Man in nature thinking on expectations in addiction recovery

Unrealistic Expectations In Addiction Recovery

The “Expectation vs. Reality” memes circulating social media. These show side-by-side comparisons that illustrate discrepancies in how we think things should go versus how they actually turn out. It usually elicits a few chuckles from those scrolling by. This is also a good image of what it’s like when one’s expectations in addiction recovery do not match reality.

Setting goals regarding what you hope to accomplish during addiction recovery and expectations for your life once you are sober can guide your progress. However, having unrealistic expectations can be dangerous. 

In addiction recovery, holding yourself to expectations that are too high to meet can add unnecessary pressure and stress and ultimately diminish your chances of success. By setting realistic expectations for addiction recovery instead, you can give yourself a healthy framework for success. Receiving treatment and counseling at a recovery center such as Washburn House can ensure that your journey to sobriety will be a healthy one with realistic expectations and reasonable boundaries. Your treatment team of addiction and recovery experts, clinicians and other behavioral and mental health professionals understand that substance abuse and lifestyle and environmental factors differ from person to person and guide patients in setting realistic expectations.

What Makes Expectations Unrealistic?

Expectations may be unrealistic when you aren’t sure what you are getting yourself into when you agree to receive treatment. It’s common for people to have unrealistic expectations like:

  • Expecting treatment and subsequent recovery to be quick and easy
  • Assuming treatment results in immediate improvements
  • Underestimating how much work must go into recovery
  • Thinking recovery consists of high points and positives only
  • Expecting life to return to “normal” following treatment

Unrealistic expectations can occur before, during and after the treatment and recovery processes. Setting realistic expectations every step of the way and adjusting them as necessary can help you monitor and accomplish your goals.

Why Are Unrealistic Expectations in Addiction Recovery Dangerous?

While unrealistic expectations do not equate to automatic failure at recovering, they can make struggling a more familiar experience for you than succeeding. Furthermore, the extent of the damage caused by unrealistic expectations can depend on how far from reality your expectations are and how well you can rebound from the disappointment of being unable to meet your expectations. Ultimately, unrealistic expectations are dangerous because they can invite unwanted experiences such as:

  • Complacency – You may assume that if recovery is going well, it will continue to do so, prompting you not to put as much effort into treatment and counseling.
  • Disappointment – Expecting recovery to be quick and easy can cause you to feel pressure and disappointment when you can’t progress at the rate you anticipated.
  • Relapse – An inability to meet your unrealistic expectations could cause you to wave a white flag of surrender and stop all treatment, behavior change and recovery efforts. You could experience disappointment, resentment and harshly criticize yourself in ways that make you question why you’re even trying to overcome your addiction in the first place.

Washburn House Can Help You Set Realistic Expectations in Addiction Recovery

Understanding the dangers of unrealistic expectations and the value of creating realistic ones is crucial for initiating treatment and recovery—but how do you put this knowledge into action? Consider reaching out to mental health professionals at a treatment center like Washburn House for guidance on developing appropriate expectations and boundaries during addiction recovery.

The experienced clinicians and addiction recovery experts at Washburn House can help you understand that recovery isn’t a one-time event but a process that requires your commitment. They can provide you information about the addiction you face, from its potential causes to treatment and methods for managing it in the long run. Learning about the substances and habits that impact you can help you develop expectations accordingly. Various forms of substance abuse and addiction require different treatments. Which is why Washburn House offers multiple treatment programs, including but not limited to:

Calling Washburn House at 855.280.9442 is the first step to connecting with compassionate experts who can help you determine the treatment option that will work best for you. While receiving counseling and treatment in such a safe, judgment-free space, you’ll learn the importance of staying flexible when setting expectations, as it’s impossible to predict the exact timeline for overcoming addiction and improving your physical, mental, emotional and behavioral health.

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