How to Cope When You Feel Like Giving Up
by Devon Berkheiser, Psy.D.
No matter how motivated you are to make changes in your life, you are likely to experience periods of time when you feel like giving up. This is certainly true in recovery. Perhaps you aren’t seeing the progress that you had hoped for, or you’ve had a few unanticipated setbacks. Or maybe you’re just having the kind of day when nothing seems to be going right. Whatever the reason for your lagging motivation, there are some steps that you can take to get through such a time.
Remember it’s Temporary
First of all, remember that the way you’re feeling now is only temporary. While you may not be able to make this feeling of frustration or hopelessness go away, you can learn to tolerate it. Try distracting yourself with an enjoyable or comforting activity, or use affirmations such as “I can get through this” or “This too shall pass.” Keep in mind that no matter how deflated you may feel in the moment, it won’t last forever.
Recall Your Motivation for Changing
Try to remember why you wanted to make the change in the first place. Recalling the negative consequences of the addictive substance or problematic behavior can provide a boost in motivation when you’re feeling stuck or frustrated. One way to do this is to refer back to your cost-benefit analysis, which clearly outlines all of the problems that the behavior/substance was causing.
Reaching out to your support system can also help you through low periods. Not only can your support network provide helpful suggestions and encouraging words, but they can also help to keep you accountable. You’re more likely to go to a SMART meeting, for example, if you know that a friend is expecting to meet you there. So don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help.
Stick With It!
During periods of low motivation, it’s more important than ever to follow through on your recovery maintenance plan. Stick with your planned activities/schedule, even if you don’t feel like it. Just because you don’t want to do something does not mean that you can’t do it! Often, you’ll find that if you just take the first step, it becomes fairly easy to keep going.
Be Gentle With Yourself
Finally, practice self-compassion. In other words, simply be kind to yourself. Remember that everybody has tough times, and give yourself a break. A decrease in motivation is a normal part of the recovery process and does not mean that you aren’t making progress. Acknowledge and celebrate the positive steps that you have taken, and remember that there are more to come.