“A good half of the art of living is resilience.”
So says philosopher Alain de Botton, and we think he is on to something. Resilience is an essential trait—especially for someone addressing a mental health disorder or working hard to maintain their sobriety after treatment.
But what exactly does it mean to be resilient? And how can we build up our resilience so that it serves us well when times are tough?
The American Psychological Association offers this definition of resilience:
Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. As much as resilience involves “bouncing back” from these difficult experiences, it can also involve profound personal growth.
The heart of that definition is this: being resilient means “adapting well in the face of adversity.”
If you are in recovery from a substance use disorder, you are probably familiar with a variety of kinds of adversity. First and foremost, you may be facing persistent cravings that tempt you to return to drugs or alcohol. You may be trying to balance your 12-Step meetings and therapy sessions with school, work, or family obligations. And you may have a number of relationships that need mending after being damaged during the period when you were taking drugs or drinking. Dealing with any and all of these challenges while maintaining your sobriety requires resilience.
Mental health challenges like anxiety or depression also offer up plenty of adversity. But as you develop your resilience, you will be better equipped to address those challenges.
Being resilient doesn’t mean you won’t continue to face challenges. And it doesn’t mean you will always wholly withstand those challenges. But it does mean that your resolve to keep pushing forward is steadfast. Author and artist Mary Anne Radmacher reminds us:
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying ‘I will try again tomorrow.’”
Because substance use disorders can be treated but not cured, every day of recovery is a day of trying again to maintain your sobriety. Similarly, mental health disorders can be ongoing and may ebb and flow in terms of how much they impact your life on any given day. Being resilient in the face of challenges means you are more likely to successfully face whatever comes your way, day after day.
Resilience After a Substance Use Relapse
When you have been working hard to stay sober, a relapse can feel like a devastating defeat. If you are not prepared to deal with the setback, you might feel like giving up. But if you have been developing your resilience, you will know that a setback is just a setback—not a final verdict on whether you can stay sober—and you will return to treatment. By doing so, you demonstrate that your commitment is unshakable and that you are willing to make adjustments that may lead to more success in the future.
You might take your inspiration from inventor Thomas Edison:
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
Fortunately, resilience is not a trait that you either have or don’t have. Instead, it is something you can work on and build up over time. Here are some key factors that contribute to resilience:
- Developing a strong support system and maintaining positive relationships
- Developing a positive self-image and positive attitude
- Developing good communication skills and good problem-solving skills
- Creating and carrying out realistic plans
- Managing your emotions and impulses effectively and healthily
Some of these things might come naturally. Others might take some dedicated work. That work, however, will be worth it as you better equip yourself to effectively cope with difficulties that arise in your life—including, but not limited to, those related to your mental health and/or your sobriety.
We Can Help You Build Your Resilience
Mindfulness expert Sharon Salzberg says this about resilience:
“Resilience is based on compassion for ourselves as well as compassion for others.”
At Peak View Behavioral Health, our approach to treatment is built on both compassion and expertise. We will listen to you so that we have a full understanding of your situation, including your struggle with drugs or alcohol, your mental health challenges, or both. No matter your circumstances, we will help you develop resilience that will serve you well going forward—no matter what challenges arise.