When you’re using drugs or drinking, you have a certain kind of resiliency. You have the ability to bounce back no matter what happens. Despite what’s going on around you, somehow you find the resolve to carry on. Despite the illness, death, dysfunction, and destruction that are going on around you, there’s a certain kind of strength you carry.

However, certainly, if you’re using drugs or drinking, some of that resiliency is based upon the coping skills you have – even though some of them might be unhealthy. For instance, many people rely upon having a drink when they are emotionally or psychologically triggered. Drinking becomes their coping mechanism to manage difficult emotions. Or drug use becomes their way of covering feelings of depression, loss, or emptiness.  Even though drinking and drug use gives someone the chance to hide what’s going on inside and even though it might contribute to a feeling of resiliency, it’s easy for an addiction to develop. It’s easy for substance use to get out of control.

Yet, all that changes when you begin your recovery. In recovery, resilience looks a lot different. It’s not a forceful way of pushing through the challenges in your life. It’s not a survival kick, using anything you can to make your life work. Instead, it’s flipping that whole mindset of force and survival on its head. Instead, in recovery, resilience can mean surrender. Resilience is a letting go and relaxing. It’s not a denial of your life (which is what greatly contributes to addiction); it’s accepting your life exactly the way it is. And with acceptance comes the opportunity to begin from where you are and grow from there.

However, there are some other traits of resiliency that are important to mention, those that seem to characterize the resiliency of recovery. They are:

–Adapting to change easily.
–Feeling in control of your life.
–Bouncing back after a hardship or illness.
–Having close, dependable relationships.
–Remaining optimistic and not giving up, even when things seem hopeless.
–Having the ability to think clearly and logically under pressure.
–Seeing the humor in situations, even when under stress.
–Having self-confidence and feeling strong as a person.
–Believing things happen for a reason.
–Knowing how to handle uncertainty or unpleasant feelings.
–Knowing where to turn for help
–Liking challenges and feeling comfortable taking the lead.

These are some characteristics of resiliency. However, as you review this list, don’t berate yourself if you don’t have some or all of them. Recovery is a process of developing new skills, learning new ways of managing the stressors of life. If you don’t have these traits, it’s an opportunity to grow the ones you think might be useful for you.

In fact, research indicates that there are certain environmental factors that can contribute to developing resiliency. For instance, Bonnie Benard and other researchers of resiliency agree that there are three elements that can help foster the development of healthy resiliency in those who don’t have it. These are:

High expectations – Within certain recovery communities, for example, there is the expectation of abstinence. For someone who has been drinking or using drugs for many years, this is certainly an incredibly high expectation. However, in a community of those who have achieved this goal, reaching this expectation can become possible. Also, most people rise to the level of what others expect of them. New recovering addicts might find this goal daunting, but with the focus on “one day at a time” along with a community of others reaching for this expectation, it becomes possible.

Caring and support – One of the most important aspects of a community is the support that members show for one another. Feeling welcome among a group of people versus feeling judged for an addiction can be an incredibly motivating force to change.

Opportunities for participation –  Part of making a life change is first having the ability to recognize that a change is needed. It’s recognizing that in order for change to take place a person must participate in his or her own recovery.

According to research, the above are factors that can support resiliency. Over time, a healthy, strong, and gentle resiliency can grow for a long-lasting recovery.

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