Failure is something we’re all familiar with, but very few of us actually define. When we think of failure, we often immediately gravitate to self-blame, criticism, beating ourselves up, because we didn’t do something we wanted to, were supposed to or planned on.

On the journey out of addiction to sobriety, it’s common and even normal to experience different setbacks, but a toxic view of the concept of failure can cause additional problems in recovery.

Some of these struggles include:

  • Unrealistic, negative expectations of recovery or sobriety
  • Lower self-esteem that results in feelings of unworthiness
  • Using failure as an excuse to relapse, stop making an effort, give up on themselves

In sobriety, “failure” is common — but perhaps what we consider failure, isn’t actually failing at all.

What does it mean to fail?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines failing as “to not be successful in achieving something.” 

It doesn’t say that to fail means to have a temporary setback, or redirect yourself when you realize what you’re doing isn’t working, or to get back up and try again when you fall. The definition of failure is the end of something; it’s concrete; it’s final. In other words, to fail is to give up — meaning, failure only happens when you quit.

We tend to use the word “fail” too often: in school, if we didn’t get the grade we wanted; in sports, if we didn’t win in the way we planned; in work, if we missed a deadline; in recovery, setting a goal and not reaching it, or not achieving the results you wanted by a certain time.

In reality, we aren’t actually failing, we’re learning. What we consider to be failures are actually teaching moments that help us grow, help us become more successful, help us stay sober in the long run. The more we can learn to change our understanding of failure, the more we can succeed in the areas of life we’re working to, and the fewer disappointments and aggravations we’ll encounter during recovery.

Benefits of failing during sobriety

Experiencing a setback during sobriety, or on your journey to sobriety, can be more than just disheartening — it can be completely devastating. People react differently to what they perceive to be a failure, and often it can trigger feelings of wanting to give up the process entirely, which is, in fact, the only true form of failure.

Struggling during recovery is natural, and it’s also normal to experience a variety of setbacks and impediments in sobriety. Humans are imperfect, but imperfection does not equal failure. And what you perceive to be failures in your journey are actually stepping stones that are better equipping you to maintain long-term sobriety.

Here are four proven benefits of “failing” during your journey of sobriety.

1. Deeper understanding of yourself

When you experience a setback in sobriety, it can be tempting to tear yourself down and not look any deeper into the occurrence. But instead of cutting deeply into your sense of self-worth, use this as an opportunity to get to know yourself on a more intimate level. 

Having a deeper understanding of yourself will enable you to do things like learn what helps you stay sober, what your triggers are and when they’re most influential. Sometimes you have to first experience what doesn’t work before you discover what does. 

2. Wisdom to share with others

As difficult as it can be to imagine the other side of sobriety, your journey, these experiences, they’re powerful. Not only are they shaping you into a new, better version of yourself, but they’re also enabling you to be a source of inspiration, motivation and encouragement for others who will go through this in the future. You might not be able to see it right now, but struggling through this, you’re going to help others in the future.

3. Building resilience in life

Facing setbacks in sobriety can act as a test of your dedication to recovery. Sobriety is more than difficult, and it tends to be a lot more challenging than many people imagine, leading them to be shaken when they experience what they perceive to be a failure.

But these hitches in your recovery build personal resilience, and this resilience, while it can be painful, strengthens and motivates you to remain committed to your healing in the long run.

4. Encourage self-compassion

There isn’t one person alive who couldn’t benefit from more self-compassion, especially those working on maintaining long-term sobriety. Setbacks during this journey can trigger extreme self-criticism, judgment and even loathing that not only damages your progress, but also negatively affects you in other areas of life.

Regularly experiencing these setbacks with conscious self-compassion empowers you to get up and try again. It teaches you to give yourself a hug and a “we’ll try again tomorrow” pep talk instead of beating yourself up for “failing again.”

Learning to be gentle with yourself through self-compassion is an incredible gift that will help you maintain long-term sobriety.

Want additional support?

Reach out to our team here at Real Recovery. We’re here and we’re ready to help.

Give us a call today at 855-363-7325.