Pursuing recovery from addiction is not like signing up for a college course, where the syllabus and course outline are given to you in advance. In that case, you are well aware of the times and dates that indicate the most challenging portions of the course as well as when you can coast through the simpler portions. Perhaps even more importantly, when it comes to recovery, there is no end date—no finishing line at which you have learned all the necessary information and can celebrate becoming a recovery “graduate.” Recovery is ongoing and something you do every day.
The above description of recovery is an accurate one but can also describe the reason many people lose motivation during the lengthy process of recovery, even if they begin highly motivated to pursue their journey towards post-addiction life. Your new life is full of possibilities and exciting new opportunities, but as time passes, the novelty of pursuing a substance-free life can begin to wear off. After a time, even after the physical challenges of overcoming addiction have subsided, one of the biggest challenges you may face is staying motivated on your journey to recovery.
Inspiration and Motivation Are Intrinsically Linked
Starting your addiction recovery journey is the first step in building a healthy future, and it will continue throughout the rest of your life. To keep moving down that path to health, wellness, and the joys that go along with it, however, you must maintain both motivation and inspiration.
What Is Motivation?
In simple words, motivation is the driving force behind one’s actions.
There are two distinct types of motivation— intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. If someone acts because they feel it is the healthy or right thing to do, they are driven by intrinsic motivation. When someone does something based on external factors or to pursue a reward of some sort, they have experienced extrinsic motivation. Both addiction and recovery can be driven by both types of motivation at once.
For example, addiction can be worsened by peer pressure (extrinsic motivation) or the need to pursue a pleasurable feeling (intrinsic motivation). Meanwhile, your success during recovery can be strengthened by developing relationships with others (extrinsic motivation) and by the desire to live a healthier, more productive life (intrinsic motivation). The key is to maintain the motivation to pursue recovery, outweighing your earlier motivations to remain dependent on your substance of choice.
What Is Inspiration?
While motivation has provided you with a reason to end addiction, you must still achieve the necessary mental, emotional, and/or spiritual state to relentlessly pursue recovery. Inspiration is the force that helps to drive motivation. In fact, among the many dictionary definitions of inspiration, we’ve found such descriptions as “the source that moves the human intellect or emotions to prompt action,” and “spiritual and emotional guidance that directly influences the human mind and soul to act.” That’s a remarkable concept and supplies a clear picture of why we as humans need to maintain inspiration.
Without motivation, you won’t have a reason to pursue the long path of recovery. Without inspiration to refresh you emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, you may lose sight of your motivations entirely. In this way, motivation and inspiration are intrinsically linked.
Why Do People Lose Motivation in Long-Term Recovery?
Unfortunately, many people can lose motivation after months or years of being in recovery. So, what factors are in play when you lose motivation, along with inspiration?
We’ve identified a few common sets of circumstances that can arise:
- Pink cloud syndrome. Pink cloud syndrome occurs when a person feels so euphoric due to entering recovery that they believe the difficult part is well behind them. While keeping a sense of joy in recovery is critical, this extreme feeling of euphoria and wellbeing can cause some individuals to neglect the demanding work necessary to maintain sobriety. When the pink cloud inevitably vanishes, the return to normality can be quite an unpleasant surprise, draining you of your inspiration and sapping motivation.
- Romancing or intrusive memories. A recovering individual may also begin to experience the memories of their addiction. During the most difficult portions of recovery, it can be easy to overlook substance abuse’s physical and mental pain and instead start glorifying the good times you had while using drugs and alcohol. This is called “romancing” an old addiction, and it can cause you to lose sight of your motivation or even relapse into old habits.
- Loss of self-efficacy and dry drunk syndrome. During addiction treatment, you learned that you could make and achieve the goal of maintaining sobriety. This self-efficacy increased as you learned more about addiction and gained skills to achieve your goals. If you lose focus on your own ability to pursue recovery, you may begin to suffer from what’s known as “dry drunk syndrome,” where you begin to see maintaining sobriety as a prison sentence rather than the result of your motivation to pursue a healthy life.
Finding Inspiration in Recovery
It is critical to remember that giving up substance abuse will lead to a happier, more fulfilling life but that the road to recovery will last the rest of your life. Refreshing your motivation with regular inspiration to continue your recovery journey is critical to maintaining recovery. Try these seven sources of inspiration:
1. Connect Spiritually
There are several ways in which one can find meaning through spirituality. It can be found in nature, organized religions, music, or simply developing an understanding of what a higher power or spirituality might mean for you. The meaning of spirituality can change, evolve or grow over time, but feeling connected to something bigger than yourself can provide you the inspiration you need to stay motivated and accountable to continue your journey.
2. Keep A Journal
Keeping a personal record of your thoughts and feelings can be inspiring in many ways. You can achieve a sense of relief by releasing events and emotions you may not yet be ready to discuss with your counselor. In addition, the ability to recognize the struggles you faced a few months or a few years ago will help you view the progress you’ve achieved in a new light, giving you the inspiration you need to continue pursuing recovery.
3. Practice Self-Care
Remember to take some time off every day to do something you enjoy. It can be easy to get caught up in everyday life’s busy routines, but if we don’t center ourselves and do things we enjoy, we can easily get overwhelmed and stressed out. Something as simple as reading, journaling, meditating, praying, or exercise can give you relief and meaning during your journey to recovery.
4. Pursue New Adventures
You can be inspired to refresh your motivation by pursuing something new and exciting that contributes to your overall health and wellness. Learning a new skill, such as cooking, crafting, or even a new language, can help you in your daily life and boost your self-esteem. Similarly, engaging in a new hobby like yoga, sports, art, and more gives you a productive channel to focus your energy and enables you to meet new people at the same time.
5.Write A Gratitude List Each Day
Every morning or evening, make the effort to write a list of five things you are grateful for during your new life of sobriety, or even just five positive things you can name about the day. Staying focused on the reasons sobriety is preferable to the alternative can help you reinvigorate your motivation to stay sober. Better yet, you’ll begin to see over time that even during the challenging times, there is always something to be thankful for during recovery.
6. Build Healthy Connections
While every individual is different, it is possible that some of your earlier associations were unhealthy or may have even compounded your substance use. In addition, your personal relationships with friends and loved ones likely suffered during your addiction. Rebuilding healthy relationships with positive people in your life—and developing new connections to others within the recovery community or through your new hobbies, career, or other means—can help inspire you to be the best person you can be.
7. Serve Others
There is a well-known quote in Alcoholics Anonymous: “To keep it, you must give it away.” Service work can mean different things to different people. Helping another individual pursue recovery, whether by becoming a sponsor or providing a listening ear, allows you to recognize yourself in others and see how far you have come in your journey. In addition, many organizations can benefit from the time and energy you once spent pursuing your addiction—look for opportunities in your area, including churches, non-profit organizations, animal rescue groups, food banks, community service groups, and more.
Sources of Inspiration Can Keep You Motivated in Recovery
Recovery is much more than a single event you must complete before moving on; instead, it is a process you must continue over time. Pursuing a few of the above sources of inspiration can help you continue to stay motivated while you live your new life of recovery.
For more information about substance use, treatment, or the recovery process, contact Maryland Recovery. We offer several customized treatment programs to help you or your loved one begin recovery and are proud to focus on inspirational, holistic, and proven methods to effectively treat drug and alcohol addiction. Reach out today to discuss your options with one of our recovery specialists.
*Editor’s Note: This article was originally published and has been updated April 6, 2021.
Dr. Bhalavat is Board Certified in General Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine, and provides inpatient evaluation and consultation services at the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center, University of Maryland Harford Memorial Hospital, Maryland Recovery Partners, and Citizens Care & Rehabilitation Center. Dr. Bhalavat’s background includes treatment of depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia spectrum disorders, bipolar disorder, substance abuse and dementia.