“The oak fought the wind and was broken,
the willow bent when it must and survived.”
– Robert Jordan, U.S. writer and author of “The Fires of Heaven”
Look up the word “resilience” in the nearest dictionary (if people still do that kind of olde-worlde thing nowadays), and you’ll see it has a couple of definitions. The first speaks of “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness,” whereas the second speaks of “the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.”
As the quote above clearly demonstrates, being tough, but rigid, like “the oak” can actually make you weaker in certain circumstances. However, you can also be tough while remaining flexible, like “the willow.”
If you want to be successful in any recovery from addiction, you need to be resilient – but resilient like the willow. If you’re too rigid in your approach to sobriety, you’ll eventually snap and start drinking or using again.
Tough but flexible, depending on the circumstances. That’s pretty much what I’ve strived to be over the last 6 years or so. Having abused both alcohol and drugs from a very young age (I smoked my first joint around 8, and got drunk the first time of many the following year), it hasn’t been easy, and there have been some vitally important lessons along the way.
Learning to be resilient like a simple willow tree has been one of those – a valuable lesson taught to me during my addiction treatment in a Phoenix rehab.
Another has been the ability to “bounce back,” as the first resilience definition highlights. Recovering alcoholics and drug addicts have to be very careful about how they handle the stressful and emotional moments in life. For them, these moments can risk a relapse – a return to the addictive habits of the past.
Because of this, a better ability to bounce back should this happen can be the difference to a recovery regained or a recovery lost.
Resilience – sounds good, doesn’t it? However, it doesn’t just happen to people. To an extent, it comes with time and hard work. But there are other ways – essential ways – you can improve your resilience too. Here are your “4 Essential Ways to Build Your Resilience During Sobriety.”
Building Your Resilience
As recovering addicts, we all follow a similar path or road, but these can look very different from one another – they can even go in diverse directions. However, they all look the same in one simple respect: there will be times when the desire, temptation and craving, both physically and mentally, seems too strong. This is where an increased willow-like resilience becomes your best friend – here’s how to build it:
1. Make Your Self-Care Your Ultimate Priority
You cannot build your resilience without building your health. You need to be physically and mentally as strong as you can be because life will quite happily continue to throw its usual lumps of uncertainty, stress, and self-doubt at you.
Each and every day, make sure your #1 priority is yourself. Establish a sensible sleep routine, stay hydrated, eat nutritional food, and, under no circumstances whatsoever, neglect yourself mentally, physically, or emotionally. Do stuff that makes you happy and lifts your soul.
2. Ask For Help – No-one Makes it Alone
If you are having a tough time, don’t think it’s a way to build your resilience – reach out to your support network – friends, family members, or professionals – for any help they can give you. Asking for help as the need arises is also a way of building your own resilience. Stubbornness can be fatal…
3. Failure is Learning
Life is constantly changing, evolving, and taking different forms – never forget that. Just as the brand new parents of a little baby are not given a manual or guide on how to deal with their new child, you don’t get your own personal manual on how to achieve a successful addiction recovery – for you.
Therefore, understand this – you may fail. However, in failure, we learn. As long as we act on the lessons we have been given. We learn every single time we do fail. In that respect, it’s no bad thing. If you relapse, you have not failed, as long as you learn from it. Many people relapse during recovery – around 40-60%, in fairness. Those that continue on with their recovery successfully do so because they learned from their mistakes – do the same.
Learning from any failure naturally builds your resilience for when those circumstances, or similar ones, come about again.
4. Positivity & Decisiveness
If you wish to build resilience, you need to build your self-positivity and decisiveness. Resilient people believe in themselves, and are proactive, and not just active when the need arises. Both of these personal traits build resilience, because you look at your own judgment in a different way, and so then your confidence in your own abilities grows too.
You’ve Already Got This Far…
Finally, despite the setbacks and trials to your recovery this writer knows nothing about (along with many of your family members and friends, I’m sure), remember this – you’ve already got this far. All said and done, that’s a pretty big achievement for anyone. And you did this.
Building resilience is possible if you follow these essential ways to do so:
- Make Your Self-Care Your Ultimate Priority
- Ask For Help – No-one Makes it Alone
- Failure is Learning
- Positivity & Decisiveness
Best wishes to you as you continue your journey.