Realistic Expectations in Recovery

Having expectations is not bad when you are in recovery from substance use and addiction. After all, the goal of going to a recovery center is to get treatment. Expectations can guide you in your journey. Maybe you are looking forward to a sober life, employment, reunion with friends, and other things. However, when you set unrealistic expectations, it can be hard to achieve them, which can trigger a relapse. A recovery journey comes with its own challenges.

Common Unrealistic Expectations

Here are a few examples of unrealistic expectations one can have during addiction recovery.

  • Expecting your sobriety journey to be smooth with no setbacks
  • Assuming you will get better immediately, you start your recovery program
  • Failing to understand the amount of work that goes into recovery
  • Believing you can handle recovery on your own.
  • Expecting recovery to constant progress while in reality, it has highs and lows
  • Expecting loved ones to forgive and trust you immediately.
  • Thinking your life will resume to normalcy once you are done with treatment.
  • Setting a specific date and telling yourself you must be done with recovery by that time.
  • Assuming that recovery instantly fixes other problems in your life
  • Believing that you do not have to put in more work once you are done with treatment

These expectations can come when you are about to start treatment, when you are in the middle of treatment, or have just finished. The problem with setting high expectations for yourself is that you are bound to fail. One or two of the following things are likely to happen:

  • Relapse
  • Disappointment and frustration
  • Excess pressure
  • Complacency
  • Resentment
  • Judging yourself harshly

How to Set Realistic Expectations

To avoid all that, here is how you can set positive expectations.

Accept that Recovery is Not Linear

It would be nice if recovering from an addiction would be a smooth process of constant progress with zero setbacks or temptations. Unfortunately, that is not how it works. You can click here now to see what you can expect at a recovery center. It is important to have realistic expectations, expecting both good and bad days. However, if you follow the suggested treatment plan, you can expect to have more good days than bad.

Be Patient

A couple of weeks to a month in a recovery center does not magically make you feel better. Even after various treatment options like detoxification and therapy, you will still need to continue with other helpful programs. You, therefore, need to set realistic goals that will not discourage you from staying on course. That way, even if you have a setback, you know that it is part of the journey, and eventually, you will get there.

Be Flexible

Sometimes even the most perfectly laid out plans can go wrong. Maybe you are telling yourself that you will finish treatment, make peace with your loved ones, integrate back into society, get a job, and things will go back to normal. This may or may not happen. For instance, you may finish treatment but still have a strained relationship with your loved one or take time before getting a job. When this happens, be flexible and ready to adjust your goals.  

Focus on Your Strengths

In recovery, every day you are sober is a win. One day adds up to a week, a month, or a year. Even if you relapse after 100 days, do not be discouraged. Your relapse does not erase the days you managed to stay sober. Motivate yourself that if you were able to achieve sobriety for all those days, you could still do this.

If you have just started recovering, you can lean on a therapist or any other qualified person to help you set your goals. This will help you manage your expectations of what recovery looks like.