Finding balance is the key to successful recovery. Addicts generally have a black and white perspective of the world and it can be an incredible challenging task to find the grey area or balance in any situation. Many addicts also experience a low distress tolerance, meaning stressful situations or responsibilities impact them negatively more than it would for someone else. Distress tolerance is something that addicts learn and work on continuously in recovery, and having balance is an important part of maintaining this. Balance comes in many different forms, whether it be emotional regulation, intimate relationships, or balancing life’s responsibilities – all are equally important in order to maintain long term sustainable recovery.
Addicts generally want to avoid pain and discomfort. When they are sober and cannot accomplish this through drugs, they will often avoid painful conversations and responsibilities of life. When addicts do this it only creates more stress and discomfort, which if unaddressed will eventually lead to relapse.
Most addicts have never had appropriate balance or self care in the lives. Because of this, it is important to start small and set attainable short and long-term goals for themselves.
When engaging in intimate relationships in recovery it is incredible important to set and maintain boundaries. These boundaries will look different for each person and relationship. The first step in maintaining healthy boundaries and balance in intimate relationships is opening the lines of communication, in order for both parties to feel comfortable in stating their needs. The purpose for these boundaries is to make sure the addict is not becoming obsessive about their new relationship and instead arranging time for friends, work, family, school, self-care and 12 step-programming. An appropriate boundary might look something like spending time with your significant other two times a week and checking in over the phone once a day. This is also important because the addict needs to engage in their community and reach out for support from many people who are not their spouse.
Balancing life’s responsibilities is another daunting necessity for the addict. This is where setting small attainable goals comes into play. It is important to break up all of the tasks that need to be accomplished and make a schedule of when one will have time to complete all of them. This helps build a sense of pride and accomplishment and also allows the addicts to take things day by day instead of getting overwhelmed. The individual can also set goals for bigger tasks such as going back to school. An example of this is “by the end of this week I am going to call three schools and inquire about their programs”. Breaking big things down into small easy tasks make them feel more doable, so the addict is less likely to avoid them.
Emotional regulation and self care are also large parts of long term sustainable recovery. Addicts in sobriety need to make sure they are taking time to check in with themselves throughout the day, implementing self-soothing skills when necessary. Making time for activities like yoga or hiking is a great way to practice self care and remain regulated. Finding a counselor the addict connects with, and making time for this throughout the month, also assists in regulation.
Finding balance in all areas of life is necessary because when one area is unbalanced its impacts all of the rest of them. Addicts tend to be drawn to chaos, however this is incredibly dangerous, because with chaos come the pain, shame, and lack of responsibility that leads people to relapse. Having a plan for balance whether its written, verbal, or you have shared it with a close friend or family member for accountability will be exponentially helpful in finding joy and peace in recovery.