The Problem With “Being Strong” in Recovery

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Early recovery is a tumultuous time for those dealing with the effects of addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of the two. Strength and willpower are often touted as noble efforts to be sustained through these difficult times. In recovery, you may hear that you need to “stay strong” to face the uncertainties of the recovery process. While this notion is birthed from a positive, supportive mindset, maintaining a facade of strength can also be detrimental. Navigating your recovery while maintaining a false sense of stability can work against your goals for recovery.

What Defines “Strength”?

While strength is a term brought up whenever anyone is faced with difficulties, its definition is ambiguous. Especially when in recovery, the idea of strength can mean many things. The fluidity of the definition can be the source of unnecessary stress and confusion. It can be common to think strength means overcoming or not being stifled by fear or discomfort. Interpreting strength to suggest the avoidance of showing feelings can be an active detriment to your recovery.

Another interpretation could include strength being the ability to handle yourself in all situations or continuing to improve your emotional resilience. Being able to process your emotions is essential, and stifling your emotions can lead to shutting out additional supports or therapeutic approaches.

Compartmentalizing your feelings to show strength can negate the possibility of forming new ideas as you attempt to find your path without the aid and support of peers or professionals. This interpretation of strength can lead to feelings of isolation, thus limiting your perspective on your abilities, hobbies, and understanding of the impact of addiction and mental health disorders.

Strength as a Toxic Mindset

Prioritizing a facade of strength can also lead to several difficult and unfair mentalities surrounding your abilities and progress toward recovery goals. If you are prioritizing the ability to be “strong” in light of your betterment, you may begin to deny yourself the ability to express common negative emotions. Prioritizing this image can cause stress, anxiety, or depression, therefore facilitating a mindset that denying these emotions is healthier than expressing them.

This kind of toxic mindset can also cause you to unfairly judge yourself on the false idea that strength is suppressing emotions. Feelings of guilt, fear, anxiety, regret, and frustration are commonplace in recovery from addiction and mental health disorders. As you expect yourself to maintain an unhealthy definition of strength, these feelings may be thought of as a wholly negative experience. You may believe that not feeling positive one hundred percent of the time means you are “failing” on your journey.

However, these feelings are expected and not indicative of any shortcomings towards your goals. The expression and processing of these emotions are a common and crucial part of the recovery process. This feeling of failure can pollute your mind and inhibit the recovery process.

Defining Strength for Yourself

However, just as strength can be defined by introducing unnecessary difficulty into your recovery journey, these fluid definitions can also be the source of progress. Strength is not necessarily the ability to handle things independently or overcome any obstacle, but rather the ability and courage to explore uncomfortable vulnerabilities. Start by redefining your idea of strength into an exercise in trust and acceptance.

Recovery is an emotional journey, just as a physical or mental one, and feelings of vulnerability are common. Allowing yourself to relinquish facades and brave feelings of uncertainty is a crucial expression of strength. For some, this can come from honest and open discussions with professionals, while others may find they need the strength to admit guilt and address loved ones who have been affected. A more fitting definition of strength may be expressing yourself in a manner uninhibited by the expectations or stigmas of others, embracing your own identity, emotions, interests, and goals.

These iterations of strength are what is meant by when others encourage you to “be strong.” It is not a purely personal endeavor to overcome addiction. Recovery is best approached as a group effort between yourself, professionals, peers, and family. Being strong does not mean denying yourself the ability to feel fear or sadness or express vulnerability and emotion. Instead, it is an exercise in trust that you can and will overcome these vulnerabilities by being willing to express them in the first place.

Your strength in recovery is a fluid definition. Toxic interpretations and ideas of “being strong” can be actively detrimental to your progress. It is important to redefine what strength means to you to break down unhealthy barriers and rebuild a sense of strength based on your personal needs, goals, and accomplishments.

Strength is a familiar and enigmatic concept throughout recovery. Normally, individuals may not know their strengths or what strength means to them while taking the necessary steps towards their own transformed future. At Avalon Malibu, we understand the importance of finding your personal, robust definition of strength. We are ready to help you walk through the stresses of early recovery while navigating the sometimes frustrating emotions that develop on your journey. Your time with us is personalized to fit your unique needs and goals for addiction or mental health recovery. Our trained professionals, supportive peers, and comfortable, luxurious atmosphere can help you alleviate unnecessary stresses. Don’t let your previous definitions of strength take control of what it means to allow yourself an opportunity for growth. For more information on how we can help you or speak to a caring, trained professional about your path to recovery, call us today at (844) 857-5992.

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