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The Importance of Resilience in Addiction Recovery

No matter who you are or where you live - you will experience hard times.

Loved ones will die, jobs will be lost and marriages will crumble and whether you’re ready for it or not, at some point in the future, difficult times are on the way.

But though you can’t control when or even if you’ll experience adversity, you do have complete control over your reaction to adversity, and it is your resilience to adversity, in the end, that makes all the difference.

Resilience = The process of bouncing back from or adapting well to trauma, tragedy, threats or extreme stressors – such as divorce, the loss of loved ones, job loss, severe financial problems, serious physical or mental illness and others.1

For anyone in recovery from addiction, a lack of psychological resilience almost guarantees an early relapse, because when hard times come, the dilemma you’re always going to face is do you go out and buy that bottle or that bag or do you rise above it all and work through the hardship to emerge even stronger on the other side.

For those in recovery from addiction – resilience is essential and you know you’re going to need as much of it as you can get! Fortunately, whether you think you’re ready for hard times or not, there are steps you can take today to improve your psychological resilience in preparation for the trials of tomorrow.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA) here are 8 steps to improving your psychological resilience.

8 Steps to a More Resilient You

1. Accept Change as Inevitable

Accept that circumstances will sometimes force you to change your plans, goals or expectations. A car accident might put your goals of running a summer marathon in jeopardy, but a resilient person might adapt to the limited mobility of injury recuperation by refocusing efforts toward other more attainable goals, such as learning a foreign language or finally getting around to cataloging old family pictures and videos.  

Change is inevitable, but it only creates as much distress as you allow it to.

2. Take Time Today to Strengthen Your Social Network

In tough times friends and family can make all the difference. Spend time and energy today nurturing a base of supportive people around you so that you’ve got the safety net you need – should you ever need it.

3. Accept That Few Challenges Are Undefeatable

In moments of stress and crisis it’s easy to exaggerate the severity of the situation. If you can look at things more calmly you’ll likely see that as bad as things are today that life will go on tomorrow - that time heals - and that if you act with as much purpose and optimism as possible, the future is likely to be a happier and brighter place than the darkness of today.

Things will get better, as long as you can believe that things will get better.

4. Take Action

Resilient people respond to crisis situations with appropriate action, and appropriate action helps to end crisis situations.

To improve your psychological resilience, work on becoming more decisive and on taking appropriate measures to solve problems both large and small.

5. Work Towards Your Goals…With Baby Steps…

Resilient people know that goals are achieved through the cumulative results of a great many baby steps of progress.

Make goals for yourself but don’t get caught up on the need to make great strides of progress. Instead, work hard on identifying small achievable steps toward your goal and on taking action to accomplish forward motion every day.

In times of crisis, the ability to accomplish small steps of forward progress, even when times are hardest, is extremely beneficial.

6. Stay Hopeful and Optimistic

The ability to believe in a better tomorrow is a hallmark character trait of resilient people.

To become a more hopeful person try this simple exercise:

Whenever you find yourself worrying about a situation that might occur, flip that situation around and practice visualizing the situation as you’d like it to turn out.2

7. Look at Failures as Learning Experiences

Remember that we learn through our mistakes and that intense experiences, even negative ones, can instigate very positive self growth.

Consider how moments of crisis and failure in the past have led to the understanding and abilities you have today.

In periods of crisis, reflect from time to time on how even very painful experiences can produce very positive things; such as a death in the family rekindling a sense of spirituality, or the substance abuse of a child strengthening  the emotional bonds between a husband and wife.

8. Take Care of Yourself

Resilience requires optimism, decisive action, working towards achievable goals and the ability to keep today in perspective and be able to imagine the possibility of a better tomorrow.

Unfortunately, people living on the outer edge of physical or mental health during the best of times are going to feel even worse when times get tough. How can anyone muster the strength to overcome adversity when there’s just no gas left in the tank?

For resilience, you need health and psychological wellness. So to encourage resilience – take care of yourself! Exercise, eat right, get enough sleep and reserve enough time each day to do what you really enjoy in life.3

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