By Joy Anderson
What To Do When You Become Overwhelmed in Recovery
Having trouble managing the beautiful onslaught that is life in recovery? Just getting a few months under your belt with a new routine? You get up at 6 have coffee take the dog out, read your meditation for the day, hop in the shower, pack your lunch and you’re out the door to catch a bus to a train and another bus from the train to work. Now you’re at work. You’re under deadlines, everything’s behind, you get interruptions, distractions, break for lunch, eat at your desk. Next thing you know it’s time to go home and your work is not complete. You take a bus to the train, ride the train to your station hop a bus to your block. You open the door, let the dog out, wash the dishes from the night before, take out the stinking trash, eat something, call your sponsor, and run out the door to make it to your I.O.P. meeting in the nick of time. 3 hours later, (you’ve been up 16 hours now) you catch a ride home from whoever is willing to carry you there, you open the door and fall down dead. Rinse and repeat.
So. Where ‘s the sanity you were promised? Life in early recovery can seem overwhelming. Unfortunately, we’ve whittled our circumstances down to where for most of us conveniences don’t exist. We don’t have much money, most of us have given up cars for bus passes and bikes. We might not know a lot of people who can give us rides for free. Time is a commodity and must be managed well. Things take longer on public transportation and you may feel like you are spinning your wheels most of the time with things that are beyond your control. Here are a few easy things you can do to make things more manageable. Some of these things that seem like deficits could actually be working in your favor – it all depends on how you look at it.
First: BREATHE. Really simple. Just breath – stop everything you are doing and focus on your Breath. It might not solve any of your big picture problems but in an instant, you’ll feel more centered and remember – it’s an inside job. Breathing reduces stress and can be a powerful component of relapse prevention.
Two: Be in the moment. In that moment of conscious breathing, take note of all that is around you. Sights, smells, noises – where are your feet? Look down at your feet – literally – this is where you are in your life at this particular moment. Relish in it. Take it all in and remember that life is just a bunch of moments. Acknowledge each one and let it pass. The next one holds something new for you!
Three: Check your attitude. Do you have a bunch of self defeating thoughts swirling around your head? Or are you able to grasp on to the positive? The power of positive thinking cannot be dismissed. There is always an upside to any situation no matter how dire it may seem. In early recovery we tend to find it hard to let go of black and white thinking and catastrophic thinking. Avoid this!! Repeat Step 1.
Four: Bring it back to Simple. Rome wasn’t built in a day and you didn’t get off track in life overnight either. If you are feeling overwhelmed, handle what is in front of your first. Reprioritize and decide what’s most important and what can wait. It’s kind of like getting payment extension on bills – you have to deal with them but maybe you can buy yourself a little time to handle something another day.
Five: Give yourself some credit! Hey, we’re raw and rough around the edges for a long time after giving up the drink or drug or whatever it was that got us off course from a healthy productive life. Remember? Look at your feet. Change can be sudden and change can take a minute. You’ve made a huge decision in your life to change – significantly! Pat yourself on the back – again, that positive self talk will come in handy here. Baby steps. You are doing the right thing as long as you stay away from substance, keep those thoughts in check and continue to progress on your path of growth, you’re doing great.
Six: Call for backup! We don’t have to do this alone remember?! You were invited to check your superhero cape at the door when you came into the world of recovery. We’ve all been there and done that. You won’t have to call too many numbers (“dial ’em don’t file ’em!) or approach too many people in recovery circles to find that there’s support, encouragement and strength to be shared.
Seven: Carry on. Like little Dory in Finding Nemo, “Just Keep Swimming, Just Keep Swimming…” Everything take practice and even though “IT” might not get any easier, but YOU become better at dealing with IT. Keep the faith and keep putting one foot in front of the other. You are ok – even if you don’t feel ok! Those people you reach out to for support will tell you so!
Joy is a South Florida native and has traveled extensively around the US. She uses her life experience in and out of recovery as a personal warehouse of material to draw from in her content. She currently writes content and handles Outreach for Addiction Recovery Marketing firm Stodzy Internet Marketing in Boca Raton, Florida. She is also engaged in several freelance projects. Joy shares a home with three dogs who continue to teach her how to live. She aspires to be the person her dogs think she is. Joy believes in the power of words and random acts of kindness.