In early recovery, it can often feel as if you are doing what you have to do and not necessarily what you want to do. Even if you want the benefits that come with putting drug and alcohol use behind you, it is not an easy process to get there. You say “no” to relapse when you are experiencing cravings, avoid old friends and family members who may contribute to relapse, and essentially spend a lot of time dealing with tough issues – completely sober.
The good news is that as you progress in your recovery, the behaviors that once seemed so difficult quickly become the new normal, and as that happens, stability and confidence in sobriety increase. This gives you the time and space to consider what it is that you want out of your life and to turn those desires into a reality.
If you’re struggling with finding your footing in recovery and figuring out how to get what you want and need healthfully, you’re not alone. It’s a new process to get your needs met in a positive and respectful way. Here’s how to do it:
- Know what you want. If you do not have a clear idea of what you want to happen, you won’t be able to convey what you need to someone else. If you recognize that there is a problem, or you are feeling uncomfortable and you want that to change, consider some of the different ways you would like to see changes made and ask for those things specifically.
- Know what you need. There is a difference between what you need and what you want. While some “wants” can feel very urgent, it is a helpful to know how to step back and determine, “Do I really need this to stay sober and safe? Or am I just uncomfortable?” If you determine that you truly do have a need and you are not able to get what you feel will right the situation, then it is important to know when to stop asking and when to start making changes for yourself.
- Exude confidence. On a good day, you will feel strong in your recovery, balanced, connected to your support system, and like you are positively moving forward. On days that are not necessarily “good” days, when you do not feel at 100 percent, do what is needed to rebuild to that point. Repeat mantras to yourself, put a smile on your face, and notice where and how you are feeling uncomfortable (e.g., tired, hungry). Take care of those immediate needs so you can more quickly feel better.
- Know that you deserve to have a happy life in recovery. If you are struggling with depression or facing a tough emotional time (e.g., a breakup, job loss, argument with close friend or family member), it may be difficult to immediately pick yourself up and go back to the business of living an amazing life in recovery. If you are struggling emotionally, prioritize your self-care by getting good sleep and eating healthfully, spending time with friends who are happy and positive, and staying actively connected to your recovery as you work to determine what you need and how to turn it into a reality.
- Work on building positive relationships. We all need support to accomplish our goals, and it can help you to get what you want when you are always working to maintain positive relationships. This doesn’t mean seek out the people who can help you and solicit them or in any way be disingenuous. Rather, it means to always work on maintaining positive bonds with people in your community. These bonds can one day be the connections that help you to get what you want in recovery.
- Avoid making demands or ultimatums. When you urgently feel you are owed something, or you need something in order to feel safe and okay, your emotions can quickly get the better of you. It is not uncommon for people to make demands or ultimatums (e.g., “If you do not make the changes I’m asking for, then I will divorce you/quit this job/no longer be friends, etc.”), but they are not effective. Even if they “work” in the short-term and initially secure the requested change, they are not sustainable. Instead, they serve to either create or perpetuate a codependent relationship or an imbalance of power that is toxic. Make it clear what you need and how someone can help you in plain language, respectfully.
- Don’t give up. If you want something that does not harm anyone else, that will benefit your recovery, and/or that will help you to have a positive impact on your family or your community, do not give up if you initially face challenges. Persistence is key, not just in recovery but in all things that are worth having. Continue with what you need to do to move steadily closer to your goal and to create a life you love in recovery.
How do you get what you want healthfully in recovery? If you were to give a newcomer some tips on how best to get what they need from someone in a difficult situation, what would you say?