When you think about recovery, you might envision smiling, fit people living their #bestlife. Recovery is full of promise — it can help you recognize your full potential and leave you feeling like you have a new lease on life. However, living a fulfilling life in recovery is about more than just getting treatment and staying sober — it’s also about addressing the patterns of negative thinking and behaviors that can contribute to your substance use.
Right now, with many people facing fear and uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to make sure that you’re thriving in recovery. It’s not enough to just stay away from drugs or alcohol. You also have to be aware of common pitfalls that can impact your recovery. These include:
The Dry Drunk
Being a “dry drunk” sounds like an oxymoron. To understand the term, you have to realize that recovery goes beyond sobriety. A dry drunk is someone who stays sober by not using drugs or alcohol. They’ve tackled that accomplishment, but they haven’t done the emotional work that they need to do. Because of that, the dry drunk still has the behaviors of an alcoholic: he might be negative, impulsive or self-centered. He might be unreliable or sabotage himself every time he gets ahead.
It’s important to distinguish that all of us in recovery — even people who are doing the necessary work — will sometimes have slip-ups and fall into old, destructive patterns. The difference is that people who are fully in recovery recognize this, and work to change it. The dry drunk, on the other hand, buries his head in the sand and insists that being sober is good enough.
In the long-term, being a dry drunk can impact your happiness and relationships. No one wants to be around someone who is mean-spirited or unreliable. Heck, you might not even want to be around yourself in that state. Luckily, it’s never too late for the dry drunk to turn things around and engage in self-growth.
The Relapse Mindset
Relapse doesn’t just happen when you drink or use drugs. Most addicts who have slipped will tell you that their relapse started in their mind. Maybe you stopped focusing on personal growth, and instead slipped into old, familiar patterns. Maybe you were overcome with a seed of negativity that you couldn’t explain. Maybe you found yourself wishing you could use.
If you feel yourself slipping into a relapse mindset, you need to reach out for help. That keeps a mental or emotional relapse from becoming a physical one. When you feel your recovery faltering, reach out to your sponsor or recovery couch. They can help you get back on track before you’re dealing with the additional challenge of detoxing again.
Remember that at some point of another, many addicts will find themselves in a relapse mindset. It’s what you do once you’re there that makes all the difference and can empower you to stay sober long-term.
The Dual Diagnosis
Many people with substance use disorder also have a mental health condition, ranging from depression or anxiety to PTSD or bipolar disorder. Let’s be clear — having a dual diagnosis (or co-occurring disorder) of a mental health condition and substance use disorder is not a barrier to recovery. You can thrive with a dual diagnosis.
The key is to keep your mental health condition well-managed. If you don’t follow your treatment plan, it’s going to be a lot harder to stay sober. On the flip-side, with a well-managed mental illness, staying sober can be much simpler.
As with a relapse mindset, early intervention is important for people with dual diagnoses who feel like they are losing their grip on recovery. In this case, you should reach out to your recovery community, but also your doctors. Being upfront about any changing symptoms you have — like increased anxiety, for example — can help you to proactively adjust your medical routine as needed. With your mind stable, you’ll be able to focus on your recovery.
Getting and staying sober is a huge accomplishment. But to really live a great life you need to address the underlying issues that contributed to your substance use.