, but harder to truly believe: everyone is on a different path. Social media can make it seem like everyone is trailing you. People post about milestones, but typically not about setbacks or ways they’re struggling. Focusing on other people’s lives in this way can actually be counterintuitive; it may make you feel hopeless and stuck.
One way I combatted feeling behind in early sobriety was to focus on my own goals. This took attention away from what others were doing and into my own growth. If you’re a little farther into recovery, sobriety-specific gratitude lists can really help too.
Very few of us want to have addiction, but I often feel grateful that I get to experience recovery. While it may feel like my peers were off accomplishing bigger things while I was in active addiction, it helps to remember that if I hadn’t gone through that, I wouldn’t have this. Focus on your own growth and recovery, and good things will come.
If you are struggling with addiction or a mental health disorder, there is hope. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for substance use and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you find a recovery program that works for you and build a great sober life. To learn more, call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.