In active addiction, many of us struggle with patience. The immediate gratification of using can translate into impulsivity — and this can be challenging to change even when we get sober. But in recovery, learning patience is important.
When I first got sober, I started out in recovery with no job, no driver’s license, no car, a lot of fines to pay off and a huge amount of credit card debt. I thought I could get everything back to normal within a few months — I was sober now, so of course these things would change, right?
Little did I know, these changes would take time, just like my recovery took time. And although I was frustrated at first, I realized the missing piece wasn’t whether or not things would come together, it was whether or not I would have the patience to wait for them.
The first few months of recovery tested my patience more than any other time in my life. And even though it was hard, with a new mentality and way of living in recovery, I wasn’t only up for the challenge, but I was ready to handle the challenges that came my way.
I had to remind myself of patience daily. I remember thinking, “It took me 10 years of an active addiction to create this mess...so of course it might take some time to clean it up!” So I started cleaning things up, little by little, piece by piece.
Patience isn’t just a concept, it’s a skill we need to practice every day. If you’re in a similar spot today as I was then, here are a few actionable things you can do to work on practicing patience today:
Write out your goals. Be specific and honest about what you want to change — it’s important to know what you’re working towards. Writing things out makes your goals seem real and tangible, and you’ll be able to start creating a plan for how things can start to change and the steps you’ll take.
Prioritize them. Once you write things down, list out the most important goals first. Remember, with patience, you should be focusing on small, actionable changes first. The big ones will take time, and they all won’t come together in a day, or even a few months. Set your priorities and feel comfortable about where you’re starting.
Don’t take shortcuts. The best things take time and hard work...and they need to be done the right way, not the fast way. Make sure you’re staying honest about how you’re reaching your goals and make sure to take it slow.
Set realistic goals. Be honest with yourself about what’s realistic and what’s not. You want to set yourself up for success, not disappointment. It might help to talk with a sponsor, friend or counselor about the goals you’re setting to get feedback, talk about your fears, and find encouragement that you’re doing the right thing.
Keep it in perspective. Remember, not everything is going to work out the way you want and in the timeframe you want it to. And pushing things to happen too quickly may work to your disadvantage, either causing success in the wrong areas or working against you altogether. The most important thing? Today, you’re sober. Your recovery will keep you grounded so long as you continue walking this path.
As you work on patience in recovery, surround yourself with people and activities who can keep you in a recovery state of mind. The best things take time, and one day, you’ll know why things worked out the way they did.