Resilience is More Than Just Beating the Odds to Create Change

Life change is hard. Transitions are difficult and life is all about transitions. People transition from work to home to personal relationships to all kinds of places every single day. When people are dealing with addiction recovery, they are giving themselves an opportunity to learn how to deal with change. Resilience is the opportunity to experience transitions in work and relationships and life with all its ups and downs without completely losing the ability to manage. Although it takes a long time to get to that place, there is a time when people will suddenly ‘get it’ and can find themselves being able to handle the things that come their way in recovery better because their minds, bodies, and hearts are ready to enter that journey. 

Why Resiliency Matters

Many people spend lots of time and energy trying to avoid difficult situations or people. They would rather not learn to cope and, instead, want to avoid the issue altogether. Relationships can flourish when a person is ready and able to handle it. If a person cannot cope with change, even a little amount of stress can feel overwhelming. There are many reasons for this in recovery:

    • Addiction changes the brain and makes it hard to deal with shifts in life
    • The body is disrupted by addiction and needs time to calm down from the fight or flight reflex as well as chemical responses in the body
  • Mentally it takes time to absorb what is happening in the environment in a way that does not feel stressful 

Being able to cope with changes in life is called resilience. Even when people don’t think they are resilient in recovery, they merely have to look at where they were before they got sober or clean to realize they have resilience. The ability to bounce back is learned, not given at birth. It also means unlearning a lot of unhealthy behaviors along the way (like addiction) which take away resilience and make it harder to cope. 

Locus of Control

The definition of locus of control is the degree to which people believe they have control over the circumstances of their lives. When external forces get in the way, people need to turn to their view of their internal locus of control to see how they are going to cope. From this comes resilience. Fixation on events in the past over which we had no power and cannot change will lead to bitterness. Harnessing the positive energy of experiencing what we can control helps build self-confidence and resilience for the journey of recovery. Take a moment to evaluate your current locus of control:

    • Ask what can be done to own responsibility here and now
    • Look for opportunities to be self-empowered
    • Work towards change that is possible
  • Don’t get stuck feeling stuck, work on building positive tools to get unstuck when things get rough


Self-care is often the thing that gets lost in transition. Losses can be anything from job loss to moving, ending of relationships, or death. There are many small losses that add up over time. Even positive transitions, like a graduation or job change, can make people sad. During these times, it does not help to push away grief. Acknowledge the loss and pay attention. Seek support among friends. Seek support and camaraderie while speaking with a counselor or other mental health professional to seek help. Transitions are hard but they don’t have to feel impossible. 

Focus on Positive Thoughts

It is easy to get stuck in negative thinking patterns. The brain likes to cut corners. You might see black or white or assume the worst. If you take time to examine thoughts and assess their rationale, you might find space to think about resilient behavior. Relaxation and mindfulness help people cope in times of great stress. It is more than beating the odds in recovery to get ahead. It is about major changes that come and finding hope in knowing those muscles are being strengthened through the refining fire of life in recovery. Positive thinking comes from considering what traits or actions can help in the current situation. Positive ones almost always help more than negative ones. By focusing on those strengths, people will feel more empowered to handle what lies ahead.

Be Here Now

Don’t get wrapped up in the future or seek help from the past. It is important to look at it all but sometimes it feels too much. Worrying about what will happen or those past mistakes get you stuck. You forget to be present and see what is happening all around. To build resilience, you must bring yourself into the present moment and pay attention to how the body and mind respond in times of stress. Take some deep breaths and bring your focus back to the present. Focus on the priorities that include being here now, at the moment, savoring recovery for what it is but also seeking the same tomorrow and the next day so you can feel the healing power of hope.

Prioritize health and self-care over and above anything else in recovery. When those fall to the wayside, the mental health issues, and addictive behaviors may resurface with greater strength. Be sure to get enough sleep, exercise, and find healing spaces in order to navigate the healing journey better. Resilience is possible but it also helps to push it along by doing healthy things that promote better health overall in recovery. 

At Burning Tree Main, we know that chronic relapse can bring you or a loved one to your knees. It can be debilitating to think and feel like addiction is here to stay. We are here to tell you differently. We believe in the power of 12-steps to tap into the inner resiliency that helps you fight back and win against addiction. With the right tools, resources, counseling, and support, we believe everyone has a chance to find that hope in recovery again. B If you or a loved one are stuck in the cycle of addiction, call us. We are here to help: 866-287-2877.


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