As our world recommends that all of us make significant changes in our way of thinking and acting in response to the Coronovirus, I see similarities to what individuals with addictions face when pursuing a life of recovery.
In recovery circles, you will hear messages like “There is only one thing you have to change and that one thing is…everything.” and “You need to change your playmates (those individuals you associate with) and you need to change your playgrounds (the places you go) in order to stay sober.” This is what all of us are being told today due to the health concerns impacting our world, only we are asked to do things to prevent illness versus to prevent a return to addictive behaviors.
So, what feelings result in hearing you need to change everything, that you need to make changes with the people you associate with and the places you visit?
In my work with recovering individuals I often observe mixed feelings. These feelings range from resentment/anger (“Why me? This isn’t fair.”), to anxiety/fear (“I don’t know if I can do it, what if I can’t?) to depression/hopelessness (“it is just too much for me to handle, what’s the point anyways?”)
Maybe you can relate to these mixed feelings currently in your own life. I want to discuss two recovery slogans that we teach those entering recovery, with the hope they could be helpful reminders in dealing with the emotions you may be feeling about the health concerns and changes impacting our world.
“Take things one day at a time, one moment at a time.”
The first slogan is to remember to “take things one day at a time, one moment at a time”. There is a saying that asks, “how do you eat an elephant?” Answer, “one bite at a time.”
Difficult times eventually have an ending, but often we don’t know how long those difficult times will last. If we can remind ourselves during these moments that our focus needs to be on the current moment, not thinking about 3 months of enduring something painful and then repeat the process for each day, each moment, then life becomes a bit more manageable. We feel a bit more in control, less anxious and more confident in ourselves.
“Keep doing the next right thing or the next best thing.”
The second slogan is “keep doing the next right thing or the next best thing”. In times of uncertainty our ability to concentrate may be hindered, our minds may drift into fear based thoughts of doom and gloom, we may quickly feel overwhelmed and unsure of what to do next.
During these times, we need to step back, breath for a minute and ask ourselves “what is the next right or best thing to do?”
Viktor E. Frankl once said “Between every stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” It is in this space that we can give ourselves a self-talk reminder when feeling overwhelmed, confused, frustrated, etc. In this space, we can say to ourselves “just keep doing the next right thing.”
For recovering individuals, we encouraged a second step in reaching out to one’s support system for additional guidance on this question, because it is very easy to have our emotions cloud our judgment. Then once you have identified the next right thing to do, you simply take action and repeat this process.
For example, maybe the next right thing to do is:
- Ask for help
- Take a walk
- Eat breakfast
- Take a break
- Call a friend
- Avoid that first drink
- Talk about how you are feeling
“When I am willing to do the right thing, I am rewarded with an inner peace no amount of liquor could ever provide. When I am unwilling to do the right thing, I become restless, irritable, and discontent. It is always my choice.” – Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th edition, page 317
So, when feeling like things will never improve or change, remember to take things one day at a time, one moment at a time and when you feel uncertain, overwhelmed, identify the next right thing to do and follow through.
Kevin Neuman, LMSW, CAADC, is a fully Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) and Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CAADC) with over 15 years of experience in the social work field. He received his Bachelor of Science in Psychology and his Master in Social Work from Grand Valley State University. He has completed training as an acupuncture detoxification specialist.
Before coming to Pine Rest Retreat Center, Kevin worked at Ottagan Addictions Recovery as an outpatient substance abuse therapist. He has also worked at Hope Network Behavioral Health in the inpatient residential crisis setting and at Priority Health as a behavioral health case manager.