Recovery is a bit like school.
There is more to staying clean and sober than mere abstinence, as any recovering addict can tell you. We have to take an active role in our recovery in order to succeed in the long run.
Not only that, but recovery is a learning experience. Period. When we first get sober, we have no idea about how to live life sober. We don’t know how to play by the rules anymore. So recovery is all about learning. We learn how to get through tricky situations without relapsing. We learn how to have fun again without using. We learn how to reach out and connect with others in recovery in order to stay strong. And so on. It’s all one big learning experience.
So how do we know what kind of progress we’re making in our recovery? Let’s just check out our recovery report card.
You’ll notice that “Math” and “History” are not on this report card
The subjects in the school of recovery are a bit different, of course.
And what is most interesting about the school of recovery is that most people get a bit mixed up. They think, for example, that one of the subjects might be “serenity,” or even “maintaining abstinence.” These are outcomes of a successful learning experience, but they are not the lesson itself.
So what are the lessons? The answer to this would vary depending on what program you are following. I would argue that any decent program will have the following three “subjects” at a bare minimum:
1) Caring for yourself – This has to become a priority. Low self esteem plagues struggling addicts and alcoholics, and it becomes necessary to repair it in order to maintain sobriety. Without doing so, the temptation to relapse will be too great.
If you were in recovery school, the category of “caring for self” would be more than just one subject or one class….it would be an entire curriculum; something you could major in at college. We need to start caring for ourselves on a whole number of different levels. This is the holistic approach to recovery and well being.
It’s pretty easy to tell if you are struggling in this area, because your progress here will be a reflection of how you feel about yourself. When I first got clean and sober, I needed to do some work in this area. It took time to rebuild my self-worth. It took time for me to start treating myself with respect (for example, by quitting smoking).
2) Networking with others – Especially important in early recovery, in order to build support systems that will get you through the tough times. Perhaps you’ve fallen out of touch with others in recovery lately, and your grades have slipped a bit in this class? In that case, find a way to reach out and reconnect.
3) Push for person growth – Again, the subject of personal growth could not possibly be covered with just a single class in school. It would more likely be an entire series of courses, spanning topics such as:
* Knowing your triggers and slippery situations
* Overcoming self-pity and resentment
* Learning to forgive and let go of anger
* Fitness and nutrition
* Quitting smoking
* Emotional balance
* Social skills and support
I would equate personal growth with doing your homework. If you don’t get active with this subject and really push yourself, it’s unlikely that you will make any significant progress. I also think that personal growth mirrors the homework concept because it might seem to be irrelevant to your recovery (just like kids might think some homework is pointless), but pursuing personal growth indirectly helps you to stay sober in the long run.
What does your report card look like?
So now that you’ve seen the general subjects, what does your report card look like? Do you need to spend more time studying, or have you aced your recovery?