“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
A Spirit of Resilience
So said Thomas Edison, the famous American inventor who held—either by himself or jointly with others—nearly 1,100 patents. His accomplishments were many, but he is perhaps best remembered for inventing the phonograph and incandescent electric light as well as for establishing the first industrial research laboratory in the world.
How did he accomplish all of that? Resilience. He had an unshakeable commitment to trying and trying and trying until he achieved success. This stick-to-itiveness offers an example for everyone—including people in recovery for a substance use disorder.
A spirit of resilience can serve us all well—whether we are trying to create the next world-changing invention or to maintain our sobriety.
Resilience in the Face of Adversity
It is easy to imagine someone like Edison as a genius who had great idea after great idea and then brought them into the world with ease. But that isn’t what happened at all.
Indeed, this might be the most famous of Edison’s many quotes: Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.
That’s a memorable way to say something very important: anything worth doing is going to take work. A lot of work. Wanting to stay sober is all well and good, but hard work and resilience in the face of adversity are both going to be necessary if you hope to achieve that goal.
That means facing down the inevitable temptations to return to drug use. It might mean finding a way to keep up with therapy and 12-Step meetings while still fulfilling your obligations to work, school, and/or your family. The work could include making sincere attempts to mend relationships that were broken while you were taking drugs. The challenges are plentiful—and they can tempt you to give up.
The Incalculable Loss of Giving Up Too Soon
As the challenges mount, you might find yourself thinking that you may as well give up on your hope of sustained sobriety. It may seem as though you will never make significant progress in your recovery. It is perfectly understandable that you might feel that way.
But Edison would have advised you to keep pushing even when it would be easier to stop trying so hard.
Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
Relying on your resilience can keep you from giving up too soon. And to Edison’s way of thinking (and we agree), it is always too early to give up.
Reeling from a Relapse
After all, if you have accepted you have a problem, gone through detox and rehab, and hit the ground running with regular attendance at support meetings and therapy, good nutritional choices, a strong support network, and the like, a relapse almost certainly feels like failure. And it can be awfully difficult to find the motivation to try again.
For his part, Thomas Edison didn’t really believe in failure:
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
That’s an important idea. Many times, a person who has relapsed is extremely reluctant to return to treatment for their substance use disorder. They simply don’t see the point. It didn’t work the first time, right? So why should we expect a different result if we try it again?
It’s a fair question, but the answer is found in Edison’s idea of finding all the ways that won’t work while you search for the one that will. If you return to treatment, you and your care team will have an opportunity to fine-tune your treatment and the strategies you will carry with you on your next attempt at a lasting recovery.
And while we hope you don’t have to return to rehab 10,000 times, Edison’s point is well made. You may relapse once. You may relapse twice. You may relapse three times—or even more. You are just finding the ways that don’t work. The way that will work is still out there.
Hang On Tightly to Your Self-Worth
Edison had this to say about defining what a person is worth:
Your worth consists of what you are and not in what you have.
Now, he was no doubt referring to material wealth when he spoke of “what you have.” But the words are equally applicable to a person with a substance use disorder. The disorder is something you have—not something you are.
So you can take comfort and pride in your ongoing development as a resilient person committed to maintaining your sobriety no matter how hard things get. And a stumble doesn’t make you a failure—especially if you dust yourself off and start again.
We Can Shine a Light on the Challenges You Face
At French Creek Recovery Center, we understand that a substance use disorder presents a difficult, ongoing challenge. That is why we’re committed to an evidence-based, compassionate, and personalized approach to treatment. If you’re ready to show off your resilience, we’re ready to help.