Addiction is a deadly disease that can sneak up on you when you least expect it. One minute you think you have your life under control and the next minute you realize you are lying to everyone, including yourself. You have difficulty managing your work life or even holding down a job and your relationships are suffering. The decision to begin an addiction recovery program is a tough one. You have to muster all of your strength and courage, admit you have a problem and ask for help. You have to summon enough faith in yourself to step through the doors of a treatment center, walk away from your most habitual patterns, and possibly even detach from the lifestyle that has sustained you for a long time. So, after all these efforts, how do you make sure you are staying motivated to stay sober?
The motivation to enter treatment stems from a number of different places depending on the circumstances. Often an event, like a drug-induced temporary psychosis (i.e. bad trip), an overdose, or a severe hangover will motivate you to seek help. When the disease progresses, the pain of addiction itself and the subsequent suffering it causes can be determining factors for an individual entering rehab.
Some people suffering from addiction decide to enter recovery so they can live long enough to see their children grow up or make their parents proud. Some individuals just tire of living empty lives, hustling for their next fixes and hurting the people they love. Still others wake up to the realization that the visions they had of themselves are very different than the lives they’re living. They want to create futures they can enjoy. Everyone deserves a happy life, free of substances and pain.
Everyone has a different reason for entering treatment. Without that personal motivation, they would not make the decision to fight their addiction. Staying motivated by the reasons that drive you toward treatment is key to maintaining sobriety long enough to reach the happiness of living a life of recovery.
Why Staying Motivated Is Critical to Recovery
Recovery from addiction is a long journey — a life-long journey, really. This means staying motivated can be difficult at times. Making the decision to enter a recovery program to reclaim your life is the first important step. There are several steps to follow, each with its own challenge.
It is human nature to avoid discomfort and recovering from addiction is uncomfortable. Letting go of unhealthy, embedded patterns is hard work. Trusting the process and believing in the results of a happier, healthier future, help sustain the recovering person’s. Motivation is key to sustaining a sober life. One of the best ways to maintain a sense of inspiration and motivation is to seek the support of your local sober community.
Motivation is believed to be a strong factor in the potential outcome of rehabilitation from substance abuse and can even predict the success of recovery. The Reasons for Quitting (RFQ) Questionnaire, developed for smoking cessation, has since been adapted for other forms of addiction. The RFQ identifies intrinsic motivation factors, such as concerns about health and self-concept issues, and extrinsic motivation factors, like legal issues and social influence.
Studies show that people with more intrinsic motivation for overcoming addiction are most likely to succeed in recovery. The people who seek addiction treatment to improve their physical and mental health are more likely to succeed because their motivation is stronger and more long-lasting than others. Trying to overcome addiction because you are forced to by legal factors or pressure from family and friends is less likely to lead to a successful recovery.
Overcoming addiction is hard and the decision to pursue recovery as well as stay motivated is personal. Individuals seeking treatment must ultimately be convinced not only of the dire threat their substance abuse presents to their health and livelihood, but also to the benefits of living a sober life. The practice of recovery and support of a community that shares your struggles and victories will help sustain your motivation.
People can do hard things if they have a good reason and a strong desire to get through to the other side. The human instinct for survival is fundamental. Recovering from addiction is a test of strength of determination, but also surrender.
Loss of Motivation in Recovery
The decision to enter treatment can be daunting and may feel like a last resort. While the process of recovery begins to restore your health, it will demand a good deal of energy to be sure you are staying motivated along the way.
Because recovery from addiction is a long, ongoing process, people may struggle to maintain their motivation. Here are some of the possible challenges addicts and alcoholics may face while undergoing treatment:
- Anger — Recovery brings up emotions that have been avoided in the past. Treatment from substance abuse involves learning to cope with emotional triggers. Anger is a strong emotion and can have a significant effect on your level of motivation to heal. Being angry at yourself or the people in your life takes a lot of energy. Sustained patterns of anger can feed a sense of hopelessness
- Unfulfilled expectations — Entering treatment with unrealistically high expectations about the pace and results of recovery can result in disappointment and even resentment. Resentment is the number one cause of relapse.
Learning to “live life on life’s terms” in sobriety means knowing that you will experience good days and bad days. Motivation for your recovery cannot be tied to a reactive state based on moods and circumstances.
- Memory lapse — Once detox and treatment are completed, some people experience a false sense of power over their addictions, soon forgetting the pain and suffering caused by their disease. Sober communities offer opportunities to serve newcomers in the program which provides ongoing reminders about the suffering brought on by addiction. Acts of service therefore inherently create ongoing motivation for people in recovery.
- Insufficient coping skills — Achieving sobriety is a big step, but only represents part of the journey to recovery. Functioning in society requires skills for coping with daily stressors and life crises. Without coping skills, vulnerable addicts and alcoholics may resort to past patterns of self-medication.
- Ambivalence about sobriety — In the beginning of a recovery program, you may experience quick relief from the physical symptoms of withdrawal. Without drugs in your system, you are able to make better choices and you have a new group of supporters. During difficult times however, you may romanticize your past behaviors. Beginning to truly “feel their feelings” without the numbing effect of substances can cause people to question their sobriety.
- Bad choices — Treatment is only the beginning of recovery. Overcoming addiction requires making difficult choices along the way. Choosing to stay in toxic relationships or moving away from your sober support systems can test your motivation and recovery. Maintaining equilibrium, support, and manageability in your life must be your focus.
- Romanticizing memories of using — Sometimes during recovery, you remember the times when using drugs made you feel good. You can start to romanticize your addiction experience, only remembering the good times. Forgetting the pain and discomfort of addiction can also test your sobriety.
- Impatience — Addiction recovery is always harder and takes longer than you expect. When you don’t start to see results right away, you can get impatient and lose your motivation. It is important to remember that your life didn’t get this way in one day. It is going to take time to make the changes necessary to build a healthy, happy life again.
Without motivation, addiction recovery is nearly impossible. It is important to avoid these scenarios that result in a loss of motivation. Without motivation, your recovery is likely to stall, and you might even relapse into substance abuse again.
Signs to Watch For
The fear of relapse is a natural part of addiction recovery. On those days when you are struggling with staying motivated in your recovery, relapse may feel imminent. On the other hand, believing that you have mastered recovery can open the door to ambivalence and relapse.
Statistics show about a 40-60% relapse rate in addiction recovery. This is comparable to the relapse rate for other chronic diseases like diabetes (30-50%) and hypertension (50-70%). Relapse does not mark the end of recovery, though. By renewing your motivation to overcome addiction and get back into a treatment program, you can move past relapse toward a successful recovery.
Of course, by practicing a program of recovery, you will be more aware of the warning signs of relapse such as:
- Over-confidence — When the craving to use drugs or alcohol has lifted, you may believe that living a sober life is easy. People who are over-confident about their recovery tend to put themselves in dangerous positions as a test or a show of strength.
- Impatience — If you believe your recovery is taking too long, you might be tempted to give up. Impatience may stem from comparing your progress to others or your “insides to other people’s outsides.”
- Complacency — Believing that your recovery doesn’t require ongoing care and maintenance can make you vulnerable to relapse. It’s healthy to maintain a little bit of fear about the danger of foregoing meetings and counseling.
- Fatigue — Everyone is vulnerable to bad habits when they are tired. Most addiction is born in part out of a need to alter unpleasant feelings like exhaustion. If you let yourself get too tired and run down, you are more likely to have a relapse in your recovery.
- Depression — Depression can be an underlying condition to addiction or a symptom of withdrawal that can present at any time during recovery. That feeling of despair can lead you to a relapse. If you experience any form of depression, talk about it and get help right away.
- Self-pity — Feeling sorry for yourself can become a full-time job. As you progress through your recovery, you may need to acknowledge that at one time in your life, you were the victim of abuse or neglect. Adopting a victim mentality may cause you to lose hope, resulting in a relapse.
- Unrealistic expectations — It can be disheartening to realize that you are recovering, but the people around you are not. You may want to show them how to fix their lives the way you are fixing yours. You have to remember, though, that you can only control yourself, not other people. When you start expecting other people to change because you have, you become vulnerable to relapse.
- Dishonesty — Lies and secrets come with the territory of addiction. Honesty is one of the truest signs of recovery. If you find yourself beginning to lie again to your family or friends, even about small things, you could be headed for a relapse. Being dishonest with yourself about your need for the recovery program might be the most damaging lie you tell.
- Contentiousness — If you argue over every little thing and find it necessary to always be right, you could be in danger of a relapse. Discontent is a sign of vulnerability in the program.
- Frustration — Recovery may feel like it is not going the way you had hoped, and you may get frustrated with yourself and the program. Frustration can lead to resentment which can signal relapse.
- Lack of discipline — Self-control and discipline are important attributes of recovery. Creating a consistent routine of healthy activities supports lasting recovery. Abandoning healthy routines can lead to relapse.
Even if relapse occurs, it does not have to mark the end of your recovery. Relapse doesn’t constitute failure but rather a sign that your program needs to be adjusted. A relapse can actually act as a guide to help reignite your motivation toward creating a lasting practice of recovery.
Tips for Staying Motivated in Recovery
Addiction is a centuries-old problem that has afflicted people of every age, gender, economic status and social group. Thanks to the development of the 12 step program, modern behavioral science and brain research, many people recover from addiction and go on to live happy, healthy and long lives. You can, too!
Since staying motivated is a key factor in getting through any recovery program, it must be a priority. Some tips for staying inspired and motivated include:
- Celebrate — One simple and enjoyable way to staying motivated is to celebrate. Celebrating milestones in recovery is important. Overcoming the shame and guilt associated with addiction, includes recognizing your progress. By focusing on your accomplishments today, you’ll be less concerned about tomorrow.
- Build your support network — No one overcomes addiction alone. People in recovery need the support of family, friends, co-workers, counselors and sober communities. Addiction is often described as a disease of loneliness so building a support network early in treatment is a key step toward recovery.
In sobriety, your support group may include people from treatment, meeting attendees, and supportive family members and friends. Your support community will help to ensure you are staying motivated when you are struggling.
- Take one day at a time — One of the most popular sayings in recovery circles is “Keep it simple.” Addiction and recovery can be complicated with overlapping issues and conflicting emotions. A lasting recovery from addiction is a huge goal that can only be attained by breaking it down into smaller daily steps. Take one day at a time and the big picture will take care of itself.
- Create structure — Addiction creates chaos, so developing structure in your life will help maintain a sense of order when life seems overwhelming. Overcoming addiction is about changing behaviors, and change is never easy. The best way to modify an unhealthy behavior is to replace it with a better one. By creating and sticking to a schedule of new healthy habits, you can manage each day.
- Build your confidence — Keeping a positive outlook is essential to success in recovery. Learn to be your own cheerleader by affirming your positive qualities. Remind yourself of the good decisions you have made, like entering treatment to fight your addiction. Build yourself up instead of focusing on your mistakes.
You made a courageous decision to admit your addiction and seek help in overcoming it. By following the steps above, you will find yourself staying motivated to maintain a happy, healthy and substance-free life. If you need help, contact JourneyPure QuestHouse and let our compassionate staff guide you to a successful recovery from addiction.
Chris Clancy is the in-house Content Manager for JourneyPure’s Digital Marketing team, where he gets to explore a wide variety of substance abuse- and mental health-related topics. He has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist and researcher, with strong working knowledge of hospital systems, health insurance, content strategy, and public relations. He lives in Nashville with his wife and two kids.