“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” – George Bernard Shaw
Let’s Be Reasonable
The confusing influence of addiction is often referred to as “cunning, baffling, and powerful.” It distorts insight into the illness, decreases judgment, and twists expectations about life in recovery. Setting reasonable expectations means wrestling with the uncontrollable, the doubtful, and the difficult. I can’t always control, fix, or bend the uncertainties of life to meet my desires. And I must face the limitations of my own abilities. Accepting the unreasonable, tolerating the undesirable, and enduring the disagreeable makes me stronger. Yet, this is a difficult pill to swallow. Overwhelmed and flooded in the painful wake of addiction, most people unwittingly blend hope with wishful thinking thus creating several distorted myths and fantasies about treatment and recovery.
Unrealistic Expectations in Treatment and Recovery
Myth 1. Treatment is quick, free, and easy.
It is realistic to expect treatment to be inconvenient, occasionally frustrating, time consuming, and expensive. Coming to terms with this will help you tolerate the troublesome moments as they come.
Myth 2. People will understand me and accept my condition.
There is certainly a desire to be treated in a non-judgmental fashion, but it doesn’t always happen. Many people will view your struggle through their own life filter. If they have never struggled with a substance use disorder or a mental illness, they may have little understanding of yours. If they achieved long-term recovery by following some simple suggestion, they might expect your recovery journey to be the same.
Myth 3. Everyone will like me.
Actually, I’ve seen the opposite. Because of a long trail of negative consequences such as failed relationships, job loss, financial problems, lost opportunities, medical problems, wasted money, self-centered living and legal troubles, family and friends are sometimes fed up, reactive, mistrusting, and angry. Bear with their disappointment, rebuild relationships where you can, and demonstrate with actions you are a different person.
Myth 4. Recovery will be pain-free. Some people might think that once the difficult decision to get sober was made, the rest of recovery should go smooth. Deciding to quit was the hard part. No not really. Recovery is often difficult, filled with withdrawal effects, cravings, temptations, loss of motivation, and punctuated with periods of apathy, worry, despair, and depression.
Myth 5. Successful recovery means making consistent and constant progress.
Both treatment and recovery are typically filled with ups and downs. Resist getting discouraged when you slip and fall. Use these setbacks to add to your knowledge, increase your determination, and strengthen your resolve.
Developing Realistic Expectations
Setting realistic expectations means I am willing to accept responsibility for my own character, disposition, and actions. I am willing to be accountable to others. And as I move forward, I am willing to work toward a desirable recovery and a better life.
- Make a solid commitment to spot your own ultra-high expectations, perfectionistic demands, and critical judgments of yourself.
- Admit to your faults and shortcomings without blaming someone for your character deficiencies and your poor decisions.
- Work to improve your character, attitude, and disposition, not just your level of performance. Aim for progress not perfection.
- Be careful in comparing yourself to others or seeing yourself as superior. Don’t disrespect, belittle, or find fault with others to level the playing field. Your worth doesn’t go up by devaluing others. You are valuable and worthwhile regardless of their standing.
- Set expectations in the middle. Don’t become apathetic, lazy, or irresponsible and don’t swing to the other side having unrealistically high expectations for yourself and others. Be gracious and forgiving.
Understanding the seductive nature of these myths allows us to establish clear expectations for yourself and for your partners in recovery. Get stronger, take credit for progress made, and endure the difficulties as they arise. Accepting the past, and facing the reality of the present, enables you to positively change your future.
Recovery is a journey. Enjoy the ride!