At some point in recovery, every drug addict needs to figure out a long term strategy.
This strategy needs to go beyond mere tactics such as “go to 90 meetings in 90 days.” Although that might be a useful tactic, it does not constitute the type of long term strategy I am talking about here.
An example of a long term strategy might be found in this simplification of the 12 steps:
1) Find God
2) Clean House (work on self and character defects)
3) Help others
Those 3 guiding principles make up the core strategies of the 12 step program. Of course most people who are involved in a 12 step program will tend to focus on the tactics instead, such as making meetings or working on an individual step, without really considering their overall strategy for recovery.
Why it pays to consider your strategy
Of course it pays off to consider your overall strategy. What are you really trying to accomplish? Where are you headed with your life? It’s important to consider a recovery program in light of these questions.
In the beginning, the long term strategy is not so important. Your main objective is to get clean and sober and string together a few months of sobriety so that you can get your bearings and start thinking clearly again. In my opinion, this is best accomplished with a brute force tactical approach. For me, that meant simply checking into a long term treatment center. For others, this might involve heavy use of 12 step meetings, sponsorship, and so on.
But after you get through this initial stage of early recovery, then it becomes more and more important to consider your recovery strategy. Up until this point, people have helped you to get clean and sober and they have told you what to do and how to proceed in the short run. Now it is up to you to establish your vision and start following your own path in recovery. Why must you do this?
If you continue to use “stage one recovery tactics” in long term sobriety then you’re going to end up very unhappy. Having someone tell you what to do does not work in the long run. Yes, it is necessary when you first enter recovery because you have no idea of how to live a sober life. But do not disregard your capacity to learn. It is ridiculous to think that someone else should dictate your path in recovery after you have accumulated some meaningful sobriety.
The elements of a good strategy
When you choose your strategy for recovery it should align with your vision and goals for your life. You don’t necessarily have to come up with some intricate game plan. This is more about following your ideas and living according to your values.
Most people think that they need the perfect plan in recovery. That’s not true. What you really need is to work the recovery plan to the best of your ability. See the difference there? It’s not about finding the perfect path to sobriety….instead, it’s more about the effort and the energy you put into it.
My own strategy for recovery has evolved into these simple ideas:
1) Care for myself
2) Network with others in recovery
3) Pursue personal growth
Notice how these are fairly broad and open ideas with plenty of flexibility. It’s not about having the perfect path in recovery, it’s about walking the path.
And I believe you have to find your own path. That is part of the customization that is critical for success in recovery. Take the broad principles that work and refine them and apply them to your own life. Find what works for you and run with it. (They even say this in AA: “take what you need and leave the rest.”) Some level of customization is necessary in any recovery program.
Find your own path, then live it.