“If pride comes before the fall, then shame is what keeps you from getting back up”.
This quote summarizes what many Fortifiers understand from personal experience— the disappointment after a setback can really mess up your recovery. Sometimes, the biggest obstacle in the way of our freedom isn’t the struggle itself; rather, it’s the discouragement that comes from struggling. You know, we often expect ourselves to simply wake up one day, completely free of our addiction. We think, “If I were a good person, I wouldn’t have this problem, and I wouldn’t have setbacks.” However, it is crucial to understand that you are not defined by your addiction. This problem is momentary, it does not mean you are hopeless, and it does not mean that you are a lost cause.
Setbacks are simply a part of recovery. Experiencing one does not mean that you are failing at recovery. More likely than not, you will have your fair share of them before it’s all said and done. Sometimes, we struggle, and that’s okay. When those setbacks do come along, we reach a decision point of sorts. One option is to become discouraged, and dig yourself into a deeper hole than before. One single moment, one lost battle, can open the floodgates to a crushing string of defeats.
Or, you could choose to learn from your mistake, dust yourself off, and keep going.
Instead of letting hard moments drive our faces into the mud, what if we could figure out a way to somehow turn setbacks into actual accelerators for some big-time forward movement? What if we could transform the frustrating disappointment of a setback into motivation to make real changes?
Here are three ideas that helped Fortifiers just like you:
1. Stay calm.
This is one of the most important rules for backpackers who get lost in the mountains: Don’t panic. No hyperventilating…no “It’s all over now.” Sure, it’s okay to feel some frustration, which is completely normal. But watch the tendency to launch into “I’m a slime ball” or “I’m just a loser” drama. That’s really not helpful.
Instead of this, maybe get curious about what just happened. Watch what’s going on right now in the body, in the mind and all around you.
Without judgment. Without hammering yourself. Please put the hammer away.
By bringing a calm, attentive presence to the moments after a setback, those moments can become some of your greatest teachers.
2. Look for clues, and learn from them.
If a great athlete has a poor performance, does he declare himself a total loser and retire to the local bingo club? No! He sits down with his coach. They watch the game film. They assess what happened – and what needs to be improved. For example, they might discuss diet, mental toughness, physical training, and practice. They regroup and immediately start moving forward.
“Yeah, we lost that one. But there’s another game coming up. So how can we make sure to be ready for that one?”
You can do the same. Ask yourself: “what was going on for me right before using? What was I doing in the hours, days, and weeks leading up to that moment? And what other patterns in my life increase or decrease my ability to resist this stuff?”
3. Make some adjustments.
As you notice patterns and learn things, think seriously about making some changes: ways to spark some real inner change in your heart and mind. Or ways to fortify your schedule, home atmosphere, sleeping, diet, exercise, etc.
As you start to move forward again, take one day at a time, letting yourself enjoy each twenty-four hours of freedom. Again and again.
Setbacks can be a difficult and frustrating part of recovery. When they arise, it is easy for us to feel that all is lost. However, falling does not mean you are a failure. Rather than looking at setbacks as the end of all progress, we can instead view them as the beginning of something even better, even stronger. It gives us a chance to look within, dig deep, and adjust our strategies. By changing how we approach a setback, we can avoid shame’s harmful impacts, and be on a healthier path to recovery.