Why Is Early Recovery So Hard?
By Jeffrey Myers, Program Director in Training, Boonville
The answer to this question is not an easy one. Each person’s situation is so unique that the specifics
of what makes early recovery difficult for people vary widely. However, putting these specific difficulties
into a more general framework of understanding of
why early recovery is so difficult
can help one have a
broader understanding of why his or her very present, in your face, difficulty is worth going through.
In early recovery the problems an individual faces are usually quite pressing.
This coupled with a decreased sense of personal efficacy and rather rusty or underdeveloped
abilities to cope with stress and pressure can create what feels like the perfect storm.
This seemingly chaos filled time must be faced by each individual head on and it is paramount
that a bigger vision is cast in order to help them understand and persevere the squall.
Just like the severity and projection of a storm can be understood by looking at the etiology,
the difficulty of early recovery
can be understood by looking at the origin and development of early recovery.
We can develop this understanding by looking at a few old adages from “the laws of the harvest.”
One of the first laws of the harvest is pretty well known. We reap what we sow and we reap in the same kind as we sow.
Two points can be made here. First, WE reap what we sow. Most people that are being honest with themselves
in early recovery know that their behaviors in addiction didn’t only negatively affect themselves;
it effects their families, co-workers, friends, etc. Part of the difficulty in early recovery is that the
individual is taking in the harvest of seeds of destruction, dishonesty, isolation, manipulation,
and irresponsibility that have been planted for many “seasons” prior to their entry into early recovery.
Not only are they reaping this harvest, so are their loved ones (resulting in ongoing feelings of distrust, anger, fear, etc).
Second, Remembering that we reap in the same kind as we sow allows the person to understand that if he or she
chooses to not use drugs or alcohol, but continues
to live the same way otherwise
(by lying, manipulating, hustling, being irresponsible, etc.) he or she is going to get the same result he or she always has.
What makes this all even more difficult is that the person in early recovery is usually attempting
to plant a different kind of seed; seeds of honesty, responsibility, vulnerability, transparency.
These are very difficult behaviors for someone who has, as a result of their addiction,
become so accustomed to a very different way of life. To them it can feel like,
“I am doing things differently now and no one cares.” Their family still doesn’t trust them,
their work may not believe they are capable, their friends may be slow to return calls,
and they may be dealing with various financial, medical, spiritual, and legal problems to boot.
This is why another law of the harvest is important to understand.
We reap in a different season than we sow. While it may be true that a new kind of seed is now being
planted in early recovery, the harvest from this (or the benefits from developing a new way of living)
do not come this season. People in early recovery are still reaping an old harvest.
Emphasizing this point is essential. Otherwise the changes that are being enacted in early recovery today,
which are quite difficult, can feel meaningless and fruitless.
The difficult changes you are making today, make a difference
This is further understood by emphasizing another law of the harvest.
We can’t do anything about what was planted last season, but we can determine what will be planted this season.
A focus on each day’s success in recovery
is of the utmost importance.
Celebrating behaviors of transparency, personal accountability, responsibility, and honesty
(even when it isn’t pretty) reminds the individual in early recovery that they are capable of positive
change and this is rewarding. Daily reminders that the individual in early recovery is not fundamentally
damaged or faulty are essential.
Finally, we reap more than we sow. This law can be easily evidenced. Just ask the person in early recovery,
“did you plan on becoming addicted when you took that first drink/drug?” Typically he or she got much
more than they bargained for. The same is true of recovery. Committing to a changed way of life, even
though it is difficult now and can often feel underappreciated, will reap them a harvest that is greater
than what they could expect. They will get more than they put in, if they are patient and steadfast.
While early recovery may be difficult, it is often said that the days that are hard are much more meaningful
and have a much longer lasting impact than the days that are easy.
The season of early recovery is a difficult one. However, doing the hard work of facing life and changing ones
responses to difficulty will bear a harvest that is worth receiving.
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