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The Critical Role Of Positive Validation In Early Recovery

During a recent group therapy session, I asked several of my clients to write about what they perceive are the benefits of sobriety. Below are several examples of what they identified:

“To experience and appreciate the smaller joys in life and not be blinded by numbing myself. In contrast, to also not miss out on all the feelings associated with the struggles that are also a necessary part of life. To not lose sight of who I am. To not be held back from opportunities in life. To not require something other the life to experience the joy that can come from living my life. To not lose authenticity to self and therefore real connection with others.”

“Benefits of being sober: family relationships, maintaining a job, healthier relationships, more income, healthier appearance, not relying on something to self-medicate, more fun to be around, not treated poorly by others, no judgment, no limitations, self-respect, can help others, self-care, set an example for younger siblings, don’t need to sell my sense of self for the drug, trust and reliability, more freedom to do things, see life more clearly and not putting my life at risk.”

“It’s good to be sober because you are able to live life clean, content and happy. I have been able to experience life more without looking over my shoulder, staying up all night, trying to stay awake during college and going to jail. I have been able to maintain a good job with a good income, and I am able to focus on my needs and wants instead of just immediate wants. Although I want to revert to my old habits a lot, I don’t want to because I believe I can do it, be sober and would feel so bad to relapse.

The benefits of sobriety to me are more trust and respect of self and from others, more money, good friends, being happy, safety, less chances of being taken advantage of, no legal trouble, better relationships with family and friends and a good job.”

From a rational perspective, the benefits of sobriety clearly outweigh the benefits of using drugs and alcohol. Unfortunately, addiction distorts one’s ability to see things rationally and despite the limited benefits of using drugs and alcohol, these benefits can take on more power and influence despite being limited in contrast. During early recovery, it’s imperative that clients acknowledge and then are validated for the positive benefits they are experiencing with sobriety.

Positive validation of these benefits, versus ruminating on what they feel they are missing out on or losing by being sober, can help build momentum in sustaining long-term recovery. The more they can reframe their perspective of sobriety by focusing on these benefits, the less willing they will be to risk losing those benefits by inviting drugs and alcohol back into their lives. Validation must be reinforced repeatedly in early recovery as part of the process of changing the brain’s cognitive response to addiction.

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