How Do You Get Past a Plateau in Recovery?

When you first start out in recovery, it’s often tough but you also see a lot of change in a short time. As you spend more time sober, it gets easier, but it’s also less exciting. You don’t see as much progress from day to day. It can feel like you’re doing the same thing every day and not seeing any improvement. In reality, you probably are making steady progress, but if you don’t notice it, it’s easy to lose motivation and perhaps even become negative or cynical about recovery. When this happens, you might start abandoning your recovery plan, putting yourself at greater risk of relapse. If you find yourself feeling moody or depressed, reminiscing about drug use, or having relationship problems, it’s a good indication you may be at a plateau in your recovery. Here are some ways to get back on track and resume making progress.

Don’t panic.

The most important thing is not to panic. Everyone feels stuck sometimes. It doesn’t mean you’re going to relapse or that your life is going down the tubes and everything is hopeless. It’s just a lull and it happens to everyone. So if you’re feeling dissatisfied, like recovery isn’t what was promised, or that you have no idea what’s next, start by reminding yourself that what you’re experiencing is both normal and temporary.

Talk to someone.

Talking to a therapist can help you narrow down the problem. It’s easy to fall back into faulty thinking patterns without even realizing it. Your therapist can help you identify why this negative thinking is sneaking back in and help you get back on course. You may even be able to avail yourself of your treatment program’s aftercare to help you resolve these problems.

See the doctor.

If you have a sudden change of mood, it’s usually a good idea to rule out physical causes. There are many medical issues that can lead to changes in thoughts or emotions. Sudden hormone shifts, changes in personality, or systemic inflammation can be symptoms of other problems that you’ll want to identify early. We often attribute problems to our emotions, our thinking, or our circumstances, when in reality they are caused by something in our bodies. You don’t want to spend a lot of time trying to resolve a psychological issue if the source of the problem is actually physical.

Analyze your situation.

Whether or not you talk to a therapist, when you’re feeling stuck, it’s a good idea to step back and take an objective look at your situation. What has changed in your life recently? What were you doing before that you aren’t doing now? Do you have any new stressors? Sometimes you aren’t able to articulate exactly what’s wrong; you just feel like something is wrong. Another approach might be to reverse the question and ask: If I were happy, motivated, and fulfilled, what would my life look like? Your answers may give you a clue why you feel dissatisfied.

Double down.

If you analyze your situation and discover that you’ve been letting your recovery plan slide, start by getting back to basics. Pick some regular meetings to go to, write in your journal, make sure you’re eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and getting regular exercise. It’s tempting after several months of sobriety to feel like you have things under control and you might turn your attention to other priorities. However, the recovery process isn’t just about quitting substances; it’s also about living a more intentional and meaningful life and much of what you do in recovery is meant to foster that attitude. If you find yourself on autopilot, it may be a sign you are feeling disconnected. Recommitting yourself to your recovery plan is a good first step to regaining that sense of purpose.

Challenge yourself.

If you’re feeling a bit bored or feeling like your progress has stalled, it might be time to challenge yourself with something new. It might be taking on more responsibility at work or starting a project that is personally meaningful. We grow the most when we feel a bit uncomfortable, so pick a goal that makes you slightly nervous and go for it.

Change your routine.

There’s a lot to be said for a regular routine. You know what to expect, so it reduces stress. You also get into the habit of doing certain things at certain times, so you don’t have to spend as much mental energy deciding to do things like eating healthy or exercising; you just do them out of habit. The downside is that a regular routine can get a bit boring and sometimes even stifling. It starts to feel like a rut. If that’s the case, then change something. It doesn’t have to be anything major. In fact, it’s better to start small, especially if you want to make a long-term improvement. You might decide to take a different route to work each day or invite some different people to lunch or coffee. Novelty wakes up your brain and keeps you engaged.


If you decide to challenge yourself, one good option is volunteering. Volunteering has been shown to reduce stress and increase happiness by giving people a sense of purpose and connection. You might want to volunteer to help out at 12-step meetings or for some other cause you care deeply about.

Daylight Recovery Services takes a holistic approach to substance abuse and co-occurring disorder treatment to address the physical, psychological, and spiritual facets of addiction and recovery. We ensure clients emerge from our facility with the proper tools and confidence in their ability to lead a healthy, enjoyable life. If you or someone you love is ready to break free of the bondage of addiction, contact one of our recovery experts today at 1-833-2DAYLIGHT.