What doesn’t kill you… makes you stronger? Not necessarily. Not if you don’t learn from it. If you do what could potentially kill you, again, next time you might not be so lucky.
So many of us, people with substance-use disorder(s), thought in that cavalier way when doing risky, alcohol- or drug-fueled things. It was all in good faith! It was fun! It didn’t kill us! Until it wasn’t fun and/or until our luck ran out. Until some us did die from what that which hasn’t killed before.
Getting away with it is not what makes you stronger. What makes you stronger is resilience. According to Merriam-Webster definition, “Resilience is an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” In other words, the only way we can benefit from those things that have a potential to kill us is if we recover or adjust. And keep recovering and adjusting—always exercise the muscles of your resilience.
Winston Churchill famously said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” If we keep going, we will eventually come out (of it) – Not necessarily happier or back to normal, but truly stronger as our adversities have an enormous power to teach us lessons that can only benefit us if we don’t give in.
There were many times in my life when I thought I should just give in. I thought I couldn’t take it any more; I was enslaved to obsessive alcohol, there was no way out. But I did get sober, I made it out of hell, and when I came across a new adversity—such as the time when I was learning about my biological parents—I had the evidence that I could face my demons. I knew something about myself—what I knew was that I could survive because I have in the past. I’ve survived my substance use disorder and got sober. I was capable of recovery.
Our very self-image is changed once we get through dark times—that’s because we know that we can count on our selves. We become clearer about what we want in relationships, how we want to enrich them, make them so that they’re mutually beneficial. We get rid of toxicity—whether it’s people or places or things that cause us to falter—because now that we’ve survived our lives are that much more precious. Furthermore, our priorities in life mature —what seemed very important a year before, no longer really matters. (Someone got upset over something at Christmas? Oh well. As long as everyone is healthy, that’s all that matters.)
I believe that resilience is something that can be further strengthened by exercising it on regular basis. You can raise your threshold for dealing with frustrations and tolerating distress and discomfort by facing situations that make you uncomfortable. What are you learning from the comforts of your living room? Probably not much. Go out there in to the world and join meetings (if recovery support programs are your thing), volunteer, learn about people who have shown resiliency. Find role models.
In terms of recovery, resilience is a great way to prevent relapse. Sobriety on its own is great, but it’s even better if we have sobriety and are emotionally stabilized. Resilient people don’t need to rely on drugs or alcohol because they know they can get through their difficulties without any substances helping them cope.
But remember to always self-examine—this provides further opportunities for personal growth. Complacency often leads to self-sabotage so don’t rest on your laurels—acknowledge how you got through the last dark period, how you withstood the pain, how you kept going through hell instead going to hell. It’s important to learn from our mistakes and misfortunes—those lessons will inform our future thoughts and behaviors. I’d encourage you to even keep a learning journal where you can describe situations that prove you’re resilient. Finally, as with everything else that has to do with recovery, don’t do it all on your own. It’s good to be resilient and self-reliable, and it’s good to triumph over adversities. But don’t be a lonely hero—find others you trust to hold you accountable. Make sure that you have people around you who help you stay in your resilience and in your recovery.
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