Not all stress is bad. It’s common for most people to experience stress as a weight. Stress feels like an experience that gets in the way of everything else. However, there is a way to look at stress as a catalyst for achieving great things. And for those who are in recovery from addiction, that great accomplishment could be long-lasting sobriety.
There’s no question that recovery comes with stress. You’re facing triggers that once caused you to drink or use drugs. You’re battling cravings. On top of all that, you might be trying to do what you can to repair your life. Perhaps you’re unsure where you’re going to live. Perhaps you’re wondering about income and how to pay for treatment. These circumstances can bring about anxiety and even fear.
Without Stress There Is No Change
However, keep in mind that without stress there is no change. For instance, David Perlmutter and Alberto Villodo, authors of Power Up Your Brain, wrote the following on how to look at stress:
Biological stress on a species, such as that caused by a change in food availability due to long-term drought, is resolved through creative coping and adapting. Without the stress of a changing ecosystem, our apelike ancestors would never have left the savannas of Africa for more fertile areas in Asia and Europe; they would not have started walking on two legs instead of four. In those cases, stress was nature’s way of inviting the wisest and most adaptable to survive.
You can see from this quote that stress can bring out creativity, new ways of adapting, innovation, and inner strength. Perhaps this is a way to look at the stress that comes with recovery. Yes, it’s emotionally painful at times. Yes, recovery might mean leaving old friendships to secure your sobriety, admitting your mistakes, changing your lifestyle, having to work when you’d rather not, or even doing jail time for mistakes made in the past. Recovery isn’t easy.
Pushing Towards Your Goals
Yet, the stress that comes with it may in fact be the foundation for pushing up against those cravings. It might be the catalyst for moving closer to the desired vision you have for your life. It might give you the energy you need for ignoring invitations to parties and saying no to alcohol at work-related events. You can use stress so that it’s working in your favor. In fact, as Perlmutter and Villodo point out in their book, the challenge of recovery might be no less daunting than the challenge of learning “to walk upright on two legs”.
Of course, one advantage you have over our ape-like ancestors with regard to meeting a daunting challenge is that you have support. You can reach out to those who have already traveled the road to recovery and who achieved what you want to achieve. For our ancestors, there was no one else who had already made the journey from four to two legs.
If you find that you need support in your recovery, call upon your friends, family, sponsor, therapist, doctor, and 12-step meetings. Of course, it’s up to you on how you manage the stress in your recovery. If you decide to make it work for you and not against you, know that you’re not alone in turning stress around to achieve great things – including sobriety.