Is it possible to get so excited about the process of addiction recovery that you fall in love with your life again, become excited to wake up every morning, and become enthusiastic about the opportunity that comes with each new day?
Yes. Yes, you can get that excited about your new life in recovery. In fact, you can fall in love with your life all over again and become passionate about living again.
Let me slow right down right here though and point out that in order to achieve these lofty promises, you are going to need to put in some serious hard work, and also–it is going to take some time.
But that is the only reality check. Hard work, commitment, a serious time investment, and you are well on your way.
And really, what is your alternative? What will you do if you don’t build this amazing new life in recovery? The only other option, really, is relapse….and we don’t want that.
So let’s see what it takes to get passionate about life again in recovery.
How to dive into the addiction recovery process and just surrender
In order to really dive into the addiction recovery process you need to surrender fully.
What does that mean, to “surrender fully” to your addiction? How is that different from, say, partial surrender?
The difference is that when you surrender fully and completely to a new solution in your life, you don’t hold anything back. You are willing to do anything and everything in order to recover.
So if someone suggests that the best possible path for you in recovery is to go to an inpatient treatment program, how do you react to that?
Depending on where I was at on the surrender continuum, I reacted in the past very differently to that suggestion.
For example, at one point I argued against the idea of treatment very aggressively. I declared the idea of inpatient rehab to be completely stupid. How could it possibly help me? And so on.
At another time in my addiction journey I became so desperate and so miserable that I was fully willing to attend inpatient rehab. In fact, by this time, I pretty much knew that this was the solution for me, I knew that this is what I needed to do. That was only because I had been “around the block a few times” when it came to treatment in the past based on a few failed attempts. But the point is that I was so miserable in my addiction that I was willing to go to treatment anyway, in spite of my fear, in spite of my anxiety. That is the key point.
This is what your surrender buys for you, it buys willingness. Without full surrender you will not be willing enough to follow through and do the things that you need to do in order to get sober.
So the way to dive into recovery and get sober is to make a decision and take big action, right now.
That is the only way that you can ever do it, that is the only time that you could ever decide to get sober, is right now.
Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking that we can make this decision in the future. “I will get sober next year some time when I feel more ready.”
But tomorrow never really comes. It is always today, it is always right now, and no real alcoholic will ever want to face their fears and make that leap into sobriety. It’s tough and it’s scary.
Massive action wins the day when it comes to surrender. Don’t just surrender small. That doesn’t work. Instead, surrender big. Surrender fully and completely. You can show this by your willingness and your actions. It was suggested that I go to treatment, and when I finally surrendered fully to my disease, I became willing to do that.
It’s about your willingness to accept a new solution in your life, even if that solution is not perfect. I knew what treatment meant, I knew that it would involve AA meetings and group therapy. Those things made me nervous, I was afraid of them. But I got miserable enough that I became willing to accept any solution, because what I was doing wasn’t working out. My way had failed me. And I had to admit that and become willing to try something different. That “something different” is generally going to be inpatient treatment, which can absolutely become the start of your new life in recovery, if you allow it to.
The question is: Are you willing?
When does personal growth get exciting in addiction recovery?
Personal growth and the idea of improving your life does not translate into instant happiness the moment that you get sober.
That would be nice, wouldn’t it? But it doesn’t work that way, I am afraid.
No, you don’t get this exciting and passionate life the second that you decide to stop drinking alcohol.
It takes a bit of time in order to really start to reap the rewards of sobriety.
There are a few reasons for this. One is that the rewards of recovery are spread out across every area of your life, and so they have to combine slowly in order for you to feel the full effects of those rewards.
What exactly do we mean by that?
Let me give you an example. As part of my recovery journey, I have done lots of different things to improve my life, but let’s just take a handful of them to illustrate the point:
1) Quit drugs and alcohol.
2) Quit smoking cigarettes.
3) Started exercising daily.
4) Improved sleep habits.
5) Eating healthier foods, better nutrition.
Now if you took just one or two of those items you might notice a mild difference in your life. But if you do all 5 of those things over a long period of time then the benefits start to multiply with each other. In other words, the fact that you are exercising daily helps you to sleep better at night. The fact that you are eating healthy foods allows you to exercise better. The fact that you exercise gives you a boost mentally, or a natural high, which helps to replace the lack of drugs you are not putting into your body. And so on.
So these various benefits do not happen in isolation. They combine to create a synergistic effect, where one plus one equals five. And this is when personal growth in recovery starts to get exciting.
So it doesn’t happen when you have two weeks sober. Recovery is not exactly exciting at that point, because you are not experiencing all of these benefits combining with each other just yet.
Later in your recovery, if you are doing the work, then all of these various benefits and rewards start to combine, and they will surprise and delight you. This is because you can never predict exactly how your life will improve when you start to use the holistic approach. And that’s the exciting part. You begin to wake up each day with a new excitement about yourself because you are so delighted to see how your sobriety will reward you next.
Some of the rewards of sobriety are obvious, and you know, for example, that you don’t have to deal with a hangover tomorrow morning. That’s nice. But you know about it, and so it doesn’t really surprise and delight you.
There are other rewards in sobriety that are not obvious and that you cannot predict. So the joy that I get from, say, exercising with a friend is not something that I would have predicted when I was first getting sober. I had to discover that reward, and to do that I had to push myself to improve my life, to seek better health, to become a better person in recovery. It is through the process of personal growth that the various rewards start to “connect the dots” in your life, and that is when the magic starts to happen.
It’s not just about quitting drinking, obviously. You go beyond that, you start to grow as a person, and you push yourself to improve your life in as many different ways as possible. Once you are in that process you will eventually start to notice that magical things will happen. This is why they say in AA that “it gets greater, later.” You don’t get this holistic effect after working on recovery for 2 weeks. It takes more time than that. But once it kicks in, things get really amazing.
Positive feedback loops and benefits that start to grow on their own
Some of the things that I have learned to do in recovery seem to feed on themselves. I like the term “success breeds success” and I can see how that applies in different areas of my life and in my recovery.
Exercise is a good example of a very positive loop. At first, it was tough for me to exercise and I did not like to do it at all. This is because I was out of shape! Somehow I managed to fight through that time and eventually I was in much better shape. And even later down the road, exercise became easy, even joyful. And at that point it really was a huge gift and I thoroughly enjoyed doing it. Once you are in shape, it is much easier to stay in shape than it ever was to get into shape. And the same principle applies to sobriety as well: Once you are clean and sober, it is much easier to stay clean and sober than it is to come back from a relapse and have to get sober all over again. This should help motivate you to stick to your plan, to be persistent, to persevere. Once you put something positive into motion it will tend to continue. This is the power of positive habits in recovery. You should build your new life in sobriety based on the power of these positive habits.
The one percent solution will transform your life a year from now
If you go from one day to the next it is pretty hard to see significant growth in yourself.
In trying to judge your own progress in early recovery it is almost impossible. We are too close to ourselves to see the progress that we are making. And because we are trapped in our own minds, it is impossible for us to really consider a long enough timeline for us to see the positive progression.
There is one way to deal with this in retrospect, and that is to start writing in a journal every day. If you write in a daily journal then this will give you perspective later on when you pull out that journal and read through it a bit. It is then that you will be able to see how far you have come, how your thinking has evolved, how you have matured emotionally. If you write in a journal every day, then one day you can look back at it and say “See how angry I was back then?” or something similar to that. And in doing so you can appreciate the growth you have made that you may not have otherwise acknowledged.
The way to deal with idea of personal growth moving forward is to think of your life in terms of the one percent solution. What if you were to improve your life every single day by just one percent? Do you think that you could make enough of an effort to improve your life by just 1 percent today?
That seems doable for most people. One percent is not too much really.
But the key is, you have to do it every single day. Consistency is key here.
So what will happen is that, over time, your life will improve by a huge amount. Over the course of say, the next five years, your life will get over a thousand percent better! Doesn’t that sound amazing? But of course to make that happen you actually have to put the work in. You can’t be lazy and expect for a good life to just show up on your door stop. You have to go out there and get it with an active lifestyle and deliberate action.
How do you improve your life by one percent each day?
I would suggest that you can do so by focusing on these key areas of your life:
1) Physical health.
2) Emotional health.
3) Mental health.
4) Social health.
5) Spiritual health.
If you are striving to improve your life in one of those five areas each day then you are using a holistic approach to sobriety. This is very powerful because our disease attacked us on all five of these fronts, so your recovery efforts should naturally address all of these areas as well. In my opinion this is one of the biggest things that people normally miss in traditional recovery because they are too narrowly focused on, say, spirituality.
If you want to be surprised and delighted with the amazing benefits that you get in your recovery journey then you cannot have a narrow focus. Instead, you have to be pushing yourself to grow in all of these 5 areas at the same time, because that is how the connections happen and that is where the magic happens. The holistic approach is key and if you are making consistent growth in your life (remember, 1 percent each day) then over time you will be amazed at the results.
Enjoy the process through the practice of gratitude
So how do you truly fall in love with your life and enjoy the process of living every day?
It ultimately comes down to your attitude.
Think about it: If you are selfish and feel like the world owes you something, will you really be happy in that state of mind?
No you won’t. If you feel like you are being deprived or like the world owes you a favor then you are not going to be feeling happy.
On the other hand, what if you felt the opposite? What if you felt like the universe had blessed you today, and that you were delighted with all of the good fortune that showed up in your life, and that you were grateful for all of it?
Would it be easier to be happy in that state of mind?
You bet it would be easier. Gratitude is one of the keys to real happiness.
Because when you are grateful, you can manufacture your own happiness, even if life is serving you up a bunch of lemons today. You can still find a way to make lemonade out of it, because you will be in the habit of practicing gratitude. You will look for the silver lining. You will find the lesson in what looks like a tragedy. You will be programmed to seek out the positive side of things so that you might be able to learn something from just about any situation.
I would argue that gratitude is the most important of all the spiritual principles. Someone can pray and meditate every single day, but if they are not grateful for their life and their existence then what do they really have? If they are ungrateful then they are selfish and unhappy. So what kind of spiritual practice is that? What is the point of being miserable?
Instead, we need to learn to practice gratitude. We need to learn to embrace the attitude of gratitude so that we can continue to learn, to stay humble, to appreciate the lessons that show up in our lives.
If you need help practicing gratitude then you might practice by making a list each day. Take out paper and write down ten things you are grateful for. Then tear it up and throw it away. You might mix it up: “Ten things I am grateful that I have learned recently.” Or other things like that.
The idea is to keep pushing your brain to come up with reasons to feel grateful, each and every day. So if you make one list, that is not very helpful. But if you make a gratitude list every single day for the next six months, that is extremely helpful. Even if you throw them all away! Because what you are doing then is essentially training your brain to come up with reasons to be grateful. It gets quicker and quicker at it and eventually you are a master at gratitude. You can find a reason to be grateful right away with no problem! And that can be very powerful when it comes to preventing relapse.
If you have gratitude in your life and you are also pushing yourself to make personal growth then everything will come together for you in amazing ways. Not only will you make progress in your life but you will be able to see that progress and appreciate it. This appreciation will spur you on to make further positive changes in life, and you will enter into a positive feedback loop. “Success breeds success.” This is how you fall in love with the recovery process and start enjoying the rewards of a life well lived.
What about you, have you fell in love with your new life in recovery? Maybe you are still working on it? Let us know in the discussion forums. It only takes a second to register!