Content Reviewed by Cameron Bolish, M.Ed., CEO of PaRC

Disappointment, although common, can be a challenging emotion to navigate. Disappointment can be even more earth-shattering for someone recovering from alcohol and other drug use. This negative emotion can surface from various circumstances and let-downs and lead to worsening physical and mental health consequences, aside from an increased risk of relapse. As there is no way to eliminate disappointment from one’s life, individuals in recovery must learn how to manage disappointment as it occurs and not let it interfere with their efforts toward securing lifelong sobriety.

Understanding Disappointment in Addiction Recovery

Disappointment is most often recognized as feelings of unhappiness or discouragement that result from unmet expectations in life. All of us experience disappointment from time to time, whether in our relationships, job opportunities or ourselves. More often than not, unmanaged disappointment can often lead individuals to behave in unhealthy ways. They can lead an individual to use alcohol and other drugs for the first time in an attempt to self-medicate. Similarly, feelings of disappointment can motivate an individual to relapse, especially if they are not equipped with healthier coping mechanisms throughout treatment and recovery.

Disappointment can result from endless scenarios. For those in recovery, the most common reasons include:

  • Life in recovery is more challenging than what an individual had anticipated
  • One’s perceived recovery progress appears slower than what was expected
  • Recovery role models, sponsors or mentors do not live up to expectations
  • Consistency in recovery has not produced the desired outcome
  • Having unrealistic recovery expectations

Altering Your Perception of Disappointment

Despite us all having to experience disappointment from time to time, there are several ways that one can learn to perceive disappointment in a positive light. Learning to perceive disappointment as a normal, healthy experience can be the first step in challenging so-called “failures” when they surface in your life.

Here are a few ways to acknowledge disappointment healthily:

#1. Disappointment emphasizes the passion you have for something.

When you are disappointed about where you stand on your recovery journey, it shows how much you genuinely care about your recovery. The key here is to avoid having unrealistic expectations for your sobriety and recovery journey. For example, one of the biggest disappointments that individuals in recovery experience result from the realization that recovery is a process—a lifelong journey. Many people want eliminating their substance use to be the end-all goal. However, much work must be done to achieve and sustain long-lasting sobriety.

#2. Disappointment requires us to admit that we did not receive or achieve something we wanted.

On the other hand, emotions like anger may mask disappointment as it is easier for people to get angry than to acknowledge the intensity of their desire to achieve something. Disappointment is healthy and encourages us to recognize that receiving or achieving everything we want is not realistic. Sometimes, disappointment serves as a reminder that great things take time.

#3. Disappointment in life is inevitable.

It is important to remember that, although uncomfortable, disappointment in life is inevitable. While we cannot control how life treats us, we can control how we respond to it. Disappointment can be discouraging, but it is not inherently harmful. If anything, how we navigate disappointment is more defining for us in our lives than how often we experience it.

Healthy Ways to Cope With Disappointment in Recovery

As unmanaged disappointment can be dangerous for those in recovery, individuals must have valuable resources and coping mechanisms that can help them healthily manage feelings of disappointment. Rather than allowing your energy levels to be drained along with increased stress levels by focusing on disappointment, here are some valuable ways that you can cope with disappointment:

Find the root cause of your disappointment.

As mentioned previously, disappointment results from unmet expectations. One way that you can learn to cope with disappointment is by recognizing the root cause of these feelings. For example, you can address whether or not you had realistic expectations and alter your expectations likewise. Similarly, you can speak with a therapist to work on past trauma that may affect how disappointment affects you.

Focus on gratitude.

This change in perspective is easier said than done, especially when you are experiencing the pit of disappointment. However, gratitude is a simple yet effective way to remove your mind from a hostile place. You can keep a gratitude journal and record all the things you appreciate, especially during times of disappointment.

Seek social support.

Although not initially recognized, experiences of disappointment create an excellent opportunity to connect with others that may be experiencing similar let-downs. It may help to seek out social support resources, such as group therapy meetings, to help you stay on track during your recovery.

Engage in meditation.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, can help individuals learn to regulate and manage difficult emotions. Taking a few minutes daily to practice mindfulness will help you feel less dominated and controlled by your feelings.

Prevention and Recovery Center (PaRC) is a drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility that understands how common it is for disappointment to affect one’s recovery journey. We offer several different treatment programs that help patients address and navigate these uncomfortable feelings healthily. To learn more about our treatment options, call us today at (713) 939-7272.