The ability to grow as a person when recovering from drugs and alcohol is one of the primary predictors of long term success in sobriety. But growth means leaving old patterns of thought and behavior behind in order to construct newer and more healthy ones. And as this happens, it’s common to feel some mental growing pains:
#1: “I’m too afraid of what will happen if I let go of what I know.” It is important to note that we don’t really know exactly what we always believe we know. This step requires faith in the sense that we need to be able to act in ways that maintain integrity and honesty with the assumption that acting on these principles will help propel us forward in our evolution. It is perfectly normal to feel fearful during this stage, however, it is how we channel this fear that makes the difference.
#2 and #3 (resistance and denial) are similar in that if we acknowledge the difficult steps that lie ahead, we may be resistant to taking the necessary steps because they are tough, and that may lead to thoughts of denial where we can rationalize the lack of necessity in actions that ought to be taken in order to facilitate growth and evolution.
#4 is typically one of recapturing a perceived loss of control. It sounds something like, “I know I need to x because I want to get to y, but I’m going to go at the pace I want to.” Exerting control will in fact provide a sense of competence and will ease the sense of chaos that is inherent in the growth process, but this is not the most effective manner in which to do so. Growth is often instigated by certain insights, and when we are fortunate enough to receive insight, we need to act lest we risk losing this valuable experience.
The final, and only productive thought in this mix is one of acceptance. It is a deep understanding that the growth process is not only valuable but absolutely essential in the quest for serenity in sobriety.