Four Steps for Problem Solving in Early Recovery

Have you ever had a dream that just shakes you to your core? I had a dream the other night that is still on my mind today. I was on a mini-vacation with my family. The air was cold and wet, and we were all dressed as if it were raining.  We were walking around, touring some sort of dock, and I was holding my youngest born and talking to my husband. My daughter was walking around with my mom, and I was constantly reminding my rambunctious son to calm down and stick near us. I remember chatting with my mom as we all walked and then quickly doing a head-count to make sure I had all of my kids. I had heard something a while back when I was talking to my mom, but never turned to check what it was, but when performing that head-count I realized my son was no longer beside me. I frantically turned around, panicked, as we were surrounded by water, just knowing that the sound I had failed to pay attention to was the sound of my son falling into the water. Immediately, there in the water, close to the framework of the dock, I saw my perfect, handsome baby boy. His eyes were closed, his skin was porcelain white, and I had already known he was gone. I panicked, and turned to my husband and my mother, and for a split second I was waiting for them to do something, waiting for them to take action, but no one was moving. In that moment, I knew that no one was going to move; it was going to have to be me. I jumped into the water, my eyes closed because I was too afraid to face what was about to happen, too afraid to face the pain I was about to endure, but certain that I had to do it. It felt like eternity being under that water, I felt like I was struggling to bring us both back up, but I did. We both made it up, and as soon as I could see some sort of signs of life coming from him I had been ripped from the dream, and was laying in my bed, panicked, staring at the ceiling.

You see, dreams or not, we are all left dealing with this same core problem. Do I sink or do I dive in and swim? In that moment in my dream, I was looking around for everyone else to solve my problem, for anyone else, anyone but myself. Addiction itself is already a tough problem to face on its own, and it can amplify the emotions you feel when you are faced with additional problems along the way. Treatment makes it easier to find new ways to face and react to your problems. This is a crucial tool to have on your path to sobriety. When there’s a bump in the road, or a real life-altering problem, your reaction has previously been to turn to drugs and alcohol. Addiction leads you to believe that you are powerless. Powerless to your addiction, to your problems, feelings, and ways of being. Let me be the first to tell you, that is not the case. You are a strong, courageous, and meaningful individual, and you serve a purpose. You just need a little guidance with how to face and react to your problems.

Here are some helpful tips for problem-solving while in treatment:

1.Identify the Problem

So you’re upset because you’re in residential treatment and you just got a new roommate. This roommate seems nice, but he is a bit more rambunctious than your last roommate, he’s loud and always on his phone, and he tends to leave his things out all over the place. You’ve had enough of this and so you demand that your house manager move your roommate, but your house manager thinks you need to find a way to make it work.  So what do you do? First, identify the problem. What are you really upset about? Are you upset that you have a new roommate? Are you upset that he/she isn’t as neat as your last roommate? Are you upset with your house manager for telling you no? Identifying the initial problem will help to alleviate the added stress you feel while trying to solve the issue. Studies show that when dealing with problems, people tend to ignore the “little” problems, which then build up on top of each other to create one big problem.

2. Determine Your End Goal

The main problem in the scenario is that your new roommate isn’t quite meeting your expectations. Your house manager already made it clear that moving your new roomie isn’t an option, so it looks as if your goal is going to be working with your roommate to come to a solution that works for both of you. Determining your end goal will help you to be able to come up with different effective ways of solving the issue.

3. Brainstorm Solutions

It is helpful to make a list of possible solutions to your problem. This will help you to determine the best way to approach the situation. In this particular situation, you can ask your house manager to mediate a conversation between you and your new roommate, or you can also try and approach your roommate on your own. Remember, when trying to problem solve it is always best to do so when you are calm and collected. Reacting out of emotion is likely to magnify the issue, which will lead you further away from finding a solution.

4. Execute Your Solution

This might be the hardest step of all, as solving problems isn’t something addicts in early recovery have mastered. Again, this is the part where you dive in, because you, and you alone are going to be the one to change your situation, you are going to be the one to solve your problems going forward.  Referring back to the scenario above, it might be helpful to explain your expectations of a new roommate, and work together to come up with some boundaries and rules that work best for both you. Lack of communication is a pretty common contender for igniting problems between two people. Communicating effectively helps to resolve these issues and works to strengthen your problem-solving skills.

Remember, progress not perfection. Start small, and work on it little by little.  The main goal is to take the initiative when a problem arises. You can work on the details as you go. Hotel California By The Sea is the perfect place to learn and practice all the necessary skills to solving problems. Our treatment centers provide you with knowledge and skills that will carry you through a lifetime of problem solving. There is no greater gift to give yourself than the courage to dive back in without fear and the tools to keep you afloat.  Don’t be left on the dock, struggling with whether or not to jump in. Take the plunge, and swim! You’ll be surprised at just how quickly you’ll be able to navigate your way through the treacherous waters that is problem solving.[/fusion_text]