Early recovery can be overwhelming, so I have attempted to simplify my approach to beating addiction by drawing it on the back of 5 business cards:
1) Abstinence first
Recovery starts with a clean slate. Physical abstinence from drugs and alcohol is the number one priority. Without this, everything else fails. Without sobriety, everything you work for in recovery is instantly sacrificed and destroyed. Therefore, physical abstinence from chemicals must come first.
I have seen many recovering addicts and alcoholics lose their sobriety by placing many different things in front of this priority. Usually it is a relationship problem that ultimately triggers a relapse.
The success stories in recovery have a “zero tolerance policy” with themselves. They make a firm decision each day that they will not use drugs or alcohol no matter what. The rest of their recovery efforts are simply to help them deal with this decision. This is how I have found success in my recovery as well: by putting my sobriety first, every single day.
2) Creative approach
Anyone can quit drinking and using drugs. The key is in staying stopped.
What do you do when the drugs and alcohol have been stripped out of your life? If you want long term sobriety, then you have to replace them with a creative new life in recovery. That means living with purpose and passion and actively setting and reaching goals. That means that you find meaningful ways to help others and find purpose in doing so. This is the creative approach to recovery. You build a new life for yourself in order to overcome addiction.
Most of us pursued drugs and alcohol with a certain amount of passion. In recovery, we need to find that same passion again, but direct it towards positive efforts. With this passion and energy we can create an awesome new life for ourselves.
3) 3 Strategies
The 3 strategies are simple, effective, and complete. There is no extra fourth strategy because these 3 are broad enough to cover all of your recovery efforts.
1) Caring for self – This starts the moment we decide to surrender to the disease and make a change. Later on it can mean other things such as diet changes, quitting smoking, or even avoiding hanging around dangerous people. In any given situation we can ask if we are truly caring for ourselves with this decision. Over the long run, this strategy builds up the necessary self esteem to allow us to flourish in recovery. This self esteem is also necessary to fight off a potential relapse.
2) Networking with others – we need to reach out to other recovering addicts and alcoholics, especially in early recovery. This is necessary for support through the rough times, but also can boost our own recovery when we reach out and help others. Building this network in recovery is also important simply to replace the old “friends” that we use to use and drink with.
3) Personal growth – We push ourselves to grow holistically in a number of different areas, further building self esteem and helping us to care for ourselves even further. The sense of accomplishment with this type of growth is also critical for successful recovery. When combined with the other 2 strategies, personal growth becomes part of a positive feedback loop, allowing us to care for ourselves and build more self esteem as part of an ongoing cycle. Success breeds success.
4) Spiritual Growth
Spiritual growth is the backbone of the creative approach. This is because it allows us to tap into something that can guide us and assist us in achieving our goals in recovery. Spiritual growth can encompass:
1) Connecting with a higher power
2) Increasing our awareness
3) Expanding consciousness
4) Shift from self-centeredness towards helping other people
Spirituality is not a fourth strategy; instead it is a direct part of the 3 strategies. Pursuing spiritual growth will provide the intuition necessary to make better decisions and help care for yourself. Spiritual growth will also push you to reach out and form connections in recovery through trying to help others.
5) Holistic approach
The creative theory of recovery advocates an holistic approach to recovery. This means that instead of focusing on only a spiritual solution (as in some programs), we focus on treating the whole person in recovery.
Addiction is complicated. It is more than just a spiritual malady or a physical allergy. It affects us socially, emotionally, mentally, physically, and so on. Therefore, it makes sense to treat it with a holistic approach that addresses all of these areas.
So that’s it. This the philosophy of recovery that has kept me clean and sober and growing for the past 7 plus years. We addicts tend to complicate things, so it is refreshing to see that I could squeeze it all onto 5 business cards.
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