The importance of rest in recovery

By doing a quick google search, a handful of recovery resources outline 4-6 distinct stages of recovery. Every resource is different, but they usually include similar ideas.

The stages usually include:

A (pre)contemplation phase - The stage where you're questioning your drinking habits, weighing out the pros and cons of drinking, and contemplating quitting.

An abstinence/action phase - This is when you do decide to quit and become abstinent from the substance you chose. This is characterized by early recovery and typically includes withdrawals, cravings, and temptations.

The honeymoon/growth phase - Still in early recovery, this phase brings empowerment and motivation to defeat negative patterns and adopt a healthier lifestyle.

The maintenance/wall phase - The maintenance phase happens after the honeymoon phase, where you're tasked with maintaining the healthy coping skills you've learned in recovery. Some resources also refer to this as "hitting the wall" after the honeymoon phase, as some feel disheartened by the work that's needed to maintain sobriety.

Of course, each resource label each stage differently, but most acknowledge that they don't always happen in chronological order. Of course, these phases are simple and straightforward and cannot offer more than a snapshot of what you might experience in recovery. Nonetheless, many recovery centers consider these the basic stages of recovery.

I'm obviously not a professional in the field by any means, so I can only speak from my own experience. For the most part, I'd say the phases are pretty close to what I've experienced. However, my timeline throughout each stage is much different than what's suggested.

Currently, I'd consider myself in the maintenance phase. However, I resonate more with the feeling of "hitting a wall" in recovery. I just celebrated my one year soberversary on July 5th, and I can admit that I need a break.

I've hit many walls along my recovery, but the first one I hit was when I was about nine months sober when I wrote the blog post "When the Sober 'Honeymoon Phase' is Over." Since then, I've continued to climb these walls, but it got to a point where I just needed to listen to myself and rest.

I've done a LOT of hard work throughout my sobriety up to this point. It's all very heavy and emotionally taxing. Healing is hard. Some of the things I've been done/am working on, are:

  • Adopting healthy coping skills while changing positive associations to alcohol

  • Learning how to validate my feelings and how to sit with the hard ones

  • I made apologies and amends with those that I've wronged

  • I worked through resentment, and vocalized my previous unspoken hurt with loved ones

  • Recognizing codependent tendencies, and allowing myself to relinquish control and perfectionism

A lot of what is on that list is an ongoing effort, because learned behavior takes a long time to unlearn. However, without the numbing effects of alcohol, I no longer procrastinate my healing.

In all honesty, I'm surprised that I didn't hit the wall sooner than nine months in. However, I'm tired of climbing, and it's time to take a break.

Out of all of the phases that are listed in recovery resources online, a part of me wishes that there was one designated to rest and reflection.

It's important to do the hard work, yes. But it's equally important to take a break, and process all of the hard work you've done. It's okay to take time off of self development, and it definitely does not diminish the impressiveness of your sobriety.

I can admit that sometimes the maintenance phase of recovery is daunting. When I feel overwhelmed by keeping up with my sobriety, that's when I know it's time to take a break. It's not forever, just until I feel ready to stand up again.

It's absolutely necessary to take some time off. You can't heal all your past hurt, trauma, or unwanted behaviors in a week, month, or even a year. Of course, some things you can heal from faster than others. I've picked up the skill of emotion validation quickly, but overcoming my need for control will take a lot longer.

Healing is going to take time, but don't let that discourage you. You have your whole life to heal - don't forget to take a breather, enjoy the process, and be proud of yourself along the way. You deserve a pat on the back.

This is what resting looks looks like for me...

  • Taking a break from self-help books and indulging in some fiction

  • Allowing myself to engage in hobbies I like without having an end goal to them

  • Showing up to therapy and being honest about the need for a break

  • Planning activities with good friends that allow me to relax in a stress free environment

  • Taking a nap when I'm tired

Too much emphasis is put on the work of sobriety, in my opinion. It's time to start prioritizing rest in recovery. We don't always need to be focused on saving the world and fixing ourselves... sobriety is already our superpower.

If you need a sign to give yourself a break, this is it.

Lie down, break out the art supplies, or put on your hiking shoes. Whatever it is you like to do to relax, you deserve a day off. Go enjoy it.

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