The Fallacy of “Failed” Recovery

failed recovery

failed recovery

Addiction recovery is an ongoing process, and there is no definitive date or time where someone should expect themselves to be “cured” of the disease. New coping strategies continuously need to be learned and implemented to new stressors, urges, and other changes in one’s life. This difficult journey can be a lot to take in, and frustration can arise if an individual feels as if they are not making the progress they are “supposed” to.

Because of the fluid and individualized nature of the process, recovery isn’t measured on a pass-fail metric. It is a complicated, continuous evaluation. This also means that the idea that recovery can be “failed” is a fallacy, and thinking of one’s life in binary outcomes can be detrimental to one’s prolonged sobriety.

Urges Are Unfortunately Common

There are many hurdles that each individual will have to tackle at each stage of the recovery process. However, urges can be expected to arise at any point in one’s journey to sobriety. Urges are the sudden feeling of need to re-engage with addictive substances or behaviors and can come as the result of an outside stressor or can seemingly manifest from thin air. Either way, they are common, and it is important to be prepared to cope with them until they pass.

Because they can feel overwhelming and laser-focused on tempting an individual with addictive substances, it can easily feel as if one’s coping strategies aren’t working or that one has “failed” in their goal of never even thinking about drinking or using drugs again. Just feeling the urge to re-engage with addictive substances doesn’t indicate a failure in any way, and in fact, these feelings are quite common.

If an individual acts upon these urges and does experience a slip or relapse through their recovery journey, it doesn’t indicate that recovery is simply impossible or that they have failed in their journey entirely. Relapses are unfortunate and need to be addressed promptly and openly. However, going through a relapse is more indicative that there needs to be a change in one’s addiction recovery strategy, and not that recovery is somehow failed.

There Will Be Ups and Downs

One of the major issues when thinking of recovery as somehow “failed” is realizing that there will still be times of difficulty and stress. While recovery-focused environments and supportive communities can help mitigate some of these stresses or provide insight on how to navigate difficult emotions, completely avoiding challenges is impossible. The goal of recovery isn’t to divest each person from the idea of stress, frustration, guilt, or sadness but rather to provide the necessary tools to cope with these inevitable emotions.

While personalized programs aim to improve quality of life, they aren’t bound always to be a wholly positive and uplifting experience. Thinking that recovery is a shortcut to uncontested happiness can leave an individual ill-prepared to cope with these ups and downs and thus thinking that they have somehow “failed” recovery, which is not the case at all.

Returning to Recovery Is Always an Option

Facing urges, slips, or relapses after one has completed a treatment program is also a common experience. It may be essential to return to a recovery program to address the unique ways in which stressors have presented themselves outside of the recovery sphere. While it is common to think of returning to a recovery program as an admission of one’s failure, it is a profound exercise that may be an essential part of one’s recovery journey. Returning to a recovery program with knowledge of previously unforeseen stressors or hurdles can help an individual further personalize their recovery strategies and provide context on both successful and unsuccessful coping practices.

Returning to recovery also in no way means that an individual has to restart their journey from the beginning. Successful strategies can still be employed, and there is still a great number of techniques or life skills that an individual may have mastered. Thinking of one’s recovery as a “failure” can then take away from these practiced, honed, and proven skills—each of which stands as a testament to the possibility of change. Thinking of recovery as a “failure” doesn’t lend itself to the nuance of each individual’s experience. Considering one’s journey, a “failure” can quickly lead to a reversion to previously self-destructive practices.

Recovery is a process without a defined end date. While that may be frustrating on its own, it also helps to deconstruct the notion that recovery is somehow a pass-fail exam and instead lends itself to a more human, malleable mindset working to improve one’s own life.

Recovery is a complex process, and despite any slips or hiccups along the way, returning to a substance-free life is always possible. At Avalon Malibu, we will work with you to create a customized recovery program that will help you best address your unique needs and goals. Your time with us can be personalized to fit your recovery experiences, whether it is your first time going through a program or you are returning to develop your sober toolkit further. We offer an array of services, such as yoga, meditation, individual and group therapy, music, and art therapy, as well as many more physically active therapeutic approaches to help you take the first step towards sobriety with a confident body and mind. You will be by a comprehensive community of professionals and peers. For more information on how we can help you, or to speak to a caring, trained staff member about your unique situation, call us today at (844) 857-5992.

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