How do you develop a strong plan in drug addiction or alcoholism recovery?
What is the best path to insure that you remain sober for the long run, while also maintaining a sense of serenity and a healthy lifestyle?
We did not get clean and sober just to be miserable. We want more than that for ourselves in recovery. Because of this, we have to be willing to work for it. We have to put in a bit of additional effort.
That effort is well worth it, let me assure you.
Essentially, the idea is this: You want to keep improving your life, every single day, as you continue to live.
Think about it: In your active addiction, your life was slowly getting worse and worse every day. It was a slow (sometimes fast) descent into madness. And every day, month after month and year and after year, your life just kept getting worse and worse in your addiction.
That is, until you hit bottom. Finally, you said “enough!” and decided to do something about the descent into madness. You asked for help and hopefully went to rehab. You made the leap of faith and you started yourself on a path in recovery.
Now that you have surrendered and you are in recovery on this path of positive change, you need a plan for sobriety. You need a strategy or a philosophy of life that will allow you to thrive and enjoy the rest of your life in sobriety. How do you go about developing that plan?
It starts, for me at least, by building your foundation in early recovery. For me this meant going to rehab, and I see that working for a lot of other people in recovery was well. Going to a 28 day program is a good way to start.
Following rehab is going to be a lot of suggestions and recommendations for aftercare. I think part of your planning process has to be the exploration of these suggestions.
In other words, when you first get clean and sober, people are going to give you an overwhelming amount of suggestions and advice for what to do and how to remain sober. It is your job to try to implement and test as many of these suggestions as you can.
Why? Because some of those suggestions will hold the key to your recovery. Out of all those possible things that you could do to help yourself in recovery, a handful of them will come together and be the critical elements of your master plan.
And you cannot discover this master plan by yourself without any outside input. It can’t all come from your own brain. You must listen and learn from others in recovery or you will never make it. Most of us already tried to figure out our addiction problem on our own, and we failed miserably at it. That is really what defined our addiction in the first place: the fact that we could not figure it out, the fact that we could not self regulate. And so what has to happen in order to make this recovery plan is that you need to seek help from others, implement their suggestions, and figure out what works and what does not.
I can give you an example to help illustrate this. A peer of mine in recovery that I am good friends with has developed his own recovery plan, and it is working well for him. He is heavily involved in the AA community and has started his own AA meeting. He sponsors several people and he works closely with his own sponsor on a regular basis. He is definitely a success story in recovery and his plan has been working well for him for over a decade now.
Contrast this example with my own experience in recovery: I went to treatment but essentially found a different path in recovery than that of the traditional AA route. I opted for a recovery based on personal growth, holistic health, exercise, and working with other addicts and alcoholics outside of traditional channels. I have a sponsor but rarely work with him any more. I do not sponsor others in recovery, but instead connect with them in other capacities.
Both my peer and I could be considered success stories in recovery. We both have around 16 years clean and sober, and we are both “doing the work” of recovery. But out methods and actual day to day activities are vastly different.
This is an important concept for people who are intimidated by AA or NA meetings, I believe. It is important to realize that there is more than one way to find the path in recovery.
All paths lead to personal growth. That is why you need to form a plan of recovery that is going to keep you moving forward in terms of personal growth.
When you became clean and sober you were making a decision that essentially meant: “I want to live and I want to be healthier.” What you said was “I really need to quit drinking, it is killing me.” But the decision was made so that you could live a better life, be healthier, and be happier.
So in recovery, we need to take that a step further. The personal growth that you engage in should be an attempt to improve your life in many different areas: Physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. If you are not improving your life today in one of those 5 areas, then you are probably not really helping your recovery.
Having a recovery plan in long term sobriety means that you need to consciously take stock of your life, figure out where you need to improve yourself, and then making a plan to take positive action.
If you consider those 5 areas of your health then you will realize that people relapse because they have completely neglected one of those areas at times. In other words, if you become emotionally unhealthy enough then it can lead you to relapse. If you get sick and become physically unhealthy it can lead to relapse. If you become spiritually bankrupt it can lead to relapse. And so on.
A deficiency in any one of those 5 areas can lead to picking up alcohol or drugs. And so having a strong plan in recovery means that you need to be making forward motion in all 5 of those areas. You do not have the luxury of completely ignoring your emotional health, for example. Or your spirituality. Or your physical health. You cannot just ignore any of those 5 areas and get away with it. It will lead to relapse.
So you have to ask yourself, every day: “Am I taking better care of myself today physically? Mentally? Emotionally? Socially? Spiritually?”
And if you cannot answer “yes” to all of those questions, then you need to take a look at that area of deficiency and do something about it. Because if you let it slide for too long then eventually it can snowball into a full blown relapse. And then you lose all progress and possibly even your life itself.
If you want a strong recovery plan of personal growth then you need to push yourself to seek out personal growth in a holistic manner. Meaning that you have to address the different areas of your life and learn to take better care of yourself on all of these 5 levels. Doing so can be the key difference between sliding back towards a relapse versus living an amazing new life in recovery.