recovery rut

How to Escape a Recovery Rut

Published on April 20, 2020 by First Responder Wellness

It’s not uncommon to find yourself stuck in a rut at some point in addiction recovery. This can happen at various times, and for various reasons, but one common sticking place is after about nine or 10 months of sobriety. At first, recovery is a lot of work, but you also see a lot of progress. When you enter treatment, you will probably feel like things might really change for you, even if that change is hard. You may continue to enjoy a lot of support after you leave and you will likely remain focused on staying sober for the first several months. 


However, at a certain point, progress slows down, sobriety isn’t quite as challenging as it used to be, and you may feel a bit bored with your recovery routine. This is often when people start feeling complacent. You may start cutting corners because you feel like you have this recovery thing under control. Maybe you stop going to meetings — or you go, but you don’t participate. Maybe you start skipping other things like exercise or getting enough sleep. 


Eventually, this will catch up to you. Your mood will suffer, you’ll start thinking about the good times you had when you were drinking or using drugs, while forgetting about the bad times, and before you know it, your recovery is in serious danger. If you feel like you’re stuck in a recovery rut, here are some tips to get back on track.


Reach Out

One of the normal reflexes, when you start to feel your mental state take a turn for the worse, is to isolate yourself. Unfortunately, this is the last thing you should do. Instead, when you’re feeling unmotivated, negative, doubtful, or restless, reach out to someone you trust. It could be a friend, relative, sponsor, therapist, or 12-Step group. In fact, one of the first signs of emotional relapse (which is the first step toward full relapse) is to stop going to meetings or to stop sharing at meetings. Talking about your difficulties with recovery — including boredom and doubt — is what meetings are for, so lean into it. 


Part of the reason social support is so important for recovery is that motivation goes up and down. When it’s down, having positive people around you can help keep you going in the right direction. Make use of your support system. Pushing people away will only make you feel worse.


Get Back to Your Recovery Plan

As noted above, when you start feeling complacent about recovery, you may start neglecting parts of your recovery plan. You feel like you have better things to do and recovery seems to be going well, so why not free up some extra time? This kind of thinking is like when someone with a mental health issue decides that since he’s been feeling pretty good lately, he can stop taking his medication. The medication is a big part of why he was feeling good, and sticking to your recovery plan is why recovery feels pretty easy. 


If you feel yourself slipping, have a look at your plan. You may have drifted farther away from it than you realized. Take a couple of weeks and get back to basics. Go to meetings and share, get enough sleep, exercise, eat healthily, do your prayer or meditation, spend time with friends, and so on. You can only let self-care slide for so long before you start feeling stressed, anxious, and tired. 


Find a New Challenge

If you’re sticking to your recovery plan and you’re still in the doldrums, you might be ready for a new challenge. Recovery from addiction is not meant to be your full-time occupation forever; it’s supposed to be the thing that allows you to do what you want in life. If you’re bored, it may be time to take on something new. You might start a new hobby or take on more responsibility at work. 


Look for something fun or meaningful. A new interest or project can give you a sense of purpose, which is great for recovery. The only caveat is that you probably shouldn’t take on something too big in your first year. You might get stressed or overwhelmed, which adds to your problems. For example, this might not be the time to move across the country or get involved in a new romantic relationship. Start with smaller challenges like learning a new language or trying Brazillian Jiu-jitsu. There will always be time for bigger things later.


Engage With Recovery in a New Way

Like everything else in life, your recovery experience changes with time. If you keep relating to it in one specific way, it will probably get stale. Think of this way: Imagine you’re lost in the wilderness, hungry, sick, and exhausted. You finally stumble into a village and collapse in the middle of the road. Some kind villagers take you in and nurse you back to health. You like the village, so you decide to stay. However, you can’t be the convalescent forever. At some point, you have to find a new role in the community. Recovery is not so different. At some point, you don’t need as much help and support, but you still need to find a way to be engaged in the community. That might mean volunteering in some capacity, even if it’s just helping with meetings in some small way or ensuring new people feel welcome. 


Look for Inspiration

It’s easy to get stuck in the mindset of avoiding drugs and alcohol, but at a certain point, that begins to feel stale. There’s only so far you can take it. One thing that might help is to look to others for inspiration. There are probably some people in your 12-Step group who have done some pretty impressive things in life, despite their substance use issues. There are also quite a few powerful memoirs involving addiction and recovery. Not only can these show you what’s possible for the future, but they can also remind you how bad active addiction was. If your recovery feels a bit flat, pick up a good memoir and let it fire your imagination.


Safeguard your progress and avoid the recovery rut! The First Responders Treatment Program at Simple Recovery uses trauma-informed strategies to cater to the unique needs of law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics, and other first responders with substance use disorders and co-occurring mental illnesses. We recognize that first responders encounter job-specific barriers and obstacles that come with the culture of their careers, and that existing stigma may make seeking help for addiction and mental health issues especially difficult. Addiction does not have to mean the end of your career or a lifetime of struggling with your health and relationships.

By taking a holistic approach to treatment and addressing the underlying causes of addiction, Simple Recovery makes it possible for first responders to regain control of every aspect of their wellbeing. First responders dedicate their lives to protecting their communities, and at Simple Recovery’s First Responder Treatment Program, we believe in dedicating our time and expertise to helping these compassionate individuals find a path to lasting sobriety and mental wellness. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, call us now at 888-743-0490.