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Clean Living with Emily

By: Emily Guarnotta

Emily Guarnotta holds a Psy.D. Her most recent work was her dissertation, “A Comparison of Abstinence and Perceived Self-efficacy for Individuals Attending SMART Recovery and Alcoholics Anonymous.”

In early recovery, easy does it

(not rated)

Mar 31, 2015

In the story of the tortoise and the hare, the slow-moving tortoise wins the race against the quick and overly confident hare by pacing himself, proving that speed does not always lead to success. This age-old story has parallels to addiction recovery and shows the value in taking time to get from where you are to where you want to be.

In 12 step groups there is talk of the “pink cloud,” which is often used as a negative term to refer to the high-on-life mindset that some people get in early recovery. For many, along with the pink cloud also comes renewed feelings of passion, excitement, and confidence, sort of an “I can take on the world” type of feeling. This boost of confidence is well-deserved, but can also be risky.

What can happen when you take on too much too fast, especially in early recovery? One of the dangers is falling victim to perfectionism. This involves setting unrealistic standards, being overly critical of any setbacks, and going to extreme measures to avoid mistakes. In fact perfectionism is fairly common among drug and alcohol users and can sneak up without warning.

One of the most common phenomena in recovery is trading one addiction for another. The recovering drinker might develop an eating disorder, or the recovering drug user might stay away from drugs but turn to sex and relationships. The less obvious trade is setting unrealistic standards. The perfectionist tries to take on too much too quickly, setting him or herself up for failure. Like the active user, the perfectionist is using outside means to avoid facing life. Not to mention it also usually leads to burn out.

Fear of falling into perfectionism, developing another addiction, or burn out should not keep you from setting expectations for yourself and striving to achieve them. The goal is to do this while maintaining balance, something that was likely foreign during active addiction. Now that you are sober you want to avoid the trap of having your life revolve around any one thing.

The first step is taking time to think about all of the things you hope to accomplish in recovery. What relationships do you want to mend? What changes do you want to see in your work or school life? How do you want to improve your health? What about your finances?

Now prioritize your list, deciding which ones are most valuable or pressing. For a lot of people mending relationships that were strained during while using will be at the top of the list. Keep in mind that it might have taken years to tear those relationships apart, and by the same token will take time to repair them.

There is nothing wrong with reveling in the pink cloud of recovery. However, it is important to remember to set realistic goals, pace yourself, and enjoy the journey. Remember – “slow and steady wins the race.”



Conquering the hurdles of early recovery

Resilience and working through

Gaining power by admitting powerlessness


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