Christine has been with Olalla Recovery Centers since 2000. Prior to her work in chemical dependency, Christine worked in the law enforcement and legal field for over ten years. She has a degree in psychology, business administration and human resource management. Christine oversees the organization as directed by the Board of Directors. She has a degree in Psychology, with minors in Business Administration and Human Resource Management.
The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time. — Abraham Lincoln
One thing you’ll hear often as you enter recovery is that you need to let go of the past. You do need to take responsibility for your old actions, but that doesn’t mean dwelling on the past — that will only impede your progress by taking focus away from here and now.
Living in the past is not just about reminiscing. While letting go of old habits or bad influences is important, there’s also real danger from being so paralyzed by your shame and guilt that you can’t move beyond your mistakes. You may be feeling anger and pain over some of the things that happened to you. You may also feel fear about the unknown since the past, however destructive, is at least a familiar road.
Imagine you’re packing for a road trip: your journey to recovery. Think of your hope for the future — all the new things you want to do with your life — as your essentials that you’re packing into a suitcase. Now think about your mistakes, guilty memories and romanticized experiences from your days of addictions. These are the “extras.” Not only do you not need them, they will also weigh your suitcase down.
If you’re ever traveled, you know how unpleasant it is to lug around extra baggage (not to mention the extra fees you’ll be paying). A wise traveler knows to stick with essentials because the extras are unnecessary. They’re just dead weight. So it is with your new journey. Just for today, pack your bag only with hope and leave the burdens “at home.”
In practice, of course, you need more than metaphors. Here are some strategies to help you along.
Recognize it’s not an easy journey.
When things get tough, you may romanticize your old habits — thinking how good and easy life seemed when you abused drugs or alcohol. Set the expectation upfront that it’s going to be a very bumpy road, so a setback won’t catch you by surprise.
Fill the void with new experiences and positive influences.
As the proverb goes, “the hour of idleness is the hour of temptation.” When you give up social activities like partying, you’ll need to keep yourself busy in other ways. A fresh start doesn’t mean becoming a recluse!
You need to build a new social circle of people who can support you and understand what you’re going through. Cultivating new relationships takes time, but there are easy places to meet new people, like your recovery support group and recovery birthday meetings.
You can also use some ideas discussed previously about partying the sober way, finding new hobbies and rewarding yourself, and trying out new activities that can help you reduce stress and feel refreshed. Keep an open mind and be ready to engage.
Create new goals.
One way to leave the past behind is by making plans for your future. The future feels abstract without any goals, so you need goals that align with your recovery efforts. Just remember to be flexible because your goals will evolve as you meet new milestones.
If you’re a fan of the classic film “Gone with the Wind,” you may recall Scarlett’s closing monologue as she reacted to Brett’s departure. “I can’t think about that right now… I’ll think about that tomorrow,” she tells herself. Put a twist on that and tell yourself, “I’m too busy right now working on my recovery to think about yesterday.” Just for today.
Individuals who start substance-abuse recovery often go in thinking that once they complete a treatment program, all they have left to do is maintain physical health. Getting healthy, of course, is the end goal — but there are many dimensions to the recovery journey. Each has its own challenges, and each has to be managed.
In addition to physical, emotional and mental strength, you’ll need to build spiritual and financial health. The financial side of the recovery journey may be especially overlooked, yet it’s an integral part of the process.
Addiction recovery is a major feat, and you need to celebrate your achievements, whether big or small. Creating a healthy-rewards system for yourself can help keep you motivated.
As we know, the human brain is wired to respond to rewards. That, in fact, is one of the reasons behind drug and alcohol addiction. Because the brain is wired to pursue pleasurable activities, it has a sophisticated “reward circuit” — and substances create a huge surge of neurotransmitters that signal the brain to repeat the activity.
Substance addiction is often called a “family disease,” and for good reason. When an individual is addicted to drugs or alcohol, the entire family feels stressed and overwhelmed.
As much as it is difficult for adults to cope with a family member’s addiction, for kids, it’s much worse. Unlike adults, children don’t always know where to find a safe space and whom to talk to about their concerns. Yet a highly stressful family environment puts them at risk for physical and mental health issues.
At Olalla Recovery Centers, it’s very common for our counselors to see recovering individuals who have experienced some sort of trauma in their lives. Many times, these individuals don’t realize the long-lasting effects of that trauma or how it affects their addiction recovery. Yes those experiences, however old, can jeopardize the treatment outcome if they’re left unresolved.
No matter how hard you work at your recovery, you may experience a relapse. While addiction treatments are designed to help prevent it, a relapse is not uncommon.
Individuals with various chronic diseases experience relapse, and addiction is no different. In fact, past research has found that the relapse rates for addiction are similar to those of asthma and other chronic illnesses.
It’s important to not see relapse as a personal failure, and to not blame yourself and others for it. While the human brain’s ability to recover from substance abuse is remarkable, relapse is a normal part of the process. If you continue to seek support from your medical and recovery team, and keep up your treatments, you’ll be able to rebound and get back on track.
One of the least-expected experiences for individuals starting recovery is the emotional roller-coaster, the extreme states of new feelings. Anger can be especially a struggle, not to mention very self-destructive.
As with other aspects of your life, you may be challenged to return to the basics. You may need to learn or relearn the tools of emotional control.
When you were addicted to drugs or alcohol, you likely never properly learned how to manage finances, take care of yourself and build healthy relationships. It’s the same way with emotions — addiction may have caused you to become numb for a long time, and you may no longer know how to respond to your emotional states.
Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. — Confucius
Living a simple life. Sounds boring, on the surface, but is it? And why should you even think about simplifying your life?
Over the last few decades of industrial and technological growth, we’ve been conditioned to want more, accumulate more, do more. In the whirlwind of this nonstop quest, it’s hard to find a moment to quiet the mind.
Every moment is a fresh beginning. — T.S. Eliot
As you begin your journey to recovery from drug or alcohol addiction, one of the biggest challenges is to break your old habits. As an addict, you had certain routines and behaviors — and sobriety leaves a void that you’ll need to fill with new habits.
Don’t expect this to be easy or fast. Think about how long it took you to form your old habits — months? Years? While a popular concept is that it takes 28 to 30 days to form a new habit, some studies have shown that it takes much longer than that. You’re in this for the long haul.
And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul…” —John Muir
The sun-kissed summer season is a special time in the Pacific Northwest. While we’re blessed with warm weather for much of the year, summer is when we can finally count on clear skies. The whirl of activity on the local beaches, at the campgrounds and on the waters of Puget Sound reminds us what a natural jewel this area is.
Do you remember the last time you hiked in the woods, relaxed by a waterfall or lake, or took a walk on a beach while waves splashed at your feet?