After a person completes drug rehab one of the first things they will want to do is to re-enter the workplace. For a number of reasons finding and holding a job can be a significant test, but experts agree that engaging in meaningful work is crucial to successful recovery.
It’s one thing to be around supportive individuals and counselors when you are in rehab for alcohol or drug abuse and have ready help to deal with cravings and urges that rock your world. It’s another to have to actually deal with them once you’ve completed treatment.
The winter season brings many opportunities for laughter, for sharing goodwill and for spreading cheer. However, if you have recently finished a drug detox program, the season can also be a minefield of potential relapse triggers. Shorter days and longer nights, holiday parties where alcohol is served, awkward or difficult family gatherings, and money shortages in a time of gift-giving can all lead to stress and anxiety which, in turn, could tempt you to find escape from pressure in the wrong way. These situations could prove stressful for anyone, but if you are still recovering from drug or alcohol addiction, the tension could feel even more so.
Much of mental health treatment focuses on the root causes underneath the fruit of poor behaviors. After all, actions don’t originate from thin air. What if part of the root problem is too much self-focus? What if people struggling with addictions were encouraged to focus more attention on the needs of others? What if helping my neighbor ended up being a way to help myself?
“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” – Sun Tzu, ancient Chinese general, military strategist, philosopher, author of he Art of War (born c. 500 B.C.)
Many of us view addiction as the enemy, and our struggles against addiction amount to nothing less than all-out war. In a way, this isn’t a bad way to look at addiction, since it can occur to anyone at any time without discrimination and can be so devastating to the individual as well as to others in close contact with the person such as family and friends. Addiction, like war, can lay waste to a person’s health, family and other relationships, finances, social stature, mental health and more.
If addiction is something to fight against, how can we win the war against it? Taking a cue from the philosophy of Sun Tzu is wholly appropriate here. A masterful strategist in the military arena, Sun Tzu knew that soldiers who marched off into battle completely unprepared but hoping to win were doomed to defeat. He also taught that the belief that one can win is critical to actually winning – before going into battle.
We can use the same principle when we view our efforts to overcome addiction. While it’s true that we need to understand the disease process of addiction and learn how to recognize triggers and cravings and build up a toolkit of strategies to employ to keep ourselves from falling back into our addictive behaviors, we will be more likely to succeed if we tell ourselves – and believe it – that we can, indeed, win the war against addiction.
No, we won’t ever be cured. There is no cure for addiction. But this doesn’t mean that we will lose the war against addiction. On the contrary, as long as we continue to do the work that’s required for effective recovery, we have already won. But we must keep on doing the work in order for our victorious efforts to continue.
How does believing that we’ll win the fight against our addiction help in our daily struggles to overcome the disease? It’s a simple matter, really. Envisioning success in our goal of abstinence is the key to actually being able to achieve sobriety milestones – and long-lasting, effective recovery. It isn’t wishing makes it so but working to make it so. That’s the bottom line.
Why, then, do so many of us have such a hard time believing what others tell us that we can overcome our addiction, that we have it within our power to do so? It all stems from a core of diminished self-beliefs that we’ve likely carried with us for some time, or have begun to believe over the course of our addictive past. It doesn’t however, mean that, lacking the belief that we can win the war against our addiction that we can’t learn how to believe in our strengths and ability to do so. We can. We learn this by talking things over with our counselor, with our sponsor, with our fellow 12-step group members, and by enlisting the support of our loved ones and friends.
We do need to give ourselves time to start believing in ourselves again. But every day that we work our recovery with all that we have, is another day that we move just that much closer to realizing that we are winners – we can win the war against our addiction.
08 Jul 2011
It can be the best of times or the worst of times, to paraphrase the opening sentence of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. What we’re referring to is the journey you begin after rehab for substance abuse or other addictive behavior, the phase when you start recovery. Many people are scared to death to start over. Not only has rehab been filled with uncertainty and ambivalence, even with the best intentions, the prospect of living clean and sober is almost too much to contemplate.