How Competition Can Sabotage Recovery | The Danger of Comparing Addiction Recovery

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Addiction recovery is a process, and it doesn’t end once you finish your rehabilitation treatment. Living in recovery and managing your addiction requires strength, energy, and a willingness to always be improving. If that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is, and that’s why there is a 40 to 60 percent chance of relapse within a person’s first year post-treatment.

The good news is that, if you dedicate yourself to your recovery, after that first year, the odds of relapsing get significantly smaller. While managing your addiction will never be easy, it will get easier.

During these early stages of your recovery, it’s important to avoid any behaviors or mindsets that could potentially sabotage yourself and leave you vulnerable to relapse. One common mistake is comparing your recovery progress with anyone else’s.

Everyone’s path to sobriety is different, and each person journeys through it at their own pace. While it’s important to set goals for yourself, when recovery becomes a competition to see who can reach their milestones the fastest or complete their 12 steps first, it can negate the whole process.

Comparing Works Both Ways

Recovery isn’t something you’re meant rush through in order to “keep up”. And, comparing yourself to others is a surefire way to trigger a relapse as it leaves you open to being overcome by negative feelings like resentment, jealousy, and insecurity, or on the other hand, overconfidence and complacency.

Feeling like you need to reach certain milestones because those around you have already achieved them and you’re “falling behind” isn’t a healthy motivational tool and it can hurt you in the long run. Competing with others to see who can blow through their post-treatment goals the fastest undermines the whole process and isn’t based on any internal inspiration to get better or take responsibility for your life after rehab.

On the other side of the coin, comparing your progress to those who have not come as far as you or are not moving as quickly can be just as detrimental. Being proud of your progress is one thing, but letting yourself get too comfortable based on where you’re at compared to others carries the risk of becoming complacent and losing that willpower needed to keep moving forward that’s so important to long-term success.

4 Ways to Avoid Turning Recovery into a Competition

Cut toxic people out of your life.

Post-treatment alumni programs and support groups are a fantastic tool for creating a long-lasting support system to help avoid relapse. They give recovering individuals a community of peers who are undergoing similar experiences and challenges.

However, while keeping others posted on your progress and celebrating each other’s milestones can encourage you to keep moving forward, there might be one or more people in these groups who turn it into a race, comparing their recovery progress to others in an unhealthy way.

If someone keeps bragging about the progress they’ve made while mocking or belittling those who aren’t as far along, they might be doing it to mask insecurities about their recovery, but if speaking to them directly about it doesn’t help, do your best to avoid them.

Set goals that are realistic for you.

There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to recovery. Even common recovery programs like the 12-steps are tackled differently from person to person, with some spending more time on one step than another.

It can be all-too-easy to compare yourself to someone else and what they have accomplished and try to set your goals to match theirs. However, these goals, while they might work for this other person, might not necessarily be achievable for you, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Trying to force yourself to make it to a stage of recovery you’re not at yet is more than just unhealthy, it’s dangerous because you’re essentially setting yourself up to fail, and when you don’t meet those goals, it can be disheartening enough to trigger a relapse.

Instead of competing and trying to “keep up” with the people in recovery around you, set goals you know you’re capable of meeting.

Maintain a sense of perspective.

Comparing your addiction recovery to those around you can cause you to lose your motivation and fall into a “negative thought loop,” potentially derailing all the progress you’ve made. One way to combat this is to put these thoughts into perspective.

Instead of “I have so much farther to go than they do,” think “look how far I’ve come.” Instead of “I should be progressing faster like they are,” think “I’m moving forward at my own pace, and I’m still moving forward.”

If you’re going to compare yourself to anyone, do it to the person you used to be. No matter how slowly you’re moving through the recovery process, you’re still running circles around your pre-treatment self.

Focus on you.

While this might sound obvious or like a repetition of the previous steps, this one goes for any kind of comparing. Whether you’re the person feeling hopeless about your own progress in comparison to someone else’s or the one using others’ slow pace to make you feel better about your own, neither mindset is helpful or healthy.

The playing field, so to speak, will never be level, so there’s no way to make equal comparisons between people. Everyone’s end goal may be the same, but you’re all starting from somewhere different, and trying to compare your recovery progress to anyone else’s can take your focus off what’s actually important: maintaining sobriety and putting your life back together.

Focus on your own life and well-being rather than worrying about whether you’re reaching important recovery milestones before or after someone else. Avoid the potentially damaging pride that comes from paying attention to someone who’s behind you and the feelings of defeat that come from getting fixated on someone who’s ahead of you. Instead, celebrate reaching your goals at your own pace and keep setting more.

Get the Tools You Need for Your Recovery Journey

Pathway to Hope has created treatment programs that give you the motivation you need to continue succeeding and thriving in your recovery. From therapy, life skills training, and relapse prevention programs to our aftercare and alumni programs, you receive the support you need to continue to be empowered.

At Pathway to Hope, we understand that treatment is only the first step on a long journey through recovery, and we’re here to help every step of the way. If you or someone you know needs addiction treatment or support while in recovery, call us anytime, day or night at 844-557-8575 or contact us online.

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