recovery

Resilience

Resilience: an individual’s capacity to recover quickly from change, illness, or misfortune. In human terms, it’s a property that gives us the ability to return to healthy form after an event or occurrence, which could otherwise have a negative impact on us.

 

 “But resilience following what?” Survivors of disasters, attacks, or life-changing accidents have proved they are resilient. “Do I have an understanding of this?” If starting again in life, after events and experiences have altered its path, can make a person resilient, and so perhaps we too have something positive to share on the topic of resilience.

Still, on the path to recovery, other words seemed to come to understanding more easily: persistence, faith, or hope. To an extent an active alcoholic or addict has resilience, getting up to face the world and move forward through the fog of a hangover, or coming down, shows a kind of resilience. Healthy or otherwise, that’s for you to decide.

In recovery, however, resilience as a concept does ring true. The first steps we take after stopping drinking demand resilience—the intent to put down the drink or the drug, and even if faltering, to show the capacity to change, adapt, and grow. Whether we understand that or not, when we stop drinking that is the journey we embark upon.

 

This change can also make resilience a strange concept as in my own experience, the way that stopping drinking works is by coming into contact or understanding with something greater than you. Hope, faith, and connection to other people and to the universe come into your life and replace the godhead that substances have become. Swapping a false god for a real one if you will. This is not to say the god of a defined religion, for many it is the wind, sea, earth, people, animals, thoughts, emotions, in short: the universe. We feel more connected to everything when we are not drinking. Not all of the time, sometimes it can be quite the opposite. There are times when friends and colleagues are all drinking and going on nights out that you can feel fully excluded from a situation. Loneliness is not a foreign concept in recovery, but neither is it when drinking.

People can also become enmeshed by the minutiae of everyday life, a crossword at work, a misunderstanding between friends—life can often feel overwhelming. However, I do not drink every Friday night. I don’t drink when I feel sad, or when happy; when a friend is going away, or when they are coming home. It is no longer the full stop to mark every little occurrence in my life. And so, perhaps, underneath all the other emotions, resilience has been playing a larger part in my daily life than I’ve previously given it credit for.

 

I think that resilience in recovery comes from within you; it is not something that you set out to develop, rather it is something that develops as a result of basic actions and changes in the way you live and through accepting that life is going to be different.

I believe that to be fully resilient we must have a core shape to return to—a true form. Sobriety has given me the chance to find myself—I am not there entirely, but I am on the way.

 

There are some factors that I have wittingly (or unwittingly) developed, or used, to help live life in sobriety:

  1. Supportive and loving relationships, and both receiving and giving within them. It’s not only taking support and receiving love, but loving and supporting others that helps us to work towards equilibrium in our lives.
  2. The ability to see life’s ups and downs as things to learn from and build upon positively. One of the hardest situations I encountered, not only in sobriety, is the dissolution of a relationship. I lived through it while at times feeling as if I would not. Life is full of ups and downs that give all of us an opportunity (welcome or not) to grow, to become more than we were previously.
  3. Change and growth. We learn the most and become greater when we are challenged. Again, this is not always easy to keep in the forefront of your mind, but through every challenge or issue, whether we wish to or not, we learn more about the world and ourselves.
  4. Gratitude helps develop resilience. Much of life is coloured by our own perception of it, and so, to an extent, we can foster more goodwill in the world when we approach things with a positive outlook.

 

It is through this process of consumption and defeat, of acknowledge powerlessness, ceasing to fight, and discovering acceptance.  That time and again, we become aware of a strength, greater than anything we had previously imagined or experienced. This, to me, is what makes us resilient—the acknowledgment that things will not always be okay; that we cannot always cope, but that if we keep on going, one day at a time, things will be okay once more.

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