How do you live the best year of your life while recovering from drug addiction or alcoholism?
The way to live the best year of your life is to start having the best days of your life. Focus on making each day better and your life will naturally improve as a result of this effort.
Addiction treatment breaks down like this: You first have to arrest the disease of addiction and get yourself to some sort of stable foundation. This is why it is recommended that you check into inpatient treatment. Go to treatment, start working a program, and establish yourself in early recovery. Being at an inpatient treatment center for 28 days is extremely helpful for establishing this foundation. Without the “safety net” of inpatient treatment, many people do not reach a point in early recovery at which they can start working to improve themselves and their life.
After you leave inpatient treatment, follow through with your aftercare suggestions. This will include things like IOP, counseling, therapy, AA meetings, and so on.
Once you start living this new life in early recovery, you really have two tasks ahead of you: One is to work on yourself and improve who you are as a person, the other is to work on your life and to improve your circumstances.
So half of your task is internal–dealing with things like guilt, shame, resentment, fear, anger, self pity, and so on. You need to do the work in early recovery to take care of those negative emotions so that you can be healthy and stable in your recovery.
The other half of the task is to work on your life situation–changing all of the people, places, and things that defined your life in active addiction. This might include your relationships, where you work at, where you spend time at, who you associate with, and so on. This is the external part of your life, the things that happen around and outside of you.
Both of these tasks are important in terms of self growth. If you are surrounded by toxic people then your recovery will be difficult or impossible. Likewise, if you are filled with toxic emotions then your recovery will be impossible as well. So you must work on both the external issues as well as the internal issues.
Now if you are actively trying to live the best year of your life then you will need to put in a lot of work. There is a tendency for some people in early recovery to practice acceptance of just about everything, and this becomes an excuse to not take action on some of the things that would really improve their life or their situation.
In other words, if you are trying to live a better life, then you cannot just practice acceptance in every situation–you must, in some cases, get a little bit outraged at yourself, or at your current situation, and demand that changes be made.
In order to live a better life you have to build a better life. And that requires action. So you have to put in the work.
Now you might be a bit lost as to how exactly that is supposed to happen. My suggestion is that you seek out mentors in your early recovery–a sponsor, a therapist, counseling, treatment, IOP groups, and so on. Find those mentors in your life and then use them to help guide your actions.
You have to be willing to allow yourself to be guided. You have to be humble enough to ask for advice and direction. Only those who have hit bottom and truly surrendered will be humble enough and willing to accept this kind of advice and direction.
My therapist and my sponsor suggested certain things to me in my early recovery journey, and I honestly thought that some of the suggestions were bad. But I knew that if I followed my “own advice” that I would just end up drunk again, so I decided to play along and see where it led me.
So I was doing things like going to AA meetings, writing in the steps, exercising physically, writing in a journal every day, talking about my emotions with people, and so on. I went back to school and I went back to work, all at the suggestion of one of my mentors.
And as I started to take this advice from people, my life magically got better and better. I say “magically” because it wasn’t anything that I had figured out; I was just following directions. I was doing as I was told, and my life was getting so much better–it almost seemed unfair.
When I realized this “secret”–that of simply listening to others and taking their advice–I wanted to do even more of it. I was now a true believer, in that I realized that if I simply stayed the course and continued to take advice and direction that my life would get better and better.
In effect, I was testing out new ways of living my life. I was testing out new habits that could potentially become part of my regular lifestyle. At one point I tried seated meditation and it did not really click for me, but I moved on to distance running and I became a regular jogger. So realize that I had to be willing to keep testing and experimenting with new ideas in order to find that solution in my recovery.
The truth is that, at the end of my first year in recovery, I could honestly say that the first year of sobriety had been the best year of my life so far. Even though there was a steep learning curve and a lot of challenges in that first year, it was still far better than my life prior to recovery.
Now when you are working a solid program of recovery, you are investing in positive habits that are going to serve you well for a lifetime–things like exercise, meditation, healthy relationships, emotional stability, and so on. We are building those things and strengthening them throughout our recovery journey.
So it naturally followed that my second year of recovery was even better than my first. I can remember saying to myself in amazement: “My life just keeps getting better and better!” And I really was shocked by this, because I had struggled for so long in my addiction, and things tended to get worse and worse over time, not better.
So the formula is: Seek advice, take direction from other people, and put their suggestions into action. Rinse and repeat. Keep doing that over and over again and eventually your life will be amazingly good. It worked for me and it can work for you too. Good luck!