It seems like life has taken so many turns in the past few years. From horrendous shootings, to overdose deaths, from having it all to losing everything. Heartbreak can seem like it lies around every corner. And if we look for it, it does.
In the face of tragedy, it is very often difficult to maintain our sobriety. A flood of emotions overcome us and we reach for the first thing that will numb the pain. However, relapse can be prevented even in the face of the worst tragedies. Remember that a relapse will do nothing but add more tragedy to the situation. And never forget that no matter who you are, there are people around you who do care and are willing to help you. The following is a list of five steps that will not only help you stay sober through a tragedy, but help you strengthen your own recovery and pass it along to others.
1. Reach out. Don’t isolate.
When we face tragedy, loss or grief, we often hold those feelings inside of us. We think that we must handle our emotions on our own as we don’t feel others will listen, or we simply do not feel that we can burden them with our struggles. The truth is that we are relational people, and we work through the most difficult of life’s tragedies by sharing with others. In the recovery community, we have a strong support network in our 12-step support groups. AA, NA, and other groups are the backbone of our support network. Here, you may share with others and ask for personal support. Your sponsor is there to walk you through the most difficult emotions and provide accountability in our recovery. Additionally, a professional counselor may be helpful, especially if relapse or suicidal thoughts are present. These are dangerous situations that should be handled with professional help.
In most cases however, reaching out to any trusted friend or mentor will help you ease the daily burdens you carry after a life tragedy. A friend can provide comfort through listening ears and help maintain focus when making decisions seems difficult. Regardless of who you share with, it is simply most important that you don’t isolate yourself from others or internalize your struggles. Be very honest with those around you that you are struggling. Internalizing, or holding in your emotions is one of the quickest ways to become restless, irritable, or discontent and ultimately, leads to relapse.
2. Take time to grieve loss.
As addicts and alcoholics, we have a long history of avoiding painful emotions. We numb ourselves to stop the pain but when tragedy strikes, pain is unavoidable. At that point its important to remember that its okay to feel the pain. Its okay to turn to a trusted friend and say, “I am not okay. I need to talk.”
In this world of tragedy, we will all hurt. We will all grieve loss. We will face disappointment. Deciding to work through the pain instead of avoiding or numbing the pain will not only help us stay sober, but will help us reach a new level in our own recovery. We will grow in our own strength and even our ability to help others.
Its okay to feel. Its okay to hurt. Its okay to be not okay.
3. Maintain your normal daily routine.
When tragedy strikes and our lives turn to chaos, its very important to avoid panic. Keeping to a normal routine will provide a sense of comfort and reassurance that all will be okay. In early recovery, many of us were told to rise out of bed every morning and make our bed. Every day we get up at the same time, and start with order and consistency. No matter what happens in life, we get up every morning and make our bed before going about our day.
Maintaining a normal schedule will help quickly restore order after a tragedy disrupts our lives. A regular schedule will help comfort and reassure you that life will once again return to normal. Be sure to continue attending regular meetings, and perhaps even add more to your schedule as the need arises.
4. Create peace through prayer, meditation, and journaling.
As participants of a 12-step group, we’re encouraged to seek a higher power as a spiritual basis for life. This higher power is the one who maintains control beyond us. In times of tragedy, we ask our higher power for help and speak our pain openly. We pray for ourselves and others who are affected by the tragedy. We seek the calm and comfort that a higher power provides during difficult times.
Meditation is a very simple way to produce calm among the chaos. Simply focusing your mind on the principles of recovery or your higher power will produce peace within you. There are various different methods when it comes to meditation, but any simple Google search will help you learn methods of meditation that work for you. One such example of meditation for beginners can be found on www.zenhabits.net.
Journaling is a process of writing thoughts and feelings down on paper. Many will argue that good old fashioned pen and paper is best, while others see fit to journal on their laptop or other device. No matter what your feeling on it however, journaling provides an outlet to express conflicted emotions and greatly helps you organize your thoughts. As you go through similar experiences in the future, you can look back at old journal entries to encourage you and keep you on track for healing.
Prayer, meditation, and journaling are all designed to help you connect with your higher power, process through tragedy, and set you on a path to healing and growth through the incident. Ask your sponsor, therapist, or clergyperson for even more direction and helpful hints in your own journey.
5. Get involved and help others.
The 12th step provides for our long-term recovery through helping others. Just as we recover from an addiction by helping others who still struggle, we can heal from trauma by helping others experiencing trauma. If you were directly affected by a natural disaster, you may seek to volunteer at a local shelter or through the Red Cross. If you lost a loved one to addiction or overdose, find a place to volunteer where you can help save the lives of others.
Ask for help from others.
No tragedy ever needs to be cause for relapse. No matter how large the tragedy, there is always hope and help. If you are struggling to maintain your recovery through tragedy or if tragedy has struck and you need help with an addiction, please contact us. We offer caring, compassionate counselors who will help you find the resources you need to recover, and stay in recovery. We’re here to help you on this journey. Please contact us today.