focus in recovery

What Happens When You Shift Your Focus in Recovery

“Ne te quaesiveris extra.”

[Do not search outside yourself.]

― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance and Other Essays

While many kids enter treatment facilities for help with their challenging behaviors, addiction, or other mental health issues, recovery can be a long process with benefits that are not readily apparent. Kids might be reluctant to enter treatment, going through the motions to steer clear of even worse consequences. When first entering treatment, they might not yet understand why they are there or just want to “get through it,” hoping to be healed afterward or at least make it known that they tried something.

At some point in treatment, many people have breakthrough moments or realize that everything is meant for their betterment. A moment of clarity or shifting in the focus of why they are in treatment can be transformative. When kids shift their focus in treatment from an external experience to an internal experience, they can begin to make massive leaps in their recovery.

Recovery Does Not Occur Overnight

Considering the mindset of those in early recovery, needing time to process what is going on around them is understandable. Before treatment, kids might have been running away, using alcohol or drugs to numb themselves, cutting, or engaging in other problematic behaviors as a way of coping with life. Anyone entering a treatment center must lay bare their vulnerabilities and leave behind maladaptive coping strategies familiar to them. Raw emotions buried or pushed aside come up, and kids might feel like treatment is not helpful to them.

As kids get beyond this and get out of their comfort zones more and more, they begin to feel greater comfort in dealing with uncomfortable emotions. As new coping strategies are learned over time, kids can experience their feelings with less fear. As time moves forward and they distance themselves further and further from maladaptive strategies, kids can start to feel safe with these feelings and feel comfortable with who they truly are. They can begin to internalize these feelings of regaining control over their emotions—and the shift in focus can begin.

Shifting From the External to the Internal

Initially, kids might feel that their treatment is something happening to them. They might not feel like active participants, instead, feeling that they are forced into this process. The motivations for making changes can come from outside of themselves. They might enter treatment because other people—usually parents—want them to enter treatment. Kids might go to a program as an alternative to legal consequences for some of their behaviors. While we, as parents, hope they see the potential benefits of treatment, kids might not notice these things until they experience these benefits for themselves.

Once kids get a feeling of how treatment benefits them, they can shift their motivations for recovery from being about “getting other people off their backs” to “becoming the best version of themselves.” When kids see that they can succeed, feel that they do belong, and believe that they are valued and matter, they can begin to accelerate and take ownership of their recovery.

When recovery is vital to kids for their own benefit, they can become a driving force in their healing. They can build the confidence and self-esteem needed to come into their own as individuals and young adults. When the motivation comes from outside of themselves, they might only make changes superficially. When kids can dig deep and understand that they do matter and that their treatment helps them get their needs met, they can grow into the best versions of themselves that we, as parents, hope for.

This Shift Will Take Time

Unfortunately, we might need to step back as parents and wait for our kids to come to these realizations independently. We cannot “force” someone to believe that treatment is in their best interests. We might need to leverage them to get the help they deserve yet do not understand right now. Kids might be reluctant, even angry about being in a facility at first until they reach a point of realization to find their internal motivations for making a change.

As parents, we can only guide our kids and support them in the ways that they need. We cannot lecture them into understanding their self-destructive habits or punish them into making positive changes. We wish that these changes could occur quickly, that overnight, we can just say the one right thing to just get our kids back! However, we can continue to support them through the treatment process, exhibiting patience ourselves, recognizing that though they are not reaching their potential just yet, they will get there someday.

Hope lies in trusting the process and supporting our kids on their way to discovering the value of their lives and themselves during recovery.

Kids might enter treatment reluctantly, feeling forced to be in a facility or participate in some kind of therapeutic intervention. They might struggle to see the value in the process, especially during the early stages of recovery. When kids experience treatment and notice the positive themselves, they can internalize these feelings and build the motivation needed to push through the challenges that lie ahead. As parents, we wish our kids could understand that treatment will be the best thing for them. We wish they could realize this immediately and heal overnight. However, kids will need time to engage in the process before they shift from external motivations to internal ones. However, once this change occurs, kids will make huge leaps in their progress. To hear a hopeful story in recovery, listen to “Tehya’s Story” on “Beyond Risk and Back.” If your child continues to struggle, Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center is here for you. Call us today at (303) 443-3343.

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