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How to Manage Expectations in Recovery

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How to Manage Expectations in Recovery

happinessIt’s natural when making any sort of life change to adopt certain expectations about the effects of that change. In recovery specifically, these expectations can be quite high. You’re creating a new start for yourself, after all.

The thing with expectations is that they stem from inexperience. You haven’t experienced something before, so you foster expectations as to how it will be and what will come out of it. While this isn’t necessarily important when expecting a horror movie to be scary or a pair of jeans to fit just right, it’s a crucial thing to remember when going through recovery. The best thing to do is to go through recovery with an open mind and a willingness to take action. However, it’s virtually impossible to not have some sort of expectations. 

“I’m going to be so much happier. I’m going to get my job back. I’ll be able to go to a BBQ and not be tempted to have even one beer.”

These are all common expectations in addiction recovery. However, they’re all dangerous to the process. You can expect your life to be different after getting sober, but to expect the recovery process to make the change for you is to do yourself a disservice. YOU make those changes for yourself.

So, because you can’t rid yourself of expectations completely, the best thing to do is learn how to manage those expectations.

Tips for Managing Expectations:


  • Do keep an open mind. Success in recovery starts with accepting the process. Addiction creates a toxic mindset that will take time to heal and change. The key is to be open and willing to learn new, healthy techniques and beliefs that you can take with you through life.
  • Do document your recovery. The initial few weeks of recovery are usually where people see the most change. So, many people get discouraged later on in the journey because they think they are not making as much progress. Keeping a recovery journal will help because you will physically be able to see your progress.
  • Do stay in the present. Try to remain action-oriented and work on your present self rather than looking toward future results. Results will come in time if you put in the effort everyday.


  • Don’t compare yourself to other people. This includes other people in recovery, people without addiction problems, and even yourself. Addiction is not a unique disease. But the struggles and stories that belong to each person are unique. That means that someone else’s success or failure does not dictate your own. Additionally, if this isn’t your first time in recovery, don’t compare this time to other times because you’re never the same person you were in the past.
  • Don’t romanticize the process. Recovery is an amazing thing and really can change your life. But it’s not all going to be easy. Recovery takes work.
  • Don’t glorify happiness. Happiness is not the only thing that comes out of recovery. There will likely be struggles and occasional setbacks. A healthier lifestyle will always produce more happiness, but it will take constant effort.

happinessThe bottom line is: anything worth fighting for will take effort. There are amazing benefits in recovery but they won’t just happen. Help yourself reap the rewards by keeping your willingness high and your expectations under control.

Posted in Recovery