4 Strategies for Building Resilience in Alcohol Recovery
“Drink does not drown care, but waters it, and makes it grow faster.” – Benjamin Franklin, U.S.founding father, and polymath
Walk up to someone in the street, say you’re doing a survey about perception or something, and ask them if they thought alcoholics were noted for their resilience. A few might give you an informed opinion, such as, “Addiction destroys any sense of resilience in the addict – that’s its powerful, mean trick.”
However, you can pretty much guess that more people will say something along the lines of, “Ha! You gotta be joking! They never had any resilience or any willpower whatsoever in the first place. That’s why they’re addicts Jeez – everyone knows that, don’t they?”
That’s people and their perceptions for you. Drug addicts and alcoholics have as much natural resilience as those people in the street – there’s no difference, other than addicts are within the grip of an addiction, a grip so tight and so often unbreakable, it affects cognitive thinking by altering a person’s brain structure, and thereby constantly strengthening its hold.
The only possible way out of alcoholism, defined by clinicians as “a chronic relapsing brain disorder,” is to remove the alcohol completely – 100%-pure abstinence, achieved through medically-assisted detox and then continued counseling and support, usually begun in an addiction recovery center.
One of the necessary steps to take in recovery from alcoholism is to build up natural levels of resilience to what they were before addiction started wreaking havoc in the alcoholic’s brain, destroying any resistance to the downward path such a powerful addiction wishes you to take.
How am I so sure of these facts? Simply because I have lived it, unwittingly brought to my knees by chronic alcoholism, and looking at an early end to my then desperate life. However, a group of family members and close friends (not that I had many left by then) intervened and gave me the chance of something better, a life no longer dependant on the poison of alcohol.
They took me (by force, if I’m honest – they had no choice) to alcohol rehab in the neighboring state, where the slow, painful, yet the life-changing road to recovery began. If I had known then what lay ahead, the chance of something better, and an end to the ways of the past, I would have gone willingly, if my alcoholic’s thinking had allowed me.
It’s just under 9 years later since that road trip began, the day I finally managed to stop drinking with the help and direct action of loved ones who still cared enough to do something. I have been clean and sober ever since, a recovery that takes daily work, and part of that ethic is the constant maintenance of my levels of resilience, resistance, and self-protection.
Gained through personal experience and the health advice of addiction professionals, here are your “4 Strategies for Building Resilience in Alcohol Recovery”:
If You Need Help, Ask
To battle against alcoholism takes a lot out of someone already weakened by addiction – that’s why the vast majority of successful recoveries don’t happen if you keep yourself to yourself, and think things will change in time. They won’t. Only by asking for, and then receiving help, can you give yourself the best opportunity for that success. It’s not a sign of weakness – it is acceptance, and, by accepting what you can’t change alone, you will naturally develop your own resilience to deal with problems, however large or small.
Recovery Isn’t Winning, It’s Learning
Recovery from alcoholism is not easy, and there may be times when you believe you are failing. You may even relapse, and think it’s all over before it’s even properly begun. That’s not the case. When you accept that recovery is not a race, and certainly not about winning, you’ll see it for what it truly is – learning a new way of living. It takes as long as it takes. It’s a journey, and you may stumble, but as long as you keep learning and keep moving forward, you’ll find in time, your resilience to returning to the ways of the past will become stronger.
Stay Positive – One Day at a Time
Keeping a positive attitude is essential for a successful recovery. Each day begins anew, and so should your attitude to what you’re trying to achieve. Recovering addicts may look upon the past as failure, but it’s the journey you had to take to get to where you are now – feeling healthier and stronger, one day at a time. Your natural resilience will build along that strength.
Alcoholism makes you believe that the next drink is your biggest priority. In recovery, your biggest priority, by far, needs to be yourself, your health and your well-being. Nothing else should come close if you want to find and maintain your abstinence. Practicing self-care and prioritizing your needs above all else is not simple selfishness – it’s self-protection and the building of resilience to situations that may be dangerous to your recovery.
Once you truly understand there is no alternative but to accept the way things are, and you can whole-heartedly follow these strategies, then your recovery will become easier, and your resilience, previously damaged by addiction, will become stronger. By asking for help when you need it, look upon your recovery as a learning process, staying positive, and practicing self-care, you will become stronger mentally, and naturally more resistant to your addictive behaviors of the past.
What advice would you give to someone in recovery from alcoholism? How do you think they can become mentally stronger and more resilient? Please feel free to leave a comment below to share with others. Thank you.
Lastly, if you are in the early stages of recovery, believe me when I say it will get easier. Like everything, it can take time. Go easy on yourself, and good luck in your journey.