Addiction Recovery Can Feel Like A Grandstand Performance

Brian M. Murray, MS, IMH

It’s okay to be gentle with ourselves when we’re going through change and grief. Yes, we want to maintain the dis­ciplines of recovery. But we can be compassionate with our­selves. We do not have to expect more from ourselves than we can deliver during this time. We do not even have to ex­pect as much from ourselves as we would normally and seasonably expect. -Melody Beattie

Recovery from addiction does not have to be a grandstand transformational performance. When a person is going through recovery they may feel as if they are on display in front of friends, family, co-workers and others. Basically, they may feel like they are being watched by everyone in their community. This feeling of being watched can leave a person feeling intimated, vulnerable and subjected to other people’s expectations and judgments of how the recovery is supposed to be.

Stress, anxiety and fear of failure often result as the feeling of being watched begins to become part of the recovery process. The focus of recovery shifts from the self to what others might think or say. Should a relapse occur while being under a microscope, shame can be added to the list of emotions experienced. This is a huge distraction. In sports, professional athletes are often taught to overlook crowd noise and all of the distractions so they don’t lose focus on the game. This is the same in recovery: don’t let the distractions get in the way of the goal which is to recover and stay recovered.

A technique that can be helpful in addiction recovery is to be able to silence the judgmental voices. Stay away from the critics and the naysayers for a while and go somewhere to take care of yourself. The recovery belongs to the individual who is going through it, not everyone else. The addiction may affect others, however the idea is to not beat yourself up or get put on stage by others. Practice self forgiveness, take care of yourself and don’t live up to other people’s expectations of what recovery is supposed to look like. Each person recovers in their own way and pace just like all people running a marathon finish at different times.

Like the quote above by Melody Beattie, a codependency expert, be compassionate with yourself; take it one day at a time or even one hour at a time. Recovery is a process and there is no perfect approach. Sometimes it may feel like the whole world is watching and waiting like there is supposed to be this fireworks moment when suddenly the addiction is gone and an instantaneous transformation takes place. Like spectators in a grandstand watching a game, they are looking for the big play. It’s not like that. It’s a game of inches and those inches are calculated in days. Take it easy, just one day at a time.


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