Five Strategies for Meaning-Making in Sobriety

Recovery from substance use disorder (SUD) and addiction requires more than merely abstaining from behaviors associated with substance use. Rather, lasting sobriety requires an individual to identify personal motives and purposes that outweigh the “high” of alcohol and other drugs. In other words, identifying a deeper meaning and purpose for sobriety motivates an individual to remain sober. Thus, meaning-making in sobriety plays a crucial role in an individual’s ability to establish and maintain recovery from addiction and other unproductive behaviors.

At 12 South Recovery, we know the undeniable role of meaning-making in helping people sustain lasting sobriety. Because of this, we focus on promoting meaning-making in all of our treatment programs. While some may discover meaning-making through group therapy, others may do so through holistic interventions like yoga and meditation. With that said, it is important that all clients utilize an individualized approach to meaning-making both in treatment as well as in their lives outside of treatment.

Why Is Meaning-Making in Sobriety Important?

Human behavior is driven both by the values we hold and the motives we cherish. When we can identify our values and purpose for our behavior, we can act in ways that align with our values and purpose. Through these actions, we can become more fulfilled in our daily lives. Conversely, when we are unable to identify our values and purpose, we may act in maladaptive ways, causing us to feel depressed, anxious, and uncertain about our actions.

Many individuals are driven to use alcohol and other drugs because they do not have a sense of greater purpose for their lives. In these cases, their motive to use substances is to feel a sense of peace and belonging that they may not otherwise experience. This tendency to fill oneself with substances to escape a lack of purpose illustrates why meaning-making for sobriety is important. Whether conscious or unconscious, motives play an undeniable role in human behavior.

Understanding Meaning-Making in Sobriety as a Personal Experience

Moreover, many individuals in addiction recovery are initially motivated to participate in treatment as a result of encouragement from caregivers and other loved ones. What’s more, some may choose to participate in treatment due to an ultimatum they have been given by a loved one. Unfortunately, encouragement and ultimatums only do so much in fostering meaning-making in sobriety. To sustain lasting sobriety, each individual needs to discover their own motives and purpose for healing. These must be independent of the motives offered by loved ones.

Simply put, without purpose, an individual is extremely vulnerable to relapse as well as the development of other mental health issues. On the other hand, meaning-making in sobriety protects an individual from the risk of relapse and offers concrete motivation for continued success in recovery.

Five Strategies to Consider for Meaning-Making in Sobriety

Every person’s sobriety is influenced by different factors and life experiences. Thus, meaning-making in sobriety requires an individual to discover unique and individualized purposes for their recovery. Everyone may have different therapies that allow them to foster a sense of meaning and purpose. It’s important to try different things and see what works. Here are five suggestions for therapies that promote meaning-making in sobriety:

#1. Practicing Mindfulness

Mindfulness practices foster calming states of mind that can be especially valuable in gaining personal insight. Similarly, such practices can help an individual identify personal values, which can further help them discover deeper meaning and purpose for their healing.

Practices such as yoga, breathwork, meditation, and creative expression techniques can allow individuals to experience balanced emotions. As they heal their emotional self, individuals in addiction recovery can better rely on their intuition and personal values to guide them in their healing journey. Fortunately, 12 South Recovery’s holistic approach to care enables individuals to partake in various mindfulness strategies during treatment.

#2. Adopting New Perspectives From Peers

Individuals in addiction recovery can also discover meaning-making in sobriety by discussing and adopting new perspectives from peers. For example, group therapy can foster a welcoming, non-judgmental environment that allows individuals to share their perspectives and motives for sobriety with others. Listening to others discuss their personal motives for sobriety can be helpful as individuals work to identify meaning within their recovery.

#3. Replacing Newfound Free Time With Valuable Opportunities for Connection

When a person is in recovery, they may feel that their days contain an excess of free time. Those in addiction recovery must replace the time that was once spent using alcohol and other drugs with new opportunities for connection. These opportunities can be especially beneficial for meaning-making in sobriety. Individuals can consider the following activities to foster connection:

  • Attempting a new hobby
  • Scheduling physical activity into their weekly routine
  • Planning sober networking events
  • Volunteering
  • Spending time with loved ones

#4. Pursuing Higher Education or a New Career Path

Another suggestion for meaning-making in sobriety involves pursuing higher education or a change in employment. If an individual discovers that the stresses or boredom of their job may trigger relapse, they must make a change. Similarly, pursuing higher education can fill this newfound free time. What’s more, education can provide an outlet for advocacy for social justice and other important causes.

#5. Mentoring Others in Early Recovery

Finally, individuals can discover meaning-making in sobriety by mentoring others in early recovery. Many find that addiction recovery is the hardest journey of their lives. This experience in and of itself can encourage those in recovery to support those who may not yet see the light at the end of the tunnel. Becoming a mentor who gives back to the recovery and treatment community can certainly further one’s healing journey.

Without a deeper meaning and purpose for sobriety, you are vulnerable to relapse and other mental health problems. In other words, meaning-making in sobriety will protect you from falling back into the grip of substance use and create lasting wellness in your life. Exploring different strategies for meaning-making in sobriety is necessary, as every person has different motives and values that lend themselves to abstinence. At 12 South Recovery, we can help you discover a deeper meaning for your sobriety through one of our many outpatient treatment program options. From general outpatient to intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization programs, all of our programs are customized to fit the unique needs of each client. Learn more by calling (888) 830-8374 today. 

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