Many aspects of rehabilitation and recovery are very complex: the way the body changes while substances are being abused and the struggle to return it to normal function; how social spheres affect sobriety; and how the person recovering feels about themselves and their personal journey.
Breaking It Down
Sometimes, however, the most complex problems can be broken down to a very simple solution. People by nature are very much creatures of habit. When we have been used to complicated problems being solved through even-more-complicated answers, hearing a simple solution can make us doubt its validity.
The Fear Monster
Imagine a treatment for cancer that was a simple vaccine or short dosage of medicine instead of the weeks or months of chemotherapy that’s the current – difficult – solution. You might even laugh out loud if your doctor suggested something so simple for an incredibly complex disease.
The same is true for substance abuse recovery. We are aware that the body needs to reestablish equilibrium after detoxifying, a difficult and complex process. We are aware of the social and emotional challenges faced during treatment and while learning to live a sober lifestyle.
Most of these things are scary because they seem so complex and because we don’t know what to expect. We have a great fear of the unknown: how will my body respond to treatment? how will I function without the substances as motivation? what will I use to fill the void of time?
Because of these large fears, we expect an equally-large solution to the problem. When we hear the simplistic phrase “just take it one day at a time,” we might laugh or internally roll our eyes at the cliché. However, if you look – really look – into the phrase instead of brushing it off, you will see its quiet and unassuming wisdom.
Moment By Moment
One of the most common things you hear when people are interviewed after harrowing or near-death experiences like natural disasters or accidents is that they held on for “just one more breath” taking things one moment, one second at a time. Likewise, when people are going through a painful medical procedure or even a psychological trauma like abuse or anxiety attacks, they often have similar stories of how they endured.
If the concept of taking things in baby steps works for severe trauma and physical pain, it’s no wonder it can do miracles when introduced to our everyday lives. While the idea of taking things one step at a time seems elementary, it can prove to be surprisingly challenging when we try to put it into use.
Patience – or rather, our lack of it – is our undoing when faced with a “one day at a time” challenge. We have become a society of instant gratification, and when something isn’t automatic we tend to either give up or rush the process. Substance use enables this sense by providing the instantaneous high or escape mechanism with what feels like minimal effort. In contrast, being present in each moment of each day can be quite daunting.
The looming task of sober living can make us overthink the littlest of things. Taking baby steps and tackling one moment at a time doesn’t mean stressing over each moment. It means handling the present instead of worrying about the entire day at once.
Finding Inspiration in Each Second
Being present is a concept many people adopt while in recovery. Where substances give you an escape from reality or an alternate perception, being present embraces both the good and challenging aspects of your personal reality. Your feelings and emotions are wholly yours. Own them. Embrace them.
There is a proverb that says you cannot see the rainbow without the rain, and that parallels life so well. You cannot experience the good things without the bad. Things can’t be easy unless they’ve first been challenging. Sadness and struggle will eventually turn into happiness and rejoicing.
In this way of thinking, there is something positive in each moment – even amid our struggles. Every challenge teaches us something. If we do not experience the struggle completely and embrace it, we may never learn its lesson. Being mindful of ourselves is one way to practice this.
Mindfulness Over Mindlessness
Keeping a journal where you document every feeling, every emotion, what happened to cause them and what you learned is a great option for discovering how being present in each moment can benefit your recovery journey. Being aware of everything from how your body behaves physically to how your mind handles emotions can help you discover the path toward sobriety that is unique to you.
Instead of reaching for substances to escape from life into a place of mindless oblivion, realize all the wonderful things you were missing out on while using. Become conscious of the beautiful moments, learning experiences, and yes, even the struggles that a life dominated by substance use had stolen from you.
Will being present in each moment be easy? Nope, not even a little bit. But if you ask the loved ones around you about the benefits of having you present during their struggles instead of locked inside your life of substance abuse, they will choose having you there and sober every time. Give yourself today. This moment. Live for it, live through it, and when it has passed strive to live tomorrow, and the next tomorrow as a recovering, sober individual.
How We Help
St. Gregory Recovery Center in Iowa offers a healing environment that focuses on the whole person and minimizes the distractions that will keep you from a mindful recovery. We offer comprehensive addiction treatment and care through therapy, nutrition and exercise as well as religious studies and services.