One of the best ways to prevent relapse is to cultivate a sense of fulfillment in recovery. Fulfillment is a sense of happiness and satisfaction that comes from working to find purpose and meaning in a life without drugs or alcohol.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fulfillment has a number of real benefits, including:1
- Higher productivity
- Social connectedness
- Better immunity against disease
- Healthier relationships
Finding fulfillment in recovery requires practice and mindfulness. It requires using your inherent strengths and living according to your values.
Why Fulfillment in Recovery Is Central to Success
Addiction robs you of your sense of well-being. It causes feelings of frustration, alienation and hopelessness. It brings disorder and chaos to your life. These contribute to continued drug abuse and an ongoing cycle of personal dysfunction.
Treatment helps you end your drug abuse by addressing a variety of underlying issues. Therapy also helps you develop a toolkit of practical skills and strategies for coping with cravings, stress and other relapse triggers.
But these skills and strategies aren’t typically enough to sustain long-term recovery if you’re unhappy with your life, or if you feel like you don’t belong. If your life feels futile, it can be difficult to abstain from using in an attempt to feel better about yourself and about your life.
When you have a sense of fulfillment in recovery, however, the likelihood of turning back to drugs or alcohol is far lower. That’s because when you have a sense of purpose and fulfillment in your life, you no longer need drugs or alcohol to fill a void. You begin to feel authentically happy, which is an amazing feeling. Authentic happiness, according to the University of Pennsylvania, is made up of positive emotions, engagement and meaning in life.2
High-quality treatment programs will use a variety of therapies to help you find purpose, meaning and fulfillment in a life of recovery.
How to Find Fulfillment in Recovery
Fulfillment doesn’t happen overnight, and in fact, it’s a continual process of becoming. Martin Seligman is a pioneer of positive psychology, which uses the scientific method to study what makes people authentically happy. Seligman stresses that happiness and fulfillment are cultivated through a variety of avenues:
Finding and using your signature strengths. We all have strengths, and when we use them, they become stronger and contribute to a sense of purpose and happiness. When you’re using your strengths, you enter a state of “flow,” where time ceases to exist and you’re thoroughly and happily engaged in a task.
Finding meaning. Finding meaning involves using your strengths for a greater good. Working in the service of something bigger than yourself helps bring meaning and fulfillment to your life.
Pursuing positive emotions. We often assume that happiness causes positive emotions, but it’s actually positive emotions that cause happiness. Studies show that positive emotions are associated with better health, larger social networks, and a longer life. Positive emotions can be cultivated by learning to appreciate and savor basic pleasures. Being mindful in the present moment and expressing gratitude for what you have can help cultivate positive emotions.
Dealing with the past. Unhappiness with the past can put a dent in your overall level of happiness and fulfillment. Gratitude and forgiveness—of yourself and others—is central to letting go of the negative emotions associated with the past and building optimism and hope for the future.
Taking good care of yourself also helps to foster fulfillment in recovery by promoting feelings of health, strength and well-being. Exercising every day, eating healthy food, getting plenty of sleep and staying mindful of your thoughts and emotions can help bring a higher level of self-awareness and mental clarity.
Striving for fulfillment can help you improve your quality of life by leaps and bounds, putting an end to the need for alcohol or drugs and leading to long-term, successful recovery.