What we know as “peer pressure” is actually an adaptive evolutionary process gone awry. Human beings are social creatures, and societies are able to be built due to our mutual agreements of norms and acceptable behaviors.
When we are in addiction, the societies – or sub cultures – that we belong to tend to be those which find substance use and abuse to be one of those acceptable behaviors.
Within your former social circle, the consideration of addiction as the only way to live may be so extreme that changing your behaviors, through deciding to get sober, can be enough to ostracize you from the group. Alternatively, you may choose to leave such a group, on your own accord, due to the desire to surround yourself with more positive influences.
Whether you are continuing to interact with those who find your sobriety to be offensive, or choosing to set out on your own about it, the key is to be able to hold your head high.
The following are three ways which you can utilize toward being free of worry that your decision to lead a new, sober, life is anything but perfect.
1. Increase Your Confidence Level
You have probably heard the popular phrase, “fake it until you make it.” In some cases, the idea of faking our abilities may be abhorrent. We certainly wouldn’t feel good to lie about who we are, or about what we are actually capable of. When it comes to confidence, however, there is a different way of looking at it.
Small acts of confidence tend to breed more confidence, which means that we have to start somewhere. When leaving our old life of addiction, and embarking on our new life of sobriety, we may find that we have to rewrite our confidence script.
For those who are not used to acting assertively in their sobriety, taking that first step toward acting confidently about our opinions and decisions can feel quite awkward. Overcoming that initial awkward feeling is where the “faking” part comes in.
You may be thinking self-defeating thoughts, such as believing that you are not worthy of speaking up, or thinking that no one cares to listen. You may be experiencing uncomfortable feelings, such as fear of failure or of ultimate rejection.
In order to make a move toward increased confidence, those thoughts and feelings must be consciously overridden or ignored.
Two of the most utilized techniques for vetoing negative thoughts and feelings are positive self-talk and mindfulness.
With positive self-talk, you are able to use your own, inner, voice to argue against the negative impressions. Some will even find it useful to find a solitary space, and speak the positive counterarguments aloud.
With mindfulness, each negative thought or feeling is permitted to arise during the moment. Rather than allowing it to stay around and fester, however, mindfulness teaches us to have the experience pass on by. Once acknowledged, the negative thoughts can be replaced by thoughts which apply to the person that we wish to become.
2. Find Others Who Support Your Progress
Another route toward increasing confidence is related to our social support. When we are surrounded by others who share our recovery-oriented insights and perspectives, we can receive a boost of confidence through their affirmations.
Hearkening back to the concept of humans surviving through social inclusion, a solution for rejection by counterproductive peers is to replace their influence.
Research has shown that positive social support is important for both beginning, and sustaining, recovery. Being around others who are set on a path of success and wellness can work as an inspiration for ourselves.
Rather than being pulled down by those who are still in their addictions, we can be pulled upward by the presence of accountability to those who have our genuine best interests at heart.
In addition to the social support which you may have found during the classes, groups, and meetings associated with your recovery process, there are opportunities to surround yourself with those who are positioned for future success.
Spend some time in consideration of where you want to find yourself in a few years, and then seek those who are already in that space. This could mean applying for a new job, or finally enrolling in that college program that you always dreamed of completing.
The important aspect is that you have friends and supporters who help to keep you looking forward, and don’t attempt to drag you backward.
3. Become A Leader in Life
During addiction, the undisputed leader of your life is the substance. Your period of recovery is the time that you take that leadership role back. You may find that you are not only the reestablished leader of your own life, but that you are also equipped with the insight and abilities which call you toward a position of leading others.
Those who excessively worry about what others think of them are rarely in leadership positions. Being a leader requires the guts to stand for what you know is right. It calls for the ability to stand firmly by a decision which has been made with rational, long term, foresight. It comes with the charge of effectively managing emotions, and establishing patterns of behavior – or good habits – which can be aspired to and emulated by others.
While discussion of leadership is often presented within the confines of workplace roles, it is often most important to be considered a leader in life. Simply living out your new resolutions toward success can place you in such a position, as it provides others with hope that they, too, are capable of making changes for the better.
If you are interested in more formal ways of leading others toward wellness, there are opportunities for becoming a mentor, counselor, or life coach. The benefits of adding such a credential to your toolbox include not only the personal satisfaction which comes from leading others toward victory, but can also result in a means of paying the bills.