Addiction stunts your emotional and mental growth. This is especially true for anyone who started using at an early age. If you grew up in an alcoholic or addict home there’s a good chance that you weren’t taught much more than how to survive. Surviving is what people with addiction learn to do best. We learn to do what is necessary to feed our addictions and survive. There is a theory in psychology by Maslow that recognizes that if basic needs are not met, one cannot truly grow and develop as a person. Growing up in the household of an addict/alcoholic or starting addiction early are working examples of this theory.
Often people coming into recovery lack the life skills required to create a happy, productive and successful life. This is one of the reasons why early recovery feels so challenging. Sometimes, it seems easier to just go back to where you were comfortable, even though you were miserable. When you feel like this, it’s important to remember this is only temporary, it will pass no feeling is permanent. Change and growth are usually uncomfortable, but if you stick it out a little bit more, you’ll come out on the other side having gained confidence in yourself and your abilities to cope with life. There are even some options when getting help. There are facilities that offer life skills treatment programs.
Learning new skills takes time, and learning to apply them so that they become second nature is an ongoing process. The thing is that in the process of recovery you have to change pretty much everything about yourself, what you did, and what you will be doing now. The following are some skills that you will probably be introduced to in rehab. You will continue to learn as you go through recovery and grow as a person. Each skill empowers you to stay sober, gain peace of mind, regulate your emotions, process your feelings, create healthy relationships, achieve independence and build a future that you are proud of.
Emotional Awareness And Regulation
What does emotional regulation mean? No it does not mean stuffing your feelings so people don’t see you angry or upset. Emotional awareness and regulation simply means having the ability to name and understand the emotions you are feeling, acknowledge and process those emotions, not letting them ruin your day or control your life.
Emotions are not “good” or “bad,” they are a response to an experience or a situation. Although it may feel as if some emotions are better than others this is definitely not the case. One thing that is important to remember is that your feelings are not permanent, what you feel today is not necessarily what you will feel tomorrow. They do not reflect reality. It’s so important to learn how to feel all of your emotions. And that is a skill you will learn in recovery.
But what happens when you don’t know HOW you are feeling?
This is common for people who are in early recovery. You may only be familiar with two or three emotions: Angry, sad, happy. And, there’s a good chance you feel angry or sad more than anything else. Let’s take Anger as an example. It can mean so many different things. It might mean that you are afraid, or that you are feeling unsafe or taken advantage of. It may represent guilt or that you are ashamed. Over time, you’ll learn to pinpoint the real emotions behind those powerful feelings. You’ll learn that no matter how you’re feeling, you don’t have to allow emotions to make your decisions or rule your life.
Lack of self-care skills may have us running ourselves ragged, without taking the time to eat or sleep. Not paying attention to what we put in our bodies, stretching ourselves too thin, not saying “no” enough, letting others take advantage of us, not addressing medical care or taking preventative measures…the list goes on. No wonder we feel worn down!
Practicing self-worth is vital to recovery. Without it you leave yourself vulnerable for relapse! It leaves you feeling irritable and taken advantage off. Learning how to take care of your body, mind and spirit is one of the most important things you can do! Not only that, but when you take care of you, then you are better able to care for those around you.
Self-care takes practice. Start by surrounding yourself with people who take care of themselves. Do what they do. Take baby steps if you need to: Drink eight glasses of water today, eat a salad or take a walk. Take 30 minutes today to read a book or take a hot bath. Pick up the phone and make that dentist appointment or doctor’s appointment you’ve been avoiding making. Keep the appointment.
Social Skills: Building And Nurturing Support
Humans are social creatures. A lack of human contact and companionship can literally cause depression and physical illness. We need people.
The problem many people have in their addiction is a lack of effective communication skills, and the inability to nurture good relationships. As you learn how to open up and be more honest you will start to see that friendships are easier. You will learn how to be accountable and follow through with commitments you make. You will also learn that it’s okay to not always be right, which will help you build better, deeper friendships. Making good friends in your recovery community will help keep you sober. It also helps you avoid isolation and the depression and dissatisfaction that comes from keeping yourself separate from others.
Independent Living Skills
“Adulting” isn’t always easy — for anyone! Paying bills, going to the grocery store, dealing with landlords, employers, etc. It’s just not that fun. But, it’s necessary. And the more you do it, the better you get at it.
If you participate in 12 step programs, then you learn a little about unmanageability in step one. Sure, you come to terms with the ways that using made your life unmanageable, but you also get an idea of how a lack of life skills made your life unmanageable, too. It’s not just about the drugs or drinking! It’s about not knowing how, or not choosing, to take care of your personal business. The longer you put off paying those bills, or dealing with that landlord or boss, the more unmanageable your life becomes.
In this case, the first step is admitting that you don’t have all the answers. You aren’t born with these skills. Next, you take the time and learn the skills. Learn how to balance your budget, etc. Find people who are good at those skills and ask them for help. Take a class. Practice what you learn. You aren’t going to do it perfectly, but that’s okay, no one does. As you become more comfortable doing these things, they will become second nature to you. When your life becomes more manageable, you have less stress, you sleep better at night and you are able to enjoy life more.
Some people seem to have a natural ability to manage their time well. And then there’s the rest of us.
Time management doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but it is a skill and it can be learned. We all have the same 24 hour day to work with. We get to choose how we spend that time. Do we make sure that we get adequate sleep, devote some time to our recovery and take good care of ourselves? Do we binge watch 12 hours worth of Orange Is The New Black? Do we spend time trying to solve other people’s problems and drama so that we have no time for ourselves? We get to choose, but either way the clock is ticking.
Procrastination is something that recovering addicts seem to struggle with. Procrastination is often (but not always) a symptom of fear. If you are putting something off, ask yourself if you are afraid to do it, didn’t want to do it to begin with, or if you are spending too much time on things that are not going to help you achieve your goals. It may be time to address your fears or rethink your activities.
If this all seems overwhelming, realize that life skills is an ongoing process. We are all learning, every day. Get the basics down, and do your best. As you get more comfortable with those basics, you can learn more. You’ll make mistakes, and that’s fine. Get support! Don’t be afraid to say “Hey, I need help with this.” One day, it will be you showing someone how it’s done.
»»» Meet Rose
Rose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.