What to Do About the Recovery Rut: How to Break Out When You’re Stuck

Once you’ve made the foregone conclusion to seek help for your drug or alcohol use disorder, the next step is to follow through. The first step in the process is admitting you have a problem. While some consider this one of the biggest steps, and it is, it all means nothing without the follow-through. You can tell yourself and others that you know you have a problem, but if you continue using and staying in the endless cycle that is addiction, nothing changes.

Those who have made the decision to change their life can attest to the relief they feel, knowing that the stresses of feeding their addiction are soon coming to an end. Addiction is severe, and when you’re faced with the prospect of getting sick or getting more alcohol or drugs, it’s a vicious cycle. In most cases, those addicted admit they want off the ride; they just fear the sickness that follows, which is what pushes them to continue using. When enough is enough, and you follow through with getting help, it’ll be the best decision you’ve ever made. 

Once you enter detox, you may fear you made the wrong choice. That’s only because the next few days are challenging, but you remember how strong you are to have made this decision and get the help you need, and you get through it. It’s followed by the next stage in the continuum of care, and you’re starting to feel a mix of intense emotions that were once numbed by the drugs and alcohol. You start feeling excited about what’s to come, but you also experience fear about the days ahead. You feel good about the support, your healthy appearance, and your renewed energy levels. 

Once the intensity of the early days begins to fade and the continued work toward recovery progresses, you might experience a new set of emotions. You could struggle to make sense of everything that’s happened to you. You might start experiencing boredom and feeling apathetic, not knowing how to harness this newly founded energy or what you’ll do once you leave treatment. Your life has lost a bit of its “spice.” You could experience confusion and be overwhelmed about how to move forward and regain purpose outside the walls of treatment. 

All of these emotions can lead to you experiencing the “recovery rut.” This isn’t only uncomfortable, but it poses a new risk to safeguarding your sobriety and personal growth. Learning to identify this common phase in the recovery journey and understanding how to move forward will be vital to your long-term health and sobriety. 

What Makes You Feel Stuck in Recovery?

There are a few likely answers to this question and why you’re in a rut during recovery. Bear in mind, if you’ve been using drugs or alcohol for a prolonged period, your mind and body are adjusting to life without it. The chemical reactions it’s accustomed to are now gone, so everything is learning how to function without the presence of chemicals in your system. However, there are some other factors to understand. Knowing these can help you develop a plan and address them. Other factors include:

  • Rebuilding your identity: If you have a substance use disorder (SUD) and have been on drugs for many years, that’s your identity, and without it, you don’t know who you are. Few things in this world make us feel as uprooted as losing a sense of who we are. When you start a life that isn’t focused on addiction, it takes time to collect your thoughts and rediscover who you are and who you want to be. 
  • Decreased motivation: You’ve achieved sobriety, maintained it for a while, but now you’re questioning why it should be kept? You should ask yourself, “Why did you enter treatment in the first place?” Was it because friends or family insisted on it? Was addiction causing you substantial pain? Once you reconnect with these circumstances or factors that pushed you into recovery, it’ll help you understand where you’re at. 
  • You default to negative thinking: If you’re getting down on yourself, about your recovery, and life in general, it’s normal. These emotions are natural, but you shouldn’t beat yourself up mentally about your addiction. Talk to your counselor about how you can overcome these thoughts. 
  • Insurmountable obstacles: You’re facing challenges in recovery that you haven’t the slightest clue how to overcome. You’re shifting between attempting to fix them and ignoring them but are growing frustrated and overwhelmed about how to figure it out.

Signs You’re Stuck in Recovery

It’s possible you’re experiencing some of the reasons that cause people to feel stuck in recovery but not be stuck. If you’re managing to handle most of these feelings, either through communication or coping mechanisms with your therapist or loved ones, you’re making progress, despite feeling uncomfortable. If you’re unaware of what’s causing you to feel this way, here are some signs:

  • You’re self-isolating.
  • You’re feeling negative.
  • The relationships around you are failing.
  • You find yourself reminiscing about the old times when you were using drugs or alcohol.

How to Get Out of a Rut in Recovery

recovery rut

Feeling bored, discouraged, and unmotivated is common when you’re working toward a goal in treatment. At the end of the day, you need to remember that we’re human. We’re going to reach points where you feel stuck on occasion. However, falling into an addiction recovery rut will bring about sadness and hopelessness, which can lead to relapse if you’re not careful. To help those working toward long-term sobriety, we want to share some tips on safeguarding it. 

Review Your Goals and Recovery Plan

An addiction recovery plan is a list of goals or schedules that you’ll want to achieve each day until it becomes a habit. One such goal may be to perform an act of kindness each day. Addiction leads to selfish behavior, and while you can’t control this, changing the pattern of behavior in recovery will help you stay sober. When escaping a recovery rut, you must review your goals and see if anything has been overlooked. 

Focus on Self-Care

One common error a person makes in recovery is to neglect self-care. This refers to setting aside time in your day to do things that promote happiness, peace, and relaxation. The stress and negativity can build up over time, so make sure to put aside a few minutes a day to do something that makes you happy. 

Limit Screen Time

During recovery, it’s common to find ways to stay distracted. One of the most significant threats to sobriety is boredom. This might cause us to turn to the TV, our phones, or computers to satisfy the need of being distracted and entertained. However, too much screen time will lead to isolation instead of communication. Talk with your family or friends, put down the phone during meals, and take a day to do something fun with loved ones each week. 

Attend Therapy

Therapy is incorporated into your treatment program because it works. If you’ve hit a snag in your recovery and nothing is providing relief, talk to your therapist. They can help you uncover any underlying issues that are hurting your progress.

Make Changes to Your Routine

A common reason someone hits a rut in treatment is that they’ve become stagnant. It’s common to plateau after achieving so much progress, especially if you don’t change your routine. Take a step back and think about your routine. If you aren’t exercising, try lifting weights or going for walks. Are you on the phone too much? Put it down and do something different.

Take Up a New Hobby

Another way to get yourself out of a rut is to find a new hobby. It’s common to dream of hobbies you’d love to try but never follow through because you’re busy. The biggest factors in recovery are discipline and patience, so taking up a new hobby is a great way to expand on those. Whether the objective is to complete a marathon or learn how to build an engine, set the time aside and get it done. By following through, it’ll help you in the long term and give you self-purpose since you achieved a goal you’ve had.

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