We have looked in the past at how to be successful at early recovery from addiction, but now we need to look at how we can be successful in long term recovery.
What are some of the key principles and strategies? Is there a set program that one must follow in order to stay clean and sober in the long run? Is it pretty much the same for everyone?
I would argue that in early recovery, things actually are pretty similar from person to person. You have to get detoxed, your life is flipped upside down, and you are scrambling like mad to learn how to live like a normal human again without self medicating every day. We all go through lots of the same emotions, issues, and so on. It is a bumpy ride and most addicts and alcoholics in early recovery describe a very similar experience for their first 30 days of recovery.
Long term recovery is not like that. The main reason is because we tend to branch out and find different methods of staying clean and sober in the long run. How is this possible? Doesn’t it have to be the same for everyone?
No, the truth is that once you remove the drugs and the alcohol from the addict’s life, you have to fill it with something. And that “something” can be as widely varied as the whole world. For example, take the idea of meditation. There are some people in addiction recovery who use meditation as the cornerstone of their recovery program. They do it several times per day and get huge benefit from it. It is their primary recovery strategy and they attribute all of their success in recovery to the fact that they are so into meditating.
Now contrast this with the thousands of people in recovery who never meditate at all! They are just as successful and may have an awesome life in recovery, but they never meditate. Never!
Now how can this be?
The reason is because long term recovery can vary quite a bit. What keeps one person clean and sober may not work for everyone.
In early recovery this is not true. In early recovery, the principles are the same for everyone. Detox, group support, start learning a new way to live, and so on. But as you stay clean and sober for longer, what you do in order to maintain recovery starts to branch out and become more and more specialized.
Some people use exercise as one of their primary recovery strategies (I am one of them). Other people in recovery never exercise at all. Never. And yet both types of people can do well in long term sobriety.
So what is the answer then? How can you insure that you are successful in the long run?
The answer is that you need to follow a strategy of holistic growth and holistic health. Stay open to growth opportunities in all areas of your life, and thus you will find what works best for you in the long run.
If you never meditate, or change your diet, or have a vigorous workout, then how would you know if these things are helpful for you? You have to experiment a bit and keep pushing yourself to learn more and to grow in good health. This is the key to success in long term recovery. Holistic growth.
Don’t get hung up on the word “holistic.” It just means “your whole self,” or “your whole person.” Treat your whole self in recovery and you will find the strategies that help the most to keep you clean and sober.