“I can’t take this anymore” is a thought that is familiar to many people with substance-use disorder. The “this” can be the obsession itself, life circumstances (poverty, illness, homelessness), the lack of hope… the inability to control the addiction, to quit. Some of us attempt to take our own lives because we feel like we have no options left and no matter what things just can’t seem to get better.
The good news is that we are all capable of resilience, which has been defined as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors.”
Resilience doesn’t mean getting used to difficult circumstances to the point where we no longer want to improve our lives—to me, resilience is more of a “waiting room,” a state of being that will allow you to survive and get to the point where the possibility of change seems possible. Resilience doesn’t mean avoidance—it is not ignoring our circumstances or pretending that everything is just fine. Resilience can be—and often is—full of pain and challenges. A child living through a traumatic experience, such as neglect, has no choice but to develop resilience to survive and one day be free. A person who is jailed has no choice but to develop resilience to survive in order to hopefully one day regain freedom. And a person with substance use disorder also has to be become resilient to survive while in the active addiction, but also after getting sober and free. Resilience is not a personality trait—we develop it to protect ourselves whether we want it or not. And we are all capable of it.
The important thing to remember with addiction is that for many of us, the more resilient we are, the more chances of surviving we have. It doesn’t matter if our road to recovery is peppered with relapses and false starts—as long as we keep trying, we have a chance of succeeding. Resilience is what happens when we keep trying. I know people with substance use disorder who no longer believe that they have the capacity for recovery and who feel that they can no longer try. I don’t think there’s greater tragedy than a person giving up on herself. And, of course, there have been so many of us who have died from addiction despite our best efforts to beat it.
I always want to pass on a positive message. For me, being constantly aware of Reality and staying in the Now is what’s keeping me sober. I am interested in my past and I am invested in my future, but I know that I can only adhere to what’s literally in front of me in order to survive. That’s how I stay resilient. I stay realistic. I’ve heard others share how they manage to stay strong by simply giving themselves one more hour, or a day, or a month—just one more increment of sobriety before giving into the craving. And then once they get to that one more hour, or a day, or even the month, the next day somehow becomes possible to handle. And then they just keep going. With that kind of proof it becomes harder to quit trying—even in the face of a relapse. And many of us realize the real power of our resilience, many of us realize that we are doing the impossible—we are surviving. Despite all the odds.
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