In order to do well in addiction recovery, the struggling addict or alcoholic needs new information. And not only do they need new information in order to turn their life around, but this information has to be dynamic.
In other words, you cannot get clean and sober just by reading books. That is not enough.
Instead, you need to interact with people. You need other people who can help you to find the right path, to locate your blind spots, and to help encourage you when you are feeling down.
My suggestion to people in early recovery is to use every resource that is available to them. So start out by going to inpatient treatment, and try to do a 28 day program. After that, the treatment center will likely make several recommendations for you in terms of an aftercare plan. Don’t ignore any detail in this plan–you don’t know which part of that aftercare plan may turn out to save your life. Dive head first into all of the resources that they are pointing you towards, which may include things such as intensive outpatient (IOP), counseling, therapy, group therapy, 12 step meetings, and so on. You need to use every resource that is available to you, and most of these resources will be in the form of people that can help you–both groups of people but also individuals.
You may have a sponsor, a recovery coach, a counselor, a therapist, or a peer support specialist who is assigned to help you along in your journey. Whoever your mentors turn out to be, you should do everything that you can in order to get the maximum value out of working alongside that person.
So what can you do in order to maximize that value?
My first and best suggestion is that you actually try and test everything that this person tells you to do. If they have experience in addiction recovery and they have been clean and sober for a long time, then you can expect similar results if you do what they did in their own journey. In other words, take the lessons from someone who has the kind life that you want. They have a saying for that around the tables of AA: “Stick with the winners.” If someone is angry or you don’t exactly envy the life that they have, then don’t take advice from that person. Find what you want, and figure out who you can emulate in order to achieve that.
Second of all, you should ask for feedback. Now you may be wondering, what exactly do you ask for feedback regarding? How do you know what to ask about?
I would start with your pain points. In other words, you already know what the problem is because it is causing stress, anger, anxiety, or frustration in your life. Figure out what those pain points are and then start asking your mentors for help in fixing the problem.
A couple of notes here: One, I would only tackle one pain point at a time in your journey. If you try to take on too much at once it can get overwhelming very quickly, and then you can easily give up on all of it. Instead, choose your biggest source of frustration or anxiety in your life today, and then zero in on that one thing, and start asking your mentors for advice about how to correct that problem.
So your priority should be staying clean and sober. That has to remain number one at all times, no questions asked. But on top of that priority, you also need to start improving your life and working to become a better version of yourself. And what I am recommending is that you not try to change everything at once and take on the whole world, but instead, to zero in on one single problem or issue at a time, do the work to fix it, then move on to your next biggest pain point.
If you do this correctly then a couple of things will happen. One, your life in recovery will get better and better as time goes on, rather than getting worse or remaining stagnant. Things will just keep getting better and better, and you will become less and less frustrated in life. This is an awesome benefit of living in addiction recovery, but of course in order to get this benefit you do have to put in the work.
Second of all, if you are doing the work, then you will not struggle to remain clean and sober. As you begin to realize just how good your life can become in addiction recovery, you will become more and more motivated by the positive pull of personal growth, rather than to be motivated to try and escape the misery of addiction. In other words, you once were motivated to get clean and sober because you wanted to escape the misery and negativity of addiction. But later in your recovery journey you will be pulled forward by the benefits that you receive from personal growth and positive changes. But in order to get that motivation in long term recovery, you have to keep putting in the effort to make positive changes and to grow.
Using mentors is a huge part of this. We cannot see all of our own flaws, and this remains true even as we improve our lives in recovery. We will always have blind spots that others can see in us before we do. So therefore it is important to use your counselor, your therapist, your sponsor, or any mentor to give you feedback and insight into what direction you need to go next.
Ask a mentor: “What do you think I most need to be working on right now?”
Then note: Is their answer the same as your current goal that you have for yourself? If not, then you might consider the idea that your current focus is wrong, and that there is a bigger pain point in your life that you are missing, that you are not seeing just yet.
If one mentor sees a pressing issue, that is one thing. But if two or more mentors notice an issue that you need to address, then do not question it any further. Whatever problem is being pointed out, even if you don’t see it, is critical for you to address. Think back to when you were in denial over addiction and yet everyone else could tell that you needed help. Even in recovery, this same thing can happen, just with our pain points rather than with alcoholism or addiction itself. So we still need to listen and take feedback, especially if it is coming from more than one source.
Finally, if you do not have a mentor in your recovery journey, you should get one immediately. One easy way to do this is to start going to AA or NA meetings, and then ask someone to be your sponsor. Another way is to call up local treatment centers and ask them if they do counseling or therapy. One final option would be to go to inpatient rehab, after which they will refer you to counseling or therapy. Good luck with your recovery!