Moments of Clarity in Recovery

Moments of Clarity in Recovery

Published on September 24, 2020 by First Responder Wellness

Choosing a life of recovery entails personal growth, self-reflection, and atonement to relieve the weight of guilt and shame. The path forward can be painful, yet fulfilling. Working towards a sober lifestyle requires sacrifice, but can yield moments of clarity which reaffirm the decision to live free of alcohol and/or substance use.

First responders who have stayed sober for extended periods of time are privy to the mental health benefits of experiencing peace of mind. Any long-tenured recovery alumni can also attest that these moments of clarity — feeling content in sobriety and life in general — often lack in their portability.

This is to say, unfortunately, you can’t necessarily take them with you. Given the impermanence of contentment, many are left chasing the feeling. It is important to keep in mind that it is not the pursuit of clarity which leads to clarity itself, but rather our commitment to living in a harmonious way with ourselves.

Recognizing the validity of our feelings, thoughts, and emotions allows an individual in recovery to honor and empower themselves. In many ways, the journey back to this place of wholeness lies in one’s ability to listen inward.

All Is Well. Then What?

A moment of clarity can be a double-edged sword. While the feeling of epiphany can provide a cathartic sense of healing, the experience of feeling contentment can lead to experiencing the pink cloud effect. Commonly experienced early on in one’s sobriety, the pink cloud effect describes a carefree euphoria associated with the joy of sobriety — however, this sensation can occur after years of leading a sober lifestyle as well.

Experiencing a sense of purpose and self-assurance is a great place to reach in one’s recovery. But after this confidence fades, individuals in recovery can begin to wonder why they lost their sobriety mojo. This can result in the pursuit of feeling accomplished, rather than recognizing the strategies which led to reaching that high point of validation in the first place.

Chasing an emotional state can be particularly risky for those in recovery, as alcohol and/or substance use can be viewed as a shortcut to suppressing any doubt and uncertainty one is feeling. First responders are particularly prone to extended bouts of anxiety and depression. These episodes can go unnoticed as first response work often causes individuals coping with depression to suppress the symptoms in order to conduct themselves at work.

Manic-depressive tendencies entail feelings of intense, positive moods, followed by immersive pools of negativity. The extreme shifts from high to low can be destabilizing, making it difficult to overcome disbelief in oneself, while also complicating the ability to trust self-assurance.

First responders — and anyone in recovery — must try to remember that depressive feelings will pass with time and treatment, just as elated moments are no guarantee of future mental appeasement.

Don’t Ride Too High, and Stay Level-Headed in the Lows

Alumni have probably heard the axiom, “don’t get too high on the highs, and don’t get too low on the lows.” A healthy mindset can center around recognizing that a recovering alcoholic and/or substance user’s perspective is determined by a combination of reactions within one’s brain chemistry.

That is not to say that individuals are powerless to their feelings, but acknowledging that the scope of control is limited makes the effort necessary to manage mental health a bit less overwhelming. First responders often experience elevated mood swings, particularly after extended on-call shifts.

The reliance on adrenaline jump-starts a series of emotional responses that can be manic in the heat of first response action, but depressive once a shift has ended. Lacking control over these fluctuations, first responders may look to alcohol and/or substances as a means to exercise control over their emotions for a brief period of time.

For some, using manifests in subdued emotional expression, while others tap into emotions that may seem less accessible in sobriety. Still, relinquishing the desire to ascertain greater control will help those in recovery to accept and focus on the little things within their agency.

Instead of trying to do too much — and ultimately disappointing one’s lofty expectations for their own control — those who can realistically identify strategies for managing their emotional highs and lows are likely to be more successful in recovery.

How Can Expectations for Mental Clarity Be Managed?

When trying to manage expectations of mental health, observing your own behavior without ascribing judgment is the first step towards making a change. This allows individuals in recovery to mark patterns in their behavior: how does work affect my mood, what events trigger a bout of depressive tendencies, do my thoughts of using follow a particular feeling, and so on. Taking the time to self-reflect sets up healthy realizations that allow for clarity, growth, and sustained strength in recovery.

Nothing about being on the front lines as a first responder guarantees peace of mind. While these real-life heroes prepare themselves for the most dire of situations, the mental and physical scars of trauma show with time. Anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder often emerge in first responders, due to increased exposure to harrowing experiences. Glimpsing a semblance of mental clarity provides hope for the future, allowing individuals to gain valuable insight about staying mindful throughout their recovery. The mental health programs of True Recovery First Responder Wellness are specifically designed around the needs and experiences of first responders. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, we are here to help. To learn more, please contact our staff 24/7 or call True Recovery at (888) 743-0490.