Once you enter recovery from addiction, you are going to come face to face with the time you feel you’ve lost, or that your illness took away from you. Not only does this time lost affect you, but it was time your loved ones also had taken away. The guilt that comes with the realization that you can’t get that lost time back, regardless of your endless hard work in recovery, can be frustrating. As you ease back into your life the way you want to live it without substance use disorder getting in the way, there are important factors to keep in mind as you try to make up for lost time.
Much like substance use robbed you of time in the past, regret can have much of the same effect. Dwelling on the things you didn’t do or should have done won’t have a positive impact on your future in recovery. In fact, looking back with shame or guild can be a significant relapse trigger in many people, and bring about feelings of uselessness and hopelessness. You can’t turn back the hands of time, but you can make the most of the time to come. Spending time wallowing in regret should be the time you’re using to get busy with moving on with your life. The worst you can possibly do is add more time “wasted” by blaming yourself for things in your past that you cannot change. Any time you feel regret creeping in, remind yourself of how far you’ve come and the goal-setting you’ve put in place to help you reach places and heights you still intend to reach.
Set a Pace
Now that you’re in recovery, it’s crucial to not get ahead of yourself when trying to compensate for all of the time you felt you’ve lost and make amends with people you felt you’ve let down. This also applies to entering the workforce or going back to school, as well. Taking on an overwhelming workload both physically, emotionally, and mentally, can potentially backfire. Becoming stressed out with extracurricular things that take focus away from your ongoing work in recovery may leave you feeling drained. There’s nothing wrong with working hard to get to a good place once you’ve overcome addiction, but pace yourself, so you don’t crash and burn from being overloaded.
Clean the Slate
Sometimes it’s impossible to completely remove reminders of substance use disorder from your life when in recovery. It could be a person, a place, a smell; triggers come in many different forms. In order to move forward and make the best of your time in the future, it’s time to look beyond what you have at hand that may not be serving you. This means that sometimes, difficult decisions must be made. A well-know “rule of recovery” is to change your people, places and things. Going back to how things were may not be best for you, and maintaining relationships with certain people may be harmful to your recovery. It’s possible you may want to look into moving or ending friendships or old behaviors that are not serving you. Once sobriety allows you to see these things more clearly, the aspects of your life that you need to wipe clean will become very obvious.
Commit to Long-Term
Through treatment and early recovery, the goal is usually to get through the day, every day, for quite some time as you build yourself back up and heal. Eventually, once you’ve gotten the wheels in motion, it’s time to start looking into doing things that will benefit you in the long-run even if the commitment seems like it’s more than you’re used to. There’s no better way to feel like you’re offsetting the time you’ve wasted than doing something that will springboard you forward. For some, this may mean going to school and pursuing a degree or certification that will help them to get a new job or start down a whole new career path. For others, it’s mastering a hobby or talent they feel they neglected and lost interest in while battling substance use disorder. Whatever it is that you’ve “always dreamed of,” it may not be as out-of-reach as you think. There is no longer an age-limit to pursuing something new, in fact, many people who go on to achieve their goals later in life often hold the focus and determination that younger folks seem to lack early on. Getting a second chance to chase a dream can give your life new meaning, along with long-lasting sobriety as a motivation.
Much like setting a pace, it’s very easy to forget to stay grounded and live in the moment. Recovery frees up a lot of time and mental capacity to fill your life up with responsibilities, hobbies, relationships, and other things that you plan around, but don’t forget to stop and smell the roses and remember to enjoy the moment. You aren’t just doing these things to go through the motions and check something off your list; you are doing these things because you are enjoying them and you want to live in the experience. In fact, not living in the moment is dangerously similar to how substance use was not allowing your brain to be present and really aware. Soak in the sounds, the smells, the tastes, the laughs, and hard work that you put into all you’re the activities you do, remember that you are allowed to enjoy everything you do, and you should!
We may not be able to build a time machine to take our sober selves back to a time when substance use was taking control over our lives, but there is still hope for making the best of recovery. Looking into the future and investing time and effort into the moments you have right now is the best way to overcome the feelings of regret and resentment for things that happened, or didn’t happen, in the past. By focusing on these key steps, making up for lost time will keep you propelled forward and consistently improving while enjoying your journey toward long-lasting recovery for life.