Resilience – A Key to Recovery Success

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity and maybe even become happier, smarter, and stronger than you were before. In other words, if you are resilient, you are able to move forward and learn from challenging life circumstances like addiction, trauma, or financial problems.

How well do you stand up to adversity? What is your reaction when times are tough and setbacks occur? Some keep going while others may falter and feel ill-prepared to meet the challenges set before them. The good news is that setbacks don’t have to be permanent. Being able to work through challenging circumstances is often the difference between lasting sobriety and relapse. Following are some tips that may be helpful in becoming more resilient in recovery.

Expect challenges: Too often, people in recovery think that now that they are living a recovery-based lifestyle, everything will be sunshine and unicorns. The honeymoon phase of early recovery will change and there will be life challenges. Life will improve if we are consistent with our recovery maintenance structure.

Have a team: Social support is paramount in having sustained recovery, helping you to feel connected and increasing your accountability. Very rarely does anyone succeed alone. Your sober network can be a good source of support. Even if you have only one person to confide in, they can lighten your load tremendously.

Accept you don’t have control over everything (and figure out what you can control): There are always things in life beyond our control. Practicing acceptance will help build resilience and find ways to cope without using alcohol or other drugs. Even when we can’t see the whole solution, doing what we can with what we have is a good step toward finding our way out of troubling times. It also affirms that we haven’t given up.

Work toward established goals: It is important to have goals to work toward—both long and short term. Prioritize your goals and take action each day on them.

Banish “all or nothing” thinking: One common thinking distortion that can destroy resilience is all-or-nothing thinking. This is the belief that if something is not a total 100% success then it is a total 100% failure. This is important to remember for those who have had a slip. You may have had a drink or something else and then say to yourself, “well I’ve already blown it so I might as well go all the way. Instead of trashing your recovery over one small mistake, keep in mind there is a lot to gain by minimizing the damage and getting back on course.

Tolerate discomfort & practice gratitude: Resilient people learn to tolerate discomfort when it serves a greater purpose. Choosing to forge ahead despite discomfort and distress will help in accomplishing long-term goals, knowing that a mindset of gratitude will set them up for good fortune.

Habits that undermine resiliency

Resilient people don’t dwell on lost opportunities or past setbacks. They recognize that life is not always fair, but when they focus on lessons learned, they can see silver linings even in the adversity.

Resilient people don’t place their self-esteem in the hands of others. While they may appreciate the evaluations of others, they know that their view of themselves is what matters most.

Failure is discouraging, but resilient people get back up and keep going forward. As my High School baseball coach would say, “You are either up or you are getting up.” The important point is to use the knowledge gained and keep moving toward your goal.

In a nutshell, resilience in recovery means to withstand impulses and cravings for alcohol and drugs, while remaining true to your goals for sobriety. It means being mindful and aware of personal triggers and potential setbacks so you can take steps to minimize the likelihood of relapse. You can develop resilience by strengthening your mental and emotional control, and by creating positive social interactions that support your ongoing recovery lifestyle.

TAP and TARP are available to Teamsters members and their covered dependents who are insured through participating Teamster Health and Welfare Trust Funds. Call TAP at 800-253-8326 or TARP at 800-522-8277.