I heard a story about when Albert Einstein was lecturing at Oxford. He set an exam for his students studying maths and his assistant said in a confused tone, “Professor Einstein, isn’t the exam you just set exactly the same exam you set for these students last year?”
“Yes”, said Einstein.
“How can this be?”, said Einstein’s assistant.
“Well, you see”, Einstein said, “all the answers have changed”.
Albert Einstein visited Oxford between 1931 – 1933 and it was a period of intense change for the great man which included rethinking his cosmological views. Even having someone like Einstein at Oxford was part of a process of change and modernisation for Oxford as a seat of learning, Oxford itself was trying to break free of its insular academic traditions.
Change is a constant in life, and recovery is no exception. The process of addiction recovery involves significant changes in many areas of life, including behaviours, thought patterns, relationships, and goals.
Resisting change can often take more time, energy and resources than simply learning to embrace and adapt to it. For me, embracing recovery has meant making changes including, changing my world, where I live, what I do and who I spend time with.
Change can be difficult and can sometimes trigger feelings of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. I remember several occasions when change has come, and I’ve struggled to embrace and adapt to it. For instance, for a while I worked at HM Prison Service in the role of Drug Strategy Coordinator for the 7-London prisons, and I was on a “mobile grade” which meant I could be ordered to work at a different location. If that happened, I have 2 possible responses open to me, either ‘yes’ or ‘I resign’ – no wasn’t an option. I remember it taking me a long while to adapt to the possibility of change.
Part of the process I went through was to look at the options as they were laid out before me and rather than fear them or feel bound by them, I could evaluate them when the order was given and decide, or plan based on all the available information. In the end the order never came and worrying about a future I could not control at this stage would have been futile.
Here are some additional ideas for embracing change in addiction recovery:
1. Practice mindfulness which involves paying attention to the present moment and accepting it without judgment. By practicing mindfulness, you can develop greater awareness of your thoughts and feelings, which can help you to manage them more effectively.
2. Instead of focusing on what you’re losing or giving up, focus on what you’re gaining in recovery. If someone stands you up you’ve received the gift of time, instead of saying I HAVE TO, we can SAY I’M ABLE TO. Celebrate small victories and remind yourself of the positive changes you’re making.
3. Set goals that are achievable and meaningful to you. Breaking down larger goals into smaller, more manageable steps can make them less overwhelming and more attainable.
4. Recovery is a journey that is best travelled with others. Stay connected to your support network, whether that includes friends, family, a therapist, or a recovery group.
5. Recovery is a process of growth and learning. Embrace new experiences and be open to new ideas and perspectives. Towards Recovery did a comedy-improv course once and a small simple change in language, saying “YES, AND” instead of “NO BUT”, can have a profound effect in terms of a comedy ‘skit’ and also in life.
6. Be kind to yourself and treat yourself with the same compassion and understanding you would offer to a loved one. Remember that setbacks are a normal part of the recovery process.
By embracing change and putting these ideas into practice, you can navigate the challenges of addiction recovery and move toward a more fulfilling and meaningful life in recovery.