RUTA STERNBERGS, Ed. D., Psy. D., CADC-II
What is compassion in recovery?
The dictionary defines compassion as the “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.” In recovery, it is the extension of that same empathy and concern towards oneself, which means treating oneself with the same level of kindness and respect that one would show others in their time of need. As individuals come out of their drug and alcohol addiction and realize the full impact of their past mistakes, it’s tempting for them to feel guilt and shame for the harm they have caused others while they were addicted. Compassion in recovery, a vital skill that people learn in dual diagnosis treatment, helps promote healing by removing obstacles of shame and guilt that often cripple an individual’s progress to full recovery.
Where does self-compassion come from if you’ve never had it in the first place?
Many who enter the dark world of drug and alcohol addiction already experience feelings of low self-esteem, depression, and hopelessness. The concept of self-compassion is far from everyone’s mind as they try to drown their sorrows in short-lived highs that will help them escape their misery, if only for a moment. Suffice it to say that learning how to have compassion in recovery is essential for everyone who seeks addiction treatment and this is usually achieved by practicing mindfulness, a holistic therapeutic technique utilized in dual diagnosis treatment. Mindful meditation is an evidence-based practice that has been proven effective in helping individuals with substance use disorders reduce negative thought patterns while increasing the capacity for self-care and self-compassion.
Perspectives to keep in mind during recovery from addiction
Hindsight is 20/20, so forgive yourself for what you didn’t know. Most people don’t fully realize the impact of their decisions, especially during various stages of addiction, until it’s too late. The intoxication of addiction clouds your ability to make good decisions or understand the long-range consequences of poor decisions, and the longer you’ve been addicted, the harder it is to face those consequences after the fog has been cleared. Now, thanks to healing and recovery, you can use what you know now to rebuild a better future. Your resilience will be an inspiration to many others who are still in the quagmire of substance use.
Let your recovery be the point of no return. You have worked this hard to reach a successful point in your recovery. Your humble beginnings before addiction treatment – how you became addicted, how long you struggled to get out of it, and the endless hours of work you put into recovery – will serve as a reminder not to relapse but to motivate you towards pulling others out of their addiction. Don’t forget how far you have come, because your success and survival depend on it.
Accept that you are human and you make mistakes. The mistakes you made back then did not make you a “worse” human being today. The fact that you have sought or have accepted treatment for drug and alcohol addiction means that you have taken the right course of action to rectify your situation. You are moving forward, not backward. Don’t let others constantly drag you down in guilt and shame, holding something against you that you can’t take back. Rather, accept that you made them and that you intend to make amends to everyone whom you’ve hurt. Moving forward, you have learned the skills of reconciliation that you didn’t have prior to treatment. This means you are better equipped today at handling conflict or stress than you were before addiction. Give yourself props for that and know that you will keep growing as long as you stay on the course of recovery.
Vulnerability breeds vulnerability. Addiction is the opposite of connection, and vulnerability is the antithesis of alienation. Allow yourself to be open and transparent with others about your own journey from addiction to recovery. Oftentimes, vulnerability will open up opportunities for others to have compassion on you as you are still learning how to nourish your own spirit. Moreover, you never know whom you are helping when you are real with your weaknesses. Vulnerability enables people to have compassion for themselves and deepens interpersonal relationships. It provides opportunities for mutual trust and edification.
Leave judgment at the door. Set boundaries for yourself. Is there anyone who tends to make judgmental comments? If you feel that this person will be more detrimental than favorable to your well-being, create distance through communication and time. Communicate what is hurting you and don’t allow them to talk negatively toward you in a condescending manner. If they don’t adjust, then limit how much time you will spend with this person until they agree to change their behavior. Don’t forget your own judgmental voice; as the saying goes, we are our own worst critics. When you hear negative self-talk in your mind at any point during the day or night, silence the negativity by putting into practice what you learned in mindful meditation.
Hope you enjoyed her article as much as I did. Leave me a comment below. I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas.
As always, remember to take real good care of yourself!
50% Complete... You're Almost There!
You'll also receive free weekly updates, new blog posts, discounts and more!
(We'll never give away your email address.)