The daily practice is what you do every day in order to build a new life for yourself in recovery.
Your daily habits define what you become in the future.
Your actions protect you from relapse (or not).
So how do you establish your new routine? What actions do you take, and how do you prioritize?
This is definitely a question worth considering, especially in early recovery. But even if you have months, years, or decades of sobriety under your belt, it still pays to think about this question often.
What exactly should I be doing for my recovery?
Seeking the answers to this question can greatly improve the quality of your recovery.
Borrowing wisdom from other people
One of the things that you should know about addiction recovery is that you will probably need to get some wisdom from other people.
It is generally not enough to just get information from books or websites. You need real input from others in order to get the full benefits of recovery.
The idea behind this is simple.
Other people in recovery have been at it for longer than you have. They have more experiences, different experiences. And so everyone has a lesson that you can learn from them. Everyone has a bit of wisdom in them that could potentially help you, if you are willing to take the time to extract that knowledge.
So the key is that you have to do the work. You have to be humble. And you have to find a way to open yourself up to the suggestions, to the new information.
In effect what you are doing in early recovery is “borrowing wisdom” from other people.
This is the shortcut that makes recovery work. If there is a big secret in recovery, this is it.
Simply don’t make the same mistakes that others have made before you. Let them tell you how to avoid the big mistakes.
Because many people have made these mistakes. Go to any AA meeting and ask for wisdom and advice about early recovery. Listen carefully to everyone’s story. There is much strength and wisdom in doing this. It really is a pretty simple process, to listen to other people and then to benefit from their experience.
If you fail to do this then you are only making it more difficult for yourself. If you fail to listen to other people in recovery then you just have to discover all of the pitfalls on your own instead. And that means that you will make more mistakes and suffer more setbacks.
Addiction recovery is not about finding the perfect happiness or about hitting a home run when it comes to success.
It is about not screwing up.
This is the boring but tried and true path to happiness in addiction recovery. You simply follow advice, listen to other people, and do what you are told to do.
Not too exciting, right?
But it works. And this is why you have to be humble. This is why you have to find the willingness to listen to others. Because they hold the key to your success. They have secret knowledge that you currently lack. And they can give it to you if only you are willing to listen and learn.
No matter what stage of your recovery you are at, you can benefit from this simple idea.
Here is what you do:
Find people who successful in recovery. Go to people who are genuinely happy with their life.
Then, ask these people what they do every day outside of AA meetings. What do they do when they are living their life in recovery? What are their routines?
Do they exercise? Do they work with others in recovery on a regular basis? What actions do they take every day?
Do they pray? Meditate?
Go find people in recovery who you look up to and ask them about their daily routine.
Then, simply imitate them. Pick up on their habits. Emulate them. Try out their ideas for yourself, see if they help you.
Keep doing this over and over again and testing out new ideas for yourself.
You can do this at 30 days sober and you can do this after ten years sober. And you can keep learning more and more about yourself in this way.
Doing 30 day trials to see what is effective for you
The real truth about growth in recovery is that it sometimes takes a long time for the true benefits to kick in.
This can be especially true in early recovery. Just making a change does not always produce the intended result overnight.
For example, when I had a few months sober I started exercising. I did not see any results after a few weeks of doing so and I gave up completely. I quit the idea of exercise and moved on.
This turned out to be a mistake that I eventually corrected later in my recovery.
And this is one reason why the idea of the 30 day trial is so powerful.
If you are going to make a positive change in your recovery, commit to doing it for 30 days straight.
My suggestion is that you get out a calendar and hang it on your wall where you see it every day, then make a big red “X” on each day that you successfully make the new change in your life. This will create a string of X’s and you won’t want to break the chain.
If you can take a new change in your life and stick to it every day for 30 days straight then there is a good chance that you will be able to establish it as a long term habit if you choose. In other words, by going for a full 30 days with a new change in your life you give yourself the option of making it into a permanent habit.
This is powerful. So in doing the 30 day challenge you can sort of “trick yourself” into making a potentially permanent change in your life.
Consistency is very powerful. Maybe you want to start eating a healthier diet now that you are clean and sober, but it just seems too overwhelming.
So what you might do is to just take one meal of the day, a meal that is fairly easy for you to get control over for yourself–breakfast.
And so maybe you decide that if you eat a really healthy breakfast every morning and you stick to this new routine that might really help your health in the long run.
So do this. Commit to the change for 30 days. Get a specific breakfast that you know is very healthy for you, and make a commitment to have this every single day for the next 30 days. Don’t worry about lunch and dinner and snacking on junk food all day and don’t beat yourself up about any of that stuff.
Instead, just focus on the consistency and the new commitment. One healthy breakfast, every single day, for the next 30 days straight. No other changes are required. Don’t push yourself to go above and beyond that. Don’t do a week of it and decide to suddenly up the ante on yourself and start changing your lunch around, or making new rules about less snacking, or whatever. Just stick to this one change, focus all of your energy on it, and make it happen for 30 days straight.
Succeed at it. If you screw up, start over again and try to get 30 days in a row.
So then when you get to 30 days in a row, you give yourself the option of going back to junk food. Or whatever you like. But the key is that you stick to the new change for 30 days straight and really give yourself permission to do whatever you like after the 30 days is up. This is important. If you don’t give yourself that freedom then it may be impossible to make it through the full 30 days.
If you do this and you make it through the full challenge then you will have the option of continuing with your new habit. And because 30 days is a fairly good length of time, you will probably also start to notice some benefits from the change as well. Obviously this will vary depending on what your 30 day commitment was exactly.
And when you finish with the 30 day challenge, you can give yourself a few days to come up with a new one. Go talk to people again and get more feedback. Get more ideas. What is another healthy change that you could make in your life?
I did this myself with sleep habits, quitting smoking, healthy breakfast, and daily exercise. Just those four challenges have had a massive impact on my overall health, though I have gone on to do even more changes in my life as well (though none were as big as those initial four!).
And what you will realize by doing this is that you are teaching yourself how to become disciplined. You are learning discipline. When you stick to a 30 day challenge and you follow through on it you are building up your discipline muscle, so to speak. You are getting stronger.
At one point when I was doing these I realized that I was more powerful than I realized, because I was able to focus on a single goal and then follow through on it to completion.
Shaping your future based on what you want to become in life
We are at a strange point in addiction recovery.
We were essentially running away from what we did not want. We didn’t want the pain and the misery and the chaos of addiction in our lives any longer.
So we were running away from our addiction. We were working to avoid the pain and the misery of addiction.
But what were we moving towards?
This is not defined in our initial recovery journey. We don’t know what the ultimate reward looks like in recovery, and even if someone tells us what it is, we don’t believe them. We can’t relate. We have no frame of reference.
I can remember being in rehab once and this guy in AA was trying to convince us all (who were in detox at the time with like 3 days sober) how awesome and amazing life was in sobriety. He gave a great speech and it was very inspiring, but ultimately I could not really believe it. I did not think that it applied to me. Because I was stuck, I was in denial, I was unique. His promise of happiness was not for me, because I did not think that I could be happy without alcohol and drugs. I just didn’t think it was possible at that time (so I failed to remain sober then).
So at some point in recovery you have to get some faith. Or you can call it hope, because in this case it is one and the same. You have to have hope that it might be better one day if you stick it out in recovery. You have to have faith that if you stay sober and keep doing the right thing in life that it will get better.
And so this hope for a better future will sustain you for a while. And escaping the misery of addiction may at some point become enough to motivate you to take action.
But ultimately you also have to figure out what you want out of recovery, and what you want out of life.
Instead of running away from misery, you have to run towards something. And so you may have to sit down one day in your recovery and really think about what it is that you want. What do you want to achieve? What do you want to experience in life?
And the answers to these questions will (hopefully) start to shape your daily habits.
And this is how you should discover your daily practice in recovery. By figuring out what it is that you want, and then figuring out what you need to do in order to get it.
My belief is that certain aspects of recovery are going to be universal and fundamental. So your health is one of these aspects. Not just your physical health but also your spiritual, mental, emotional, and social health.
In other words, everyone in recovery from addiction should be considering their overall health in recovery. Not just the physical aspect of their health but in all of those areas listed above. And this is the idea of holistic recovery. This is the holistic approach to recovery. And it is very powerful because the only way to truly prevent relapse is to do so from this comprehensive perspective.
I know people who have relapsed in their recovery because they became spiritually bankrupt. They were selfish and they lacked gratitude and it led them back to the bottle.
This is pretty typical and we can all probably understand that sort of relapse.
But it is possible for your health to be compromised in recovery in other ways, too.
For example, I have had many peers of mine in recovery who relapsed due to physical illness. They got sick, and this led them to relapse eventually.
Now does this mean that everyone who becomes physically ill or gets a disease in recovery is going to relapse? Of course not. But it can definitely be a trigger, even if a person has a strong spiritual foundation in recovery.
The same thing can happen when someone is emotionally upset in recovery–this can certainly lead to relapse as well. Or if they become isolated due to poor social health in recovery. And so on.
Relapse can attack from so many different directions that they only way to really prevent it is to look at your health in recovery as being of a holistic nature. You can no longer just consider your spiritual health and assume that this is good enough. Or your physical health. Or your emotional health.
Instead, you have to look at the big picture. You have to consider your overall holistic health. And you have to take care of yourself every day, in all of these different areas.
And this is what will eventually make up your daily practice in recovery.
Priorities based on happiness and health
The greatest currency in our lives is our health.
Without your health you have nothing. Your very life evaporates without your physical health. And if some of these other forms of health are compromised (spiritual health, emotional health, etc.) then your life can take a turn for the worse very quickly. If one area of your health spirals out of control then it can easily drag other areas of your health down along with it.
Therefore it is a constant battle to keep taking good care of yourself in many different ways.
To some extent you will have to prioritize in your life based on these different areas of your health.
Physical health is one of the biggest foundations in your recovery. It may be even more important, in some ways, than your spiritual condition. Without your physical health you have nothing.
You have to stop putting alcohol and drugs into your physical body. You have to sleep better, eat healthier foods, and exercise your body in healthy ways. Many in long term sobriety eventually quit smoking cigarettes too.
While this may be a foundation, it cannot stop there. You have to find emotional balance in your recovery journey. If you are not emotionally balanced then it is very easy to justify a relapse. Someone who declares: “Screw it, I am just going to get drunk” is not emotionally balanced at that time.
One of the biggest triggers that I witnessed in recovery is that of relationships. If you are struggling to get along with other people or you have volatile relationships in your life then that is going to make sobriety so much more difficult. When I lived in long term rehab for 20 months, nearly every peer of mine who relapsed did so because of a relationship problem. It was truly astounding to watch.
And then there is spirituality, which is so often misunderstood and misused in the world of addiction recovery. If they simply replaced the idea of spirituality with the simple concept of “gratitude” I think they would be further ahead. If you are truly grateful then your spirituality is good. You don’t necessarily have to have a specific faith or be praying or meditating or any of those things, if only you are truly grateful each and every day.
The problem is that it is very tough to be grateful every day. Being grateful is a practice. It takes hard work. It takes serious effort.
It is easier to run a marathon than to be grateful every single day. I know this because I have run a marathon! But being grateful on a consistent basis is something that will always challenge me I believe. And yet is is the greatest tool in recovery from a spiritual perspective.
You cannot relapse if you are truly grateful. It is not even possible.
Gratitude is the greatest shield you can have against relapse, but in order to have this magical power you have to work like crazy to develop it.
And so this is a big part of what I try to build my daily practice around, on the concept of developing more gratitude in my life.
What is your daily practice, and how did you discover it? What things do you do every day in order to maintain sobriety? Let us know in the discussion forums. It only takes a second to register!