Achieving sobriety is a huge accomplishment. Succeeding in recovery is even more impressive. Doing those things when everything is normal in the world is truly something to be proud of.
But what about when there are personal trials? What about when life, in general, becomes challenging? What about when the entire world turns upside down? It can be even more challenging to stay sober when times are tough.
When times get tough, it is natural for us to respond very emotionally, and sometimes even irrationally. If we are in recovery, the desire to use our substance again can feel innate and overwhelming.
After all, that is how we always dealt with life before treatment. Substances kept us from dealing with stress or feeling our emotions or pain.
However, we do not need to revert to our old habits. When anxiety increases in our lives, we can equivocally increase our efforts to stay within our recovery.
The bigger the stress, the bigger the effort we make to stay grounded in our new habits. We can use all of the tools in our toolbox to manage our stress and stay present rather than reacting to the stress and renewing old habits.
Increased anxiety in our lives can trigger our habitual response, which was to numb the pain or escape from reality. However, in recovery, we learn strategies to approach stress differently.
We learn techniques that actually help rewire the way our brain processes stressors, and we learn skills to manage our responses as well. When times really get tough in our lives or in the world, our ability to remember and utilize all of the tools we have learned will help us to maintain our sobriety.
Because stress is a very powerful trigger that can put us at serious risk for relapse, we need to be proactive in order to prevent a return to our substance use. As soon as we notice stress in our lives or in the world, we need to react positively by stepping up our self-care and using our other tools to help prevent relapse.
We can also reach out for help amongst friends, family, or other support people in our lives as soon as we feel the stress. Even if it is just texting or chatting online or via video chat, reaching out for support early on can really help us to be able to stay strong when we need it most.
One of the most powerful tools that we have to maintain our sobriety during difficult times is to stay mindful. Despite the instinctive reaction to escape the stress, staying present can be a powerful way to anchor us on our recovery path.
Maintaining the ability to stay present, and without judgment increases our ability to maintain control of our minds. When we are in control of our minds, we are in control of ourselves, allowing us to continue to choose our recovery.
The best way to be able to maintain mindfulness during times of difficulty is to practice it every day. We can use daily mindfulness meditation and also yoga to exercise our brain along with our body, while also creating peace and calmness in our daily life.
This daily practice is so effective in helping us so we are prepared to face the bigger challenges as they come along. Mindfulness is a lot like working out the muscles in our bodies, as our brain becomes stronger and better at redirecting us to the present the more often we practice it.
Being Kind to Self
Something that gets lost in fear, anxiety, and other stressors when challenges come, is to remember to be kind to ourselves. Living with stress, especially for an extended period of time, causes us to forget about taking care of ourselves.
Exercising daily self-care in any way possible is more important now than ever.
We need to remember to also be gentle with ourselves. We cannot beat ourselves up for having more cravings than usual, of course, because that can easily happen when we are under stress.
Rather, we should commend ourselves and truly acknowledge ourselves for allowing the cravings to pass without acting upon them. In fact, we should really give ourselves credit every day or perhaps even more often for everything we are doing to stay sober when times are tough.
Choosing to Stay Strong
Recovery is a choice, especially in times of great stress. The choice may seem obvious, but backing up that choice by our actions is how we can stay strong. It is so important for us to stay grounded, and to fiercely use our skills and tools to prevent a relapse of our substance use.
A skill that is particularly helpful is mindfulness. Practicing daily mindfulness now prepares us for those times when our lives or even the world turn upside down. This is a choice, one that we make each day, a choice that will help us no matter what is going on.
As we actively choose to be kind to ourselves no matter what is happening around us, we can stay sober, even when times are tough.
Stand strong in the toughest of times. Learn how to withstand whatever life throws at you. Call AToN Center at (888) 535-1516. We can give you the tools and skills you need to navigate the storms of life.