Completing substance use disorder (SUD) treatment is a significant milestone. It takes a lot of courage and determination to face an addiction head-on and stay the course to make the necessary changes to live sober. Staying motivated throughout the recovery process is important, but staying motivated after the treatment process ends is just as important. This is where it can get tricky for some people.
Strong motivation is often present in the early stages of addiction recovery. But as time passes, keeping up the same momentum may become harder to do for different reasons. Regardless of whether you are in recovery or not, life can be hard, and keeping pace with daily living can test just about anyone.
For people who are returning to everyday life after treatment, recovery fatigue is a real thing, and it’s something to look out for. Not everyone will experience recovery fatigue, but some will.
What Is Recovery Fatigue, And How Do You Know If You Have It?
Recovery fatigue happens when a person feels physically, mentally, and/or emotionally drained after going through a treatment program. A lot of changes happen in a short time when a person undergoes professional treatment. An intensive period in which medical detox, therapies, and other activities take place can be a lot for the body and mind to process. It takes a great deal of effort to work toward a life of sobriety, and maintaining it also requires energy.
Signs of addiction recovery fatigue include:
- Feelings of tiredness or exhaustion
- Irritability or agitation
- Low energy levels
- Little to no motivation
- Withdrawing from loved ones, colleagues
- Little to no interest in hobbies or other activities one usually enjoys
- Feeling lost or isolated
- Feelings of dissociation
When some experience any of the above, they can be caught off guard and start exhibiting the following:
- Not sleeping enough or sleeping too much
- Not getting adequate nutrition in their diets
- Eating foods high in sugar, fat
- Drinking too much coffee, sodas, and other caffeinated drinks
- Hanging around old places, people who could jeopardize their recovery
It is common to feel fatigued, and they are temporary feelings for many people. However, when these feelings hang around too long and go unaddressed, the situations above can take root and threaten to undo any progress that has been made.
A Few Things You Can Do to Stay Motivated in Recovery
There are things you can do to combat recovery fatigue and find motivation again to stay the course to substance-free living. Here are some tips to help:
Take Care of Yourself
We all need time to catch up to ourselves. If you need to slow down and step away for some rest and relaxation, do it. It’s OK to say you need a minute to get yourself together. Self-care is important in times of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty. When you feel overwhelmed, power down and get sufficient rest (at least seven hours of sleep each night), eat healthily, and drink water to ensure you stay hydrated.
You can take up a calming activity of your choice, including meditation or prayer. This may be a time to develop a calming routine you practice each day so that you stay centered and grounded in yourself and your well-being. It can be a routine as simple as stretching or having some tea before bed, or journaling at the start of the day each morning.
Prepare for the Post-Recovery Journey
Now that you know that recovery fatigue can creep in on you at any time, you can take steps to prepare for it. This process won’t look the same for everyone, but having one in place can get you ready to meet and overcome the challenges of your recovery journey.
You’ll know just what to do once you recognize that your motivation levels are low.
When it comes to eating, you can make sure you have healthy snacks and meals in the house to eat when you are hungry. This can help you avoid stress eating or the habit of eating the wrong foods. You can also schedule time for a walk, run, or another form of exercise to get yourself moving. Motion creates emotion, they say. If you think reaffirming thoughts as you exercise, it can give you an overall boost to keep you on track.
If you have a hobby you like to do to pass the time that helps you manage boredom or stress; you can schedule that into your day. You can also manage any triggers or triggering situations with a schedule made beforehand. Triggers are important, and knowing what they are can help you avoid returning to unhealthy habits that could lead you to go back to using the substance you’ve broken free from.
Creating a daily schedule gives your day structure and helps you keep stress at a minimum because you know what to expect and how to go about getting everything done. If there are other things you can do to help you stay organized and motivated during post-treatment, commit to doing those things. You will thank yourself later.
Remember Why You Went to Rehab, and the Benefits You Wanted Out of It
You spent a lot of time breaking free from substance use that had a hold of your mind and body. You don’t want to let all the work you’ve done on yourself go to waste. You deserve to stay true to yourself and the life you have worked so hard to have.
Maybe while you’re journaling or meditating before bed, you can review in your mind why you decided to become sober and complete treatment. Make a note of those things mentally, or jot them down in your journal and read them each day to help you stay focused on what you set out to do.
Your reminders can be a list of goals you set out to reach upon achieving sobriety. It can be your resolve to live a healthier lifestyle or have more time and energy to do the things you like to do but couldn’t do because you were using substances.
Sometimes, looking back can help give us the perspective we need to make some changes if things aren’t quite going as expected.
Reach Out to Your Recovery Community
The community you became a part of during your treatment understands your unique challenges and needs, including what it’s like to return to the outside world after treatment. You can reach out to or establish a relationship with an “accountability buddy,” with whom you can check-in and express how you’re feeling. The person can be a support for you and offer ways to help you process what you’re feeling and how best to approach it. You may just need an ear, not advice.
You can also seek advice and help from recovery-focused support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), or another kind of 12-step support group. If you’d rather observe social distancing protocols in place these days because of COVID-19, you can always check out online meetings that offer ways to interact with other web users who are going through similar situations. Staying connected when motivation is low can be just the boost you need to get going again.
It’s important to stay connected to others as you face tough times. You don’t have to face them alone. Isolation is one of the worst things that can happen during recovery. This is often a vulnerable time that could end in relapse. Call a friend or reach out to the staff at the facility where you received treatment. If you need to, consider participating in outpatient treatment to reinforce the tools and strategies you learned during treatment.
Addiction Recovery Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint
As you know, there’s nothing quick about recovering from a substance use disorder. Chronic use of an addictive substance often changes how the brain functions permanently, so many people must work hard every day to apply what they have learned in treatment to their daily lives.
You are encouraged to:
- Be patient and loving with yourself. You must embrace your entire self and all parts of this experience—the good and not-so-good. It’s all valid and part of your experience. You will get through it. Take one day at a time and ask for help if and when you need it.
- Trust yourself. You know why you started this journey, and you know yourself, too. Part of trusting yourself is being honest. You don’t have to be strong. You will have good days and bad ones, but know that your desire to live sober is yours, and only you have the power to make it happen.
- Celebrate the little things. As they say, little things mean a lot, and every day is filled with moments that can keep you connected to your recovery. If you woke up on time every time and completed all the things on your “to-do” list, that’s worth celebrating. If you kept your word and did something you said you would do, that’s worth celebrating. Moments like this will remind you of your accountability to yourself and others.
Everyone’s recovery journey is different and worth documenting. It’s not perfect, but it’s not supposed to be. Go with it and grow along the way.