You’ve probably heard the saying, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”
That particular quote is credited to Ralph Waldo Emerson, but over the years the idea has been expressed many different ways (here’s Miley Cyrus’ take, for example). The foundational idea is this: focusing too exclusively on an end goal can cause you to miss the many pleasures and successes you might experience and achieve along the way.
This notion can be a particularly useful concept for those who are in recovery for a substance use disorder.
The Importance of Taking Recovery One Day at a Time
After a person has gone through detox and rehab in a residential treatment facility, the recovery journey truly begins. Those early days of recovery can be both exciting and scary. If you find yourself in that situation, you may be focused on a singular goal: maintaining your sobriety for the rest of your life.
Make no mistake: That’s an excellent goal. But it can also be an example of putting the destination ahead of the journey. Ironically enough, focusing on that end goal may actually make it more difficult to achieve. That’s because focusing on the end of the road instead of each step along the way can quickly lead to missteps and stumbles.
An Example from the Arts
Imagine a painter with a grand vision for a new work. The end goal—the finished painting—is probably an exciting prospect for the artist. They are probably eager to bring it fully to life on the canvas.
But they can’t do it all at once, right? Instead, the artist has to focus on each detail—picking the right paints, identifying the best colors, executing each brushstroke with precision, and much more. As the small decisions and details add up, the final goal eventually comes into focus. But any effort to jump straight to the end will undermine the entire project—possibly ruining the painting.
An artist who loves—or at least appreciates—each step in the long process is far more likely to reach their ultimate goal. Of course, there will be challenges, but our painter is far more likely to overcome those challenges if they enjoy the process of painting.
The Art of Recovery
Let’s bring the focus back to you—the person in recovery for a substance use disorder. How does our painter’s situation apply to you?
Well, let’s say that you spend every day bemoaning the challenges of staying sober, focusing on regrets from your past, and/or worrying about your future. Your goal of lifelong sobriety may still be in place, but your day-to-day approach doesn’t set you up for success. You aren’t enjoying the journey—and that might mean you won’t be able to reach the destination.
How to Make the Journey More Meaningful
Okay, you might be thinking, I get it. I should focus on the journey instead of the destination. But how do you propose I do that?
It’s a good question. And we have some ideas.
First, you may want to consider taking up a practice like yoga or mindfulness meditation. Both of these practices (and others like them) encourage you to stay focused on the present moment rather than ruminating about the past or feeling anxiety about the future. This increased focus on the moment you are living right now can help find beauty and meaning in the present.
Speaking of finding meaning, serving others and cultivating a spirit of gratitude can boost your recovery efforts. Service can take a lot of different forms—from volunteering for a cause to helping an elderly neighbor to becoming a sponsor in your 12-step group.
Taking up a new and engrossing hobby can be another way to keep the focus on the journey. Find something you enjoy doing—and something that you will continue to enjoy even if you never achieve high levels of mastery. For example, if you take up painting, you will likely experience far more benefit if you can focus on the joy of learning and improving rather than focusing on creating world-class artwork (though more power to you if you do!).
Also, making smart choices about exercise, diet, and sleep routines can help you enjoy each day to its fullest.
We Can Guide Your First Step Toward Your Recovery Destination
At Bel Aire Recovery Center, we know that everyone’s recovery journey is unique to them. That is why we are committed to listening to you and then developing a personalized treatment plan grounded in compassion and expertise.
We also know that there are challenges to overcome in everyone’s recovery journey, and so we provide access to support and resources after treatment. And if you experience a relapse, we are here to help you reset and start over. It’s just another part of the recovery journey.