You’re sober, but it is not feeling as great as you had hoped it would. In fact, you are feeling depressed, anxious, and a bit directionless. This is what being “stuck” in recovery feels like – but the good news is, there is always a way forward.
The early days of recovery are often a mix of intense emotions – you might feel alternately excited and fearful about the days ahead, and both stressed and relieved about putting the addiction behind you. You may feel good about the support you are getting, the way you look, and your renewed energy levels.
As the intensity of the early days fade, and the continued hard work of recovery progresses, a different set of emotions may emerge. You might struggle to make sense of what you’ve gone through. You may feel bored and apathetic, as if life has lost a bit of its spice. You might be confused or overwhelmed about exactly how to move forward or regain purpose outside of sobriety.
These feelings can lead to a sense of being stuck in recovery, which is not only uncomfortable, but risky to your continued sobriety and personal growth. Learning to identify this common phase in recovery and understanding how to move through it is critical to your long-term health and continued journey.
Why Do People Feel Stuck in Recovery?
There are a few common factors behind feeling stuck at some point in your recovery. Knowing these can help you pinpoint what is causing your feelings, and start to develop a plan to address it. Common underlying reasons can include:
- Decreasing motivation – you’ve gotten sober, stayed sober for a while, and now are questioning why you need to keep at it. It might help to ask yourself why you entered recovery in the first place. Did you do it because loved ones insisted on it? Was your addiction causing you personal pain? Reconnecting with the circumstances or factors that drove your initial decision can help you understand where you are at with your recovery.
- Rebuilding identity – few things can make us feel as uprooted as losing our sense of self. When you begin a life that doesn’t focus on addiction, it can take time to collect your bearings and discover who you are again.
- False sense of completion – if you have managed to convince yourself that your only problem was overusing a substance, then you may feel like sobriety means your recovery is over. However, if you are not addressing what led you to substance abuse in the first place, you’ll likely end up back in the cycle of addiction.
- Seemingly insurmountable obstacles – you are facing a challenge in your recovery that you have no idea how to overcome, and are shifting between trying to ignore it, feeling frustrated or overwhelmed by it, and trying to figure out what to do about it.
- Defaulting to negative thinking – getting down on yourself? Your recovery? Your life in general? Feeling disappointed or angry that life isn’t as good as you thought it would be when you got sober? When we beat ourselves up mentally, we set ourselves up for re-entering the cycle of addiction.
Signs that You Might Be Stuck
It is possible to be experiencing some of the factors that cause people to feel stuck in their recovery, but not actually be stuck. If you’re managing to handle most of these feelings, either through coping mechanisms or communication with loved ones or your therapist, then you’re progressing, even though it may feel uncomfortable at times. If you’re not sure if your recovery is stalling, here are a few telltale signs of being stuck:
- You are isolating – you may have a long list of reasons for why you’re not going out, reaching out or catching up like you used to, but the bottom line is you are slowly withdrawing from friends and family
- You are feeling negative – you are angry, irritable and depressed, and may not be able to pinpoint exactly why
- Your relationships are tanking – work, family, romantic or otherwise, your personal relationships feel irritating, exhausting or both
- You are missing the bad old times – your addiction has taken on a faint rosy glow in your mind, and you are finding yourself thinking fondly of the substance you’ve given up
What are the Risks?
If a recovery process becomes stuck, there are several possible risks. The first is that the discomfort of being stuck and the ensuing challenges that arise around it lead to a relapse in substance use. Though this is a relatively common phenomenon in the recovery process, it can feel devastating and be physically dangerous.
Another potential risk is that the person remains stuck but also remains sober, resulting in what is known in some circles as “dry drunk” syndrome. Being stuck in a rut shifts a person out of recovery, which is a holistic process where growing and healing on many levels are pursued and achieved, and into abstinence, which is characterised simply by a lack of substance abuse. Because people in this state are not working on the root causes of their addiction, or focusing on healthy ways of coping, they may find themselves angry, depressed and lonely. Others may notice that while the object of addiction is no longer a problem, the person’s behaviour, attitudes, or interactions remain troubled. Some in this state will develop a substitute addiction, filling the gap they feel with excessive eating, exercise, gambling or even another substance.
In either case, being stuck arrests the progress you make in recovery, and sets you up for a full reversal back into substance use, or a life spent in limbo – unable to move forward completely from the roots of addiction. But there is a third option when you are stuck, and that is figuring out how to release yourself and get back on track.
Getting Out of a Recovery Rut
Once you have identified that you are stuck, and been able to reflect on what is causing you to feel that way, you can start to take steps to get your recovery started again. This may be something as simple as setting some simple, attainable goals to get some momentum. Focusing on some small wins can help get you back into the right mindset of working towards positive change, which is key in progressing in your recovery.
Reaching out to others who are experienced in recovery issues, either during a support group, or with an addiction specialist, can also help you reflect on and process what you are feeling, and help give you some ideas on how to start moving forward. Everyone’s recovery journey is unique, but there are common threads from which you can gain valuable new perspectives and advice.
Recharging Your Recovery at The Dawn
At The Dawn Wellness Centre and Rehab Thailand, we understand that recovery can sometimes feel frustrating and overwhelming. Our compassionate, experienced staff helps guide our clients through the challenges of this process and into healthier, happier lives free of addiction. We work with our clients to develop highly personalised treatment plans that focus on holistic, mind-body healing and the development of positive coping mechanisms to successfully manage life’s stresses.
If you need to put some energy back into your recovery, The Dawn can help. Call us today to learn more about our programmes.