Although addiction is one of the most challenging life experiences a person can face, when a person chooses a path of recovery there are huge benefits to be gained. Recovery means a person will self-reflect, learn about themselves and others, have more control over choices, and will make healthier decisions going forward.
Recovery builds a whole new world of traits and characteristics in a person. Where once a person might have lived in denial, they become honest. This demonstrates courage.
After years of feeling unable to cope or using drugs and alcohol to deal with uncomfortable situations and feelings, they’ve identified and used other coping strategies.
This shows a particular kind of strength known as resilience.
What is resilience?
One study sums it up nicely when it says, “Resilience can be defined… as a person’s ability to cope successfully in the face of adversity”.(1)
When the inevitable distressing and difficult events that life throws at a person happen, and a person handles them well, then they are resilient.
The benefits of resilience
Building resilience has many benefits linked to creating addictive emotions.
This includes the following:
- Lowered symptoms of depression.
- Feeling more content with life.
- Improving physical wellbeing.
- Better cognitive functioning.
Coping and resilience
When a person faces something stressful or upsetting their body will go into “stress response” mode. Some people are able to face distressing things in more healthy ways than others and this is usually linked to how much resilience they have.
For people who struggle with anxiety, for instance, it’s as though their stress response hasn’t turned back off. This constant state of fear and worry for a person with low resilience might turn to alcohol to help them calm down.
A person with an addiction has learned that when facing difficulties, drugs and alcohol make them feel better able to cope. This is often linked to having low resilience.
Protective factors that help to prevent trauma
Each person is an individual and is living a life that is different to the next person. However, even if two people were faced with the same life, they would respond to events differently.
The following factors tend to mean a child is better able to build resilience and is, therefore, less likely to become damaged by traumatic events:
- Having supportive people around them.
- Feeling safe and having safe accommodation.
- Parental employment that covers the needs of the family.
- Parental education.
- Having positive role models.
If a child were to face something devastating but had the above circumstances in place, they’d be much less likely to become traumatised by the event. Protective factors help to build resilience in childhood. This affects who the person becomes as an adult.
Trauma and addiction
Research shows that childhood trauma is highly correlated to mental health problems later in life.(2) There is also a high chance that if a person has an addiction that they’ll also have a mental health problem.
Addiction expert, Dr. Gabor Maté, claims that trauma is the cause of all addiction. With this in mind, it’s essential to understand that facing trauma can help to overcome addiction. In order to do that, resilience is required.
Resilience and treatment programmes
An important part of treatment programmes is their focus on enabling people to build resilience. This is essential in order for a person to learn to believe in their own capabilities.
It also makes people feel more assured of their future by feeling better equipped to face it with this new strength.
With treatments that concentrate on the psychological aspect of recovery, patients develop more autonomy over their thoughts. This means they’re able to start to grow in self-confidence in their ability to control their choices and therefore their future.
Supporting a person with an addiction to build resilience also means they’ll become better able to overcome historic trauma. Building resilience within the addiction treatment context makes it easier for people to do so.
During treatment programmes, people start to understand how the way they view things, life, the addiction, trauma etc is the key to beginning a life of recovery and healing. Rather than circumstances controlling a person, actually, it’s their own thoughts and outlook.
Treatment thought processes and resilience
During addiction treatments, patients learn to see things differently. Feelings around events become easier to process and cope with.
Evidence-based therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) work toward supporting a person to become aware of and take control of their feelings in a positive way.
There are various ways a person can be shown how to think about situations from another point of view.
- “I’m to blame for…” might become “Those events created this outcome”.
- “This situation can be changed. It isn’t something that will last forever”.
- “Everything has gone wrong” might become “this one thing is hard today”.
When a person develops new ways of thinking it helps them face difficulties more easily. Psychological treatments are essential for treating people with addictions and helping them to build resilience.
This makes addressing traumas possible so that healing and recovery can take place.
Can you become more resilient?
At OK Rehab, we know that you can build resilience. Accessing rehabilitation programmes will make this much easier for you to accomplish.
In terms of thinking about resilience right now? Here are some areas to consider:
- You have survived already. Having an addiction doesn’t mean a person has failed, it means that they’ve found something that helps them to survive. Accessing rehabilitation services will give a person the tools to develop new ways to survive and cope.
- It can be useful to bear in mind that challenges are an inevitable part of life. Although you can’t control that fact, you are able to control your reaction to them.
- Try and connect more with sober friends and utilise this social network as a means of support when you’re facing difficult moments. Being connected to other sober people, especially those in treatment (i.e. at a 12 Steps group) can really help build resilience.
- Be kind but firm with yourself. For instance, if you’ve relapsed that doesn’t mean you’ve completely messed up. It means you quit the substance and have had a slip-up. It doesn’t mean you should jump back into previous habits, it means you’re able to get back on the abstinence track a little wiser. Now you’ll be able to see where, how, and why you relapsed and can put some protective factors in place to help prevent it from happening again.
- Look after yourself. Eat well, drink water, sleep, and exercise. This will help you to feel more clear-headed and stronger to face challenges.
- Keep in mind what your values are and write down a list of these and your goals. Read the list out loud to yourself each day to help keep you focused
There are many things that help you to get through difficult times. It’s possible for you to become more resilient, however, when living with an addiction it’s harder work. This is why receiving psychological treatments makes all the difference.
Addiction is often connected to trauma as well as mental health problems. These three strands are also commonly linked to people having less resilience.
When a person lives with this complex set of circumstances and is faced with a challenge it can be harder for them to use healthy ways of coping to get them through adversities.
It is possible for people to recover. Psychological treatments such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) provide excellent tools for people to build resilience and find new ways of coping.
To find out about addiction treatments and which might be most suited to you, call the OK Rehab team. One of our advisors will be able to explain all your local options.