Whether you’re three days clean or three years, it may occasionally be difficult to find things to get excited about in recovery. Obviously it’s exciting to be living a life without drugs or alcohol, but what comes next? What can we work on throughout our recovery that will keep us moving toward a bright, beautiful future?
This journey is more than getting sober — this a journey to discover our potential as human beings. It is an opportunity to grow our spirits, to recognize our strengths and weaknesses, and to gain independence that was previously inconceivable.
Without the motivation to move forward, and without looking to our future, recovery may seem kind of bleak. But no matter how hard our minds try to trick us, there is always something exciting to experience that will make our journey that much more fruitful.
Embracing a Flood of Suppressed Emotions
My favorite part of early recovery was one of the scariest and most beautiful battles I have ever fought. It’s often said that at a certain point in everyone’s journey to become clean or sober, they start to get their emotions back. I had heard this phrase thrown around a thousand times, but it never really hit me until, well, it hit me.
My life was undoubtedly changing after a few months living drug-free. But most noticeable to me was the evolution of my emotions. Thoughts and feelings I had attempted to hide from for so long would bounce about my brain, leaving me suddenly vulnerable and unsure how to process such strong, unfamiliar emotions.
After numbing that side of myself for so long, this evolution was poignant and seemingly never-ending. It scared me terribly at first. Realizing fear was just another way to mask things I was uncomfortable with, I reached out to my therapist and worked though these new emotions with a support network of friends and professionals.
Crossing Emotional Milestones
What was once my greatest fear — coping with emotions I thought impossible to handle — became my biggest success. This experience became something to look forward to.
If a sweeping feeling came over me, I learned how to understand the emotions behind it. I learned how to ask myself the right questions so I could work through that feeling appropriately.
Suddenly I had motivation to understand myself and my mind better than ever before, and this same motivation keeps me going today. Not only am I conquering fears, I’m also learning about myself in the process — developing the person who I want to be, understanding and accepting my mistakes and using them as fuel for a better tomorrow.
As we cross these emotional milestones, we also get to understand who we are as a person and who we want to be. Feeling shame for our past may drive us to do better in the present and the future. Experiencing genuine happiness makes us feel inspired to spread that joy.
As our emotions change, so do our interests. Music we once enjoyed may not be as appealing anymore. Perhaps we were pretty dang lazy when we were using, but now we find value in regular trips to the gym. Not only do these changing emotions benefit us from the beginning, they also benefit us for the rest of our lives.
You will laugh a hundred times louder, cry a hundred times harder and smile a hundred times wider because your mind is no longer in chains.
With changing emotions and interests comes a change in perspective. There will come a day when someone asks you how you’re doing, and you’ll actually believe it when you say you’re doing well.
Social Rewards in Recovery
Emotions aren’t the only thing to look forward to in recovery. However, they play a big part in what comes next. Once we start to become better people, we are ready to take on social challenges.
Through sincere effort, and quite a bit of patience, we have the opportunity to amend our relationships with people we care for. It’s important to remember that we have a lot of ground to cover, and sometimes forgiveness takes time.
But know that continued effort is well worth it. After years of strained relationships, hearing people say they are proud of you and your recovery is a comfort unlike any other. Earning trust back from family, peers and co-workers is an aspect of amending these relationships. The value of that trust will feel more significant than it ever has before. These social rewards in recovery also build a bigger support network to aid you in continuing your journey to a new life.
For example, I recently drove from central Virginia to visit my mother in South Carolina. Three years ago, if someone told me I’d be driving 400 miles to see my mom for New Year’s Eve, I would have called them a liar.
My mother and I had always had a stressful relationship, and that stress varied directly with my substance abuse. Today, it’s unheard of for us to go weeks without speaking. When I think about her in a positive light, I send her text messages to remind her that I miss her.
Now I get to spend time with her without prioritizing drugs. She trusts me to stay in her home while I’m visiting. She no longer feels the need to lock every door and medicine cabinet. She packs me a lunch for my long drive back home.
That feeling, knowing that I have a relationship with her, is one I never before thought I’d be able to experience.
Be Excited About Your Progress During Recovery
You can build relationships with your family and friends that are stronger than ever before. You can earn trust that you otherwise felt you didn’t deserve, and that trust will help you understand your strength and how far you have come. You can be forgiven and supported throughout your recovery by people who care for you and want to see you succeed.
Each of these events are powerful and, like our emotions, ever-evolving. They contribute to our independence and our growth as a new person. They help us see our potential, including all of the things we may not have been capable of before but we now have the power to do.
It may sound a little over-hyped, but after being sick and tired for so long, we don’t realize all of the things we lose in the process of losing ourselves.
Part of recovery is getting those things back, and once you do, it’s quite easy to get excited about it. Each and every goal you set is something to look forward to — no matter how small the task.
Whether it’s a goal to do yard work next Saturday or a goal to go back to school for your degree, we wouldn’t have these things without our recovery. And that is indeed something to be excited about.