Rebuilding A Sober Life: Patience with Others Perceptions of Us Changing

woman sitting in park at sunset

Contributor: Tina Black, LCSW, Vice President of Operations for Georgia Detox & Recovery Centers, Bluff Plantation, and RiverMend Health’s entire Georgia region.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. We’ve all heard the saying. In fact, studies have shown that a first impression is formed within seconds.

Factor into the equation a history of substance abuse and you may feel as though the way others perceive you is permanently etched into the sands of time.

A Persistent Stigma

To say there is a stigma associated with substance abuse is an understatement. Although public perception is changing, prejudice against those who suffer from the disease of addiction still exists. Even while on the road to recovery and beyond.

While the physical effects of drug and alcohol abuse present their own unique challenges to lasting recovery, the psychological implications of a public stigma associated with substance abuse can pose a true threat to lasting stability.

For that reason, internally managing public perception and the opinions of those close to you is crucial.

Under the (Right) Influence

Family sitting on the benchBut how exactly do the opinions and perceptions of others affect the path to a sober life? It depends. It depends on the meaning you give them.

At the core of addictive illness is a feeling of self-loathing; a shame that creates a desire to appease others, to be liked by others. A chronic sense of unworthiness can lead to depression and destructive behavior, such as addiction.

Healing from addiction requires a safe environment, a place where you can be vulnerable and discover who you truly are, without the undue influence of others. In this safe environment you are provided the acceptance and empathy you need to heal. You learn how to attach new meaning to the perceptions of others.

This process is about internalizing your world in a different way. It’s about revising your beliefs about yourself, where you write the narrative, not others.

“What You Think of Me Is None of My Business”

This phrase is often repeated in many 12-step programs. These words are intended to create a feeling of freedom from the need to please others.

Together in parkPart of the recovery process is to recognize that you can control what others think of you about as easily as you can control their behavior. Accepting that you can disagree with someone’s opinion without being disagreeable is an empowering part of the rehabilitation process.

Achieving a Lasting Sense of Identity

Continuing the process of respecting your own beliefs and truths is essential for lasting change.

Support groups are an excellent way to reinforce your new narrative. Having a safe and welcoming environment for mutual acceptance and understanding will allow the process of self-discovery that started during treatment to continue, so that you can sustain the process of rebuilding your life.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What has been your experience with the perceptions of others as you navigate the path of staying sober? How did this assist you through your recovery from addiction?

About the Author:

Tina Black, LCSW, directs all clinical services and programs at Georgia Detox & Recovery Centers. Tina speaks with patients, families, employers, therapists, clinicians, addiction experts and most anyone who wants to understand addiction, evaluation, treatment and recovery.

Tina’s ability to be an exceptional clinician, treatment professional and leader comes from what she has learned in the classroom, in decades of practice helping patients and families with addictions.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addiction. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on June 19th, 2015
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