I truly believe that life is what you make it and that it’s important to take things in stride. How we react to a situation can affect the outcome in numerous ways, and a positive outlook can help smooth the bumps. This is not easy for everyone, particularly those suffering from substance abuse.
I often hear from recovering addicts about learning to shake off life’s minor irritants and appreciate the small things. Through treatment and therapy, they gain new perspectives. When they re-enter the “real world” these skills are quickly put to test.
Recently I spoke with several addiction treatment graduates about new practices they apply through life’s ups and downs. It was so uplifting to hear their stories.
Change The Reaction, Change The Outcome
Wendy explained to me that she has learnt how to change her reaction. As a side note, Wendy now works as a recovery coach for Addiction Campuses, the organization that helped her battle her addiction at their Mississippi location, Turning Point Recovery.
She told me, “It’s very rare that I’m in a bad mood now, because I’ve learned how to turn my bad mood around. Here’s an example: I came home from work one day recently and had groceries in the car, and [my fiancé] wasn’t out there to help me bring them in. I was a little pissed at first, but then I sat in my car for a few minutes and thought, ‘Really? Is this something to be mad about?’
“Now instead of letting myself be overwhelmed by negative thoughts, things just disappear. Things aren’t as bad as we make them. We tend to make huge deals of things that are really just tiny specks on the spectrum.”
And Ryan, who recently celebrated one year of sobriety, told me that he too has learned how to turn things around. He said he realized the negativity wasn’t helping the situation and only exacerbated it.
Ryan offered words of encouragement to others:
“It’s all the little details that can give you that positive outlook, and think about it: You can go through your day angry and not be positive — but what is that going to accomplish for you? It’s not going to accomplish anything. When you get a better outlook on things, you think about what you do have instead of what you don’t have. Don’t think about the stuff that you messed up; think about how much time you have to change your life,” he said.
Mindfulness Makes a Difference
Learning to change your perspective takes practice, but once you get the hang of it, then it becomes second nature. Scott told me he has learnt to listen first before reacting and saying his part. He said Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is what taught him to be mindful in difficult situations.
Scott also told me he has a short fuse, so learning new interpersonal skills is a huge step.
“DBT teaches you how to look at and react to things differently. I was the kind of guy that had the ‘I’m always right, you’re always wrong’ attitude, and I didn’t listen to others. I don’t do that anymore. Now I listen first and then I say my side, where in the past I just immediately thought, ‘I’m right, you’re wrong, and I don’t need to pay attention to what you have to say,’” Scott explained.
It’s evident that these brave people have seen improvements in the quality of their lives. Their new behavioural skills will serve them well as they continue their paths to recovery. I wish them peace on their journey, and believe anyone else who is struggling with an addiction can find the same happiness, that they have.