If you want to predict your future success in addiction or alcoholism recovery, then it is up to you to create that future for yourself.
When I first got clean and sober I had no hope of predicting where my life was headed. I was scared and I was just hoping to not die from my addiction, to be honest.
And I had no idea what to expect. I reluctantly agreed to go to inpatient treatment even though I was a little bit afraid of the experience. But I was even more afraid of dying due to my addiction so I went anyway.
After I arrived at a 28 inpatient program I was very much relieved, because I found it to be very easy to be there. Treatment is not scary once you are there; it is only scary before you have arrived and you are trying to imagine what it will be like, what it will feel like, and what the people there might be like. But once you are there at rehab, it is super easy to be there.
So I got to rehab and I started to feel just a little bit better each day. That said, I still had no idea what to expect out of my life, and I had a pretty big fear that I was going to relapse at some point. In other words, I had no real confidence that I could remain clean and sober in the long run.
So I tried to keep an open mind and do what the therapists and the counselors were suggesting to me at treatment. And what did they suggest?
They suggested that I follow through with aftercare, which for me meant going to long term recovery housing. They suggested that I continue with AA meetings and to seek out a sponsor to work the 12 steps with, which I did. They suggested that I continue to write about my recovery, both in the steps and in a journal format, which I continued to do (and still do to this day, over 16 years later!).
Even within the first few months of my recovery, maybe even the entire first year, I was still very much leery about my own future. I as uneasy about it and I was a bit afraid and I did not know what to expect. I certainly did not have any real confidence about what my future held or whether I could “be successful” or not with it. And I had no real confidence that I was rock solid in my sobriety and that I would remain clean and sober. I just didn’t know, and I was sort of feeling my way through early recovery.
At some point I would say that a transition happened. I think this was around 18 months or so, maybe a little bit less time. And the transition was from “early recovery” to something more like “long term sobriety.” Allow me to explain the difference between the two.
Early recovery is when you are basically fighting to stay clean and sober on a daily basis, and everything that you are doing in life basically revolves around learning to be clean and sober. So you go to rehab, you go to meetings, maybe you are in therapy, you work with a sponsor, and so on. You are early in recovery and you are learning the path.
In long term sobriety, a shift has occurred. You no longer struggle to make it through the day sober, because being clean and sober has become normal for you by now. Maybe you have a year or two clean at this point. The key is that staying clean and sober is much more automatic for you now. It comes much more naturally, and it is fairly easy. This is not to say that you could never relapse, because you certainly could. But just going through another day clean and sober is very easy and automatic at this point.
Getting to this transition takes a huge amount of work. You cannot just show up in recovery and go through the motions and put in a half hearted effort and expect for this to magically happen for you. You are going to have to grind it out and put in some real work to transition into “long term recovery.”
Once you build this foundation, you are now in a position in which you can start to direct your own life again.
Up until this point, I was just doing what my therapist and my sponsor told me to do. They told me to get a job, to go back to school, to think about quitting cigarettes, to start exercising, and so on. I did what they suggested and my life got better and better.
But at some point I had to take back control of my own life and start directing it myself a little bit. I had to set my own goals again, and then start striving for those goals.
This is how you create your own future, and can thus predict it.
But don’t jump the gun here–the important part is that you lay out the foundation for this first. The important part is that you surrender to your disease, ask for help, go to rehab, work the steps, go to meetings, be in therapy, listen to your sponsor, write in the steps and a journal, explore your spiritual world, dig deeper for answers, get honest with yourself, and scratch and claw and fight your way through the first year or two of your recovery.
That is the foundation that will allow you to start living the life that you want to live.
In my experience, you do not just sober up one day and then start living this perfect, self directed life the next day. That is not realistic. If you try to do that you will relapse quickly and fall back into chaos and misery.
The key is that you put in the year or two of hard work in order to build a foundation in recovery.
If you look at the 12 steps of AA or NA you will notice that you have to dig through and find your character defects. Those defects are holding you back from living a better life, and if you have not identified and dealt with those defects then any attempt to reach for your ideal life in recovery is going to fall short and will likely end in relapse.
So before you can say “this is what I want to achieve in my life” you first have to dig into your past with a sponsor or therapist or both and say “what I am hanging on to that is screwing me up? What is it that is holding me back?” And so on.
In my own experience, I realized very early that I was hanging on to self pity and resentments. I would play the victim role in my head on a daily basis so that my brain could justify taking drugs or alcohol. But of course I wanted to quit drinking and taking drugs, so the idea of my brain constantly rationalizing it was not helpful any longer. So I had to identify that victim mentality and then figure out a strategy to overcome it.
And the strategy was to increase my awareness so that I could “catch it” when it was happening, and then I could shut it down through positive self talk. I could choose to be empowered, or I could choose to be a victim.
Once I started to choose empowerment, I started to accomplish some pretty neat stuff. And these accomplishments, combined with my new attitude of empowerment, allowed me to keep upping the ante when it came to my own personal growth goals. And that was how I was able to predict my future success–because now I was creating it for myself, one goal at a time, and I was no longer making excuses.
And you can do the same. Good luck!