One of the difficulties that come with ceasing addiction and learning to live life one day at a time is learning to be an adult. Now on the surface, this seems like a no-brainer moment. Due to our age and responsibilities, we assume that we are already adults. The fact is that most people who struggle with addiction still maintain a lot of childlike tendencies. These childlike tendencies occur because addicts and alcoholics never learn to face the stressors and emotions of life without escaping through drugs and alcohol. If you started using when you were a teenager, you probably face life, stress, conflicts, relationships, etc. like a teenager. To become an adult, you have to learn to face the challenges of life with emotional maturity. To help you begin the process of becoming an adult, I have listed some steps that you can take.
Take Responsibility for Your Actions
One of the first things we must learn to do in order to fully become an adult and live our lives with maturity is to assume responsibility for our own actions. If you are honest with yourself, you know that each problem that you have encountered has one thing in common: You. For maturity to take hold, you must quit blaming the world for all of your past mistakes. You must take responsibility for the mistakes that you have made and honestly evaluate and take ownership of your role in causing the problems that you are facing or have had to face in the past. When a person in recovery finally starts to own their own behaviors and be responsible for their own well-being, they begin to grow emotionally which leads to more mature adult-like behavior.
Take Responsibility for Who You Are as a Person
When assuming responsibility for your own action you must begin to acknowledge who you are and who you are not. Addicts are the world’s chameleons. An addict can adapt to a lifestyle, culture, or group dynamics with extraordinary ease. This ability has been honed throughout their life as they try to maximize their substance use while at the same time minimizing the awareness others have about that use. Part of recovery is learning how to be genuine and authentic. In recovery, you learn how to accept who you are and take responsibility for becoming a better person. We are always told we can be anything we want. Well, that is not fully true. We do have limitations that, in recovery, we learn to accept. Part of being an adult is recognizing our weaknesses and becoming stronger in our strengths.
Take Responsibility for Your Decisions
Adults take ownership of their decisions. Addicts, on the other hand, often struggle with resentment when they feel pressured into agreeing to do things that they really don’t want to do. Instead of being direct and honest about what they want they try to please others in order to “keep the peace.” If they say “no” they feel guilty and if they say “yes” they feel resentful. This is a no-win situation. Part of recovery is learning that we can choose to say either yes or no. As adults, we can choose to do something when requested or we can choose not to. Part of setting healthy boundaries and taking responsibility for your decisions is realizing that it is okay to say no, even if someone gets angry with you.
Learn to Delay Self-Gratification
Another adult-like trait is learning to delay self-gratification and not be ruled by a lack of impulse control. What is a lack of impulse control? It is finding out that you do not have the patience to wait on something you want. You want it and you want it now. I often joke with clients who say they have no patience. I remind them that they should have a lot of patience because they have never used any of it. To not be ruled by immediate impulses can be a difficult requirement. We often must use coping techniques such as walking away for 20 minutes to see if the desire subsides. It is often helpful to call someone else during these moments so that we can talk through our experiences. When you are feeling impatient, ask yourself the following question. “If I give in to my impulse right now, will I be a better person 30 minutes from now?” The answer is often no. It is often been said that for addicts and alcoholics, the main problem with instant gratification is that it is just not quick enough.
Learn to Manage Your Anger and Frustration
A peculiarity of life is that we often admire others who act like adults. We notice their behaviors and want to emulate them. However, our feelings and impulses often can get in the way. Part of recovery is learning to recognize our own destructive patterns and behaviors and intervening before we make the situation worse. For example, one common frustration is when we have hostile feelings towards something or someone and we do not know how to re-direct those feelings toward a healthy outlet. It is frustrating to be angry at a situation and feel like you have no ability to turn it around. Adults develop healthy outlets that allow them to defuse situations. An example of a healthy outlet would be to learn to call a dependable friend during times of anger. Most hostility or anger begins with a lack of control over a situation. When this happens, it is good to have someone to talk to that can help you see the situation from a different point of view. Another healthy outlet is to be able to re-direct your thinking for 20-30 minutes. This gives you time to calm down and reconsider the situation. An additional healthy outlet is exercise. Exercise allows the brain to produce powerful endorphins which help you redirect your thinking in a more positive manner. Admitting you are feeling hostile to a situation is the first step in beginning this process. When you admit you are angry or hostile you give yourself the ability to begin to see the situation from the outside looking in which can help in forming a different opinion about the situation. Learning to deal with negative feelings without producing negative outcomes is a powerful step in learning how to use adult behavior for a better life.
Learn to Let Others Love You
Another area of being an adult and using adult behavior to be successful in life is developing the capacity to let others love you. As odd as it may seem, some people find it difficult to let others love them. They may feel unworthy of love or feel uncomfortable when others show them attention. Often a person has developed a negative coping skill of not getting close to others as a means of not getting hurt. Healthy adults learn how to love others and learn to let others love them. Professional counseling can be very useful in helping you learn how to let go of old wounds and develop healthy relationships.
Learn to Give to Others
Developing adult-like behavior can be tough when we perceive our needs to be greater than others. These needs may be needs of emotional support, financial support, personal identification support, or any other area that we may be lacking. When a person feels they do not have the necessities of life they find it hard to get satisfaction out of giving or helping others. Paradoxically, it is when we start giving love, time, and help to others is when we reap the benefits of giving. Time and time again I have experienced individuals stepping out of their comfort zone to help others through professional or social organizations and witnessed the benefits that they receive. To give is truly to receive. This is a process you must trust in order to start. Most self-help groups are founded on the principles of giving back to others or the community. You may ask family, friends, or others in the sober community for referrals on where to start. Once you start you will soon discover that giving one’s time and effort to a noble cause will bring the immense satisfaction that you have been in search of. Part of this satisfaction is the feeling of living as a productive member of society, the way that adults do.
Learn to Take Care of the Chores
When attempting to grow personally as an individual we inevitably end up having to do things we do not want to do. These may not be grand or enormously time-intensive events, they may just be simple projects or chores that need to be done. Adult behavior dictates that you do these deeds whether you feel like it or not. The payoff is often the realization that you now are accomplishing things that you have put off for many years. This behavior of taking on projects, conversations, or anything uncomfortable or undesirable will soon turn into a habit that enables each event to be less constraining. What do adults do? The hard things first. That is the type of skill, habit, and mentality that we must develop. Acting under unpleasable circumstances is definitely an acquired taste. Give it a try and see if it does not help you to develop a more systematic approach to dealing with day-to-day issues.
Learn to Develop Empathy
When dealing with others on a day-to-day basis in sobriety you need to develop the ability to emphasize with others. True empathy is when we put ourselves in another’s place and help them to find a solution to some type of situation or problem. Empathy also enables us to know when to allow others to find their own solutions. Where do this knowledge and empathy come from? Often it comes from experiencing those same types of events in your own life. It comes from being involved with others in their day-to-day lives and being concerned for and sympathetic towards areas in life that they may be struggling with. Once again this may be an area that takes time to develop; however, once developed it will be a valuable resource for helping others and having the same help returned to you when needed.
Learn to be Led and to be a Leader
One last note about becoming an adult. Adults accept leadership when appropriate and accept it without resentment or jealousy. There are times in everyone’s life when they need to be led by a leader. There are also times when they need to be leaders. When in the position of being led, we must determine if the person in charge has the authority and knowledge to handle leading us or others. The knowledge of this is not gained through questioning that leadership in the beginning but by witnessing the results of the leadership throughout the process. There are times when we will not believe we are being led appropriately, when that is happening, we will need to determine if we feel that leadership is still advised for our development. If you feel it is not, you will make an exit plan. If you fill you would be a better leader you will work with others until that opportunity avails itself. If you are feeling that opportunity is not coming fast enough for your liking, it is best to consult with others about the situation and be honest with the circumstances. They may give you valuable advice on a course of action you had not considered. To expect always be the leader or to always be led is unrealistic. Understanding that this is always a developing situation is adult-like behavior and will serve you well through life. When it’s time to lead, lead. When it’s time to be led, be led. Do not let your ego get in the way of your success through the process.
The preceding information is meant to give ideas for you to think about concerning your behavior and what you can improve on or develop as an adult in recovery. The development of adult-like behavior can and does happen at any age. Aging does not bring maturity. Living life with proper responses, feeling proper feelings, and responding with proper behaviors are what bring maturity. Development of this maturity takes time and the more conscious we are of how events around us are acting on that maturity, the more likely we are to embrace it, learn from it, and develop with it.
New Dimensions Can Help!
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms or problems, New Dimensions can help. Our team of experienced therapists and psychiatrists can help you overcome these challenges and help you develop the skills you need to thrive. To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.
Our affiliate, MHThrive, provides Individual Therapy, Couples and Marriage Counseling, and Family Therapy at our locations in Katy, The Woodlands, and the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas. We also provide telehealth therapy for anyone who resides within the State of Texas. To schedule an appointment with one of the MHThrive therapists, contact us at 713-477-0333 or visit www.mhthrive.com to learn more.