Early Recovery from Addiction – A Complete Guide to Success and Relapse Prevention

Patrick
  • This is a long article about early recovery from addiction.  Please feel free to download it in PDF format for easy printing if you like.  Thanks!

    Overcoming drug addiction and alcoholism is not easy for anyone. We can think of recovery from addiction in two separate stages:

    1) Early recovery, and
    2) Long term recovery.

    What is the difference?

    The difference is not necessarily just time, although time is an important factor. The difference is really about the mindset that you have in dealing with overcoming your addiction on a regular, day-to-day basis.

    What does this actually mean in real life?

    Suppose you just got clean and sober within the last week or two. Your mind is only slowly starting to clear and the fog has not even really started to lift yet. You are definitely in very early recovery.

    Now suppose that you have made it a few weeks in early recovery and you might be doing a few things to try and learn how to live a life of recovery. Maybe you are seeing a therapist, or perhaps you are in residential treatment, or maybe you are hitting 12 step meetings every day. You are still very early in the process of recovery and you do not yet have a firm grasp on the basics of staying clean and sober. So this is still early recovery.

    For some people, maybe they are still struggling to maintain their sobriety after a year of clean time, and they continue to seek new solutions that might help them to better maintain their recovery. Again, this is probably best labeled as being early recovery, even though they have a bit of time in.

    But say you have someone who is very used to being clean and sober, and they no longer struggle with daily cravings or anything like that. They have a solid foundation of recovery that is based on both their emotional stability as well as the time they have already accumulated. It may be years or it may only be a few months, but they are stronger in their recovery because they fully grasp what needs to happen to achieve recovery, and they continue to do it with discipline. This person is seeking the next step in their recovery and they are pushing themselves to experience new kinds of growth. Instead of learning how to live sober, they are pushing themselves to overcome complacency and to stay active in their recovery. They have shifted from “learning mode” to “personal growth mode.” This is the shift to long term recovery.

    Here we are dealing only with early recovery, and the strategies and tactics that work best to help insure that you do not relapse during this tricky time frame.

    But in addition to that, we realize that it is not just about the clean time you have accumulated, and is really more about the mindset that you need to have in long term recovery. So this is also about the shift towards that mindset, and how to get there from your start in early recovery. The sections we are going to explore include:

    [toc=”2,3,4″ title=”Table of contents”]

    How to motivate yourself to get clean and sober.

    The best way to motivate yourself to get clean and sober is to start paying attention. This is really the only thing that is necessary in order for you to eventually wake up and stop damaging your body with chemicals.

    Addiction is a state of denial. We are harming ourselves and deep down, we know that we are slowly killing ourselves due to our addiction. But we feel trapped and we are afraid to seek help or do anything about our problem.

    The start of any solution to this is going to involve breaking through that denial. The road to recovery is always going to start with a decision. We finally see clearly that we are self destructing and we make the decision to do something about it and seek help. It is as simple as that. We choose life rather than the slow path of suicide that we are on.

    In order to motivate ourselves to make this decision we first have to get honest with ourselves. We have to gain an awareness of how bad our addiction really is. Honestly look at your situation and realize that things are progressively getting worse over time, never better. Understand that your hope to be able to control and enjoy your drug or alcohol use is a fantasy. Perhaps one day in the past you were able to have a good time with your drug of choice but those times are long gone. When was it last fun for you? The longer it has been, the more you should realize that it is time to change.

    Achieving this motivation to change requires honesty and awareness. Look at your life and look at your addiction. Honestly assess yourself. Is it fun anymore? What does the drug actually do for you? Are you getting the results you want by continuing to use and abuse chemicals?

    Sometimes we struggle to control our addiction and we might have some limited success at this for a while. In truth, this actually keeps us stuck because we are fooling ourselves in thinking that we can keep it under control and maintain our lifestyle of addiction. Things get progressively worse for the addict over time but if they put forth a great effort they can usually manage to barely hold things together. This is the hamster wheel of addiction. The cycle and trap that keeps people using their drug of choice. There is a constant battle between truly enjoying the drug, and trying to control the drug.

    Admit it: when you are trying your hardest to control your drug or alcohol use, you are not really enjoying it. It is no longer fun if you have to put limits on yourself and try hard to control your use. So what is the point?

    The only way to really motivate yourself is to do the soul searching and arrive at these conclusions for yourself. Embrace the fact that you are miserable in your addiction and accept your situation fully. Stop struggling to hold things together in order to convince yourself that you are happy. You’re not. Accept this, face the truth, and then make the decision to do something about it. Life will get better in recovery but you have to face your addiction first and admit that you need help.

    Can you motivate someone else to get clean and sober?

    Short answer: probably not.

    But that does not mean that there are not actions you can take that might make an impact in the life of a friend or loved one.

    Say you have a family member or close friend who is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, and you want to convince them to take action and seek help. How can you best go about this? Can you really force them to change? What is your best course of action?

    The bottom line is a hard truth: ultimately, we cannot change anyone. You can prove this to yourself by realizing that no one can ultimately change YOU, either. You are still in control of yourself, and no one is going to force you to do anything against your will.

    It is the same with an addict or alcoholic. Remember that they are stuck in denial due to FEAR. That is what keeps them trapped. Fear is what keeps them in a cycle of addiction.

    Just because you and everyone else around them can see a better way, that is not going to convince the addict to change. They are up against a mountain of fear. Change is hard. Their addiction has become comfortable to them. Sobriety is a scary option.

    So what motivates the addict or alcoholic to change?

    Pain.

    It is pain that ultimately motivates someone to stop using drugs and alcohol.

    You would think that you could show the addict an awesome new life in recovery, promise them the whole world, show them luxury, peace, security, serenity, bliss….you would think this would motivate them.

    It does not. You could promise them the whole world and it will never be enough to motivate them to change. It doesn’t work that way. No, only pain can motivate the alcoholic or addict to push past their fear and try to change their life.

    See, they are stuck in fear. They are trapped in addiction due to fear. Enticing them with positive things will not work, because they are paralyzed from taking action. They are too afraid to face life sober (though most will never admit that it is fear that stops them. Trust me. It is ALWAYS fear, deep down, that is what prevents change).

    So this should be part of your guiding principle. How to implement it though?

    Simple: when you interact with the addict in your life, do not deny them of their pain.

    They bring on pain themselves, due to their addiction. Do not deny them of that pain. Doing so is called caretaking, or rescuing (depending on the circumstances).

    You don’t have to try to make more pain for the addict. That is not necessary, or helpful. They will create their own pain by themselves. Just do not interfere with it. Let them experience it fully, without your “help.”

    If you let them experience enough pain, they will eventually become motivated to change. They will finally decide to give sobriety a chance when they have had enough pain.

    Again: motivation to stop using drugs or alcohol comes from having enough pain. Nothing else works. Pain is always the motivator.

    So when the addict brings pain into their lives, allow them to have it. It is the only path to sobriety for a true addict or alcoholic.

    Making the decision to change your life.

    What really defines surrender? No one is exactly sure how to activate this state of radical change, but it is pretty easy to spot it once you have the ball rolling. Willingness is a key element. The addict becomes willing to do pretty much anything to get out of the misery of their addiction.

    But the decision to change is deeper than that. It has to come from a place of complete surrender, where you stop fighting and struggling to control things. At least in early recovery, the best thing you can do is to give up. To let go. To stop fighting for control. This is the correct mindset for radical change.

    A lot of addicts and alcoholics are at a place in their addiction where they wish things were different, but they are not yet willing to take massive action in order to make big changes. They realize that their addiction is dragging them down, and they may even realize that it is their main source of unhappiness, but they still do not see that the solution is to let go of their need for control and allow a new solution into their lives.

    People get confused about recovery and how it unfolds. They have bias that their path to surrender is the only possible path. They also have bias that their method of recovery is the only way to beat an addiction. In truth, the recovery is born out of surrender, and the actions taken do not have to be defined in great detail.

    There is no great mystery in recovery. There is no great secret that allows an addict or alcoholic to remain clean and sober. This is not rocket science. Even the 12 steps are merely suggestions, there is no magic in them, no mystery….simple abstinence and support is enough to maintain sobriety for anyone who has truly surrendered. Do not give power to the mystery of a solution, because in truth, the solution is in the surrender, it is in the willingness, not in the program.

    The decision to change your life has to come from within. It is not a surface level decision, like deciding whether to have ice cream or not.

    Nudging the addict or alcoholic closer to this decision can only be done indirectly, through changing your own behavior so that you do not enable them.

    Getting yourself closer to this decision can only be done through internal surrender, a process that does not seem to be voluntary. In other words, you cannot choose to surrender. It has to happen on its own….thus is the way of addiction. If you could choose to surrender, you probably would not be a real addict or alcoholic.

    In the end, we surrender and make the decision to change after we have had “enough.” Enough what? Enough pain.

    Doing it on your own versus asking for help.

    What is an addict or an alcoholic? For the most part, the definition of such conditions includes the idea that the person cannot overcome their problem without help.

    If they can, they are not “real” addicts or alcoholics.

    I have thought long and hard about this idea, and I am still not really sure if that is the correct way to define addiction (as being someone who cannot stop under their own power).

    But what is clear to me is this: I could not conquer my problem of addiction without asking for help, and without guidance from other people.

    Another thing that is clear to me is this: many, many people who struggle with substance abuse cannot overcome their problem by themselves. In fact, many cannot overcome their problem even when they do ask for help.

    I work in a recovery center and so everyone who shows up is essentially asking for help. So I have bias in that everyone I deal with is basically asking for help.

    Consider: addicts who solve their own problem do not show up in rehab. Why would they? But this does not mean that such people do not exist. Most people in rehabs and in 12 step programs just assume that such people do not exist. But they certainly do.

    At any rate, what you need to worry about is this: if you cannot do it on your own, then you need to ask for help.

    By all means, conquer your own drug addiction or alcoholism. No one is stopping you from doing so. Solve your own problem. Go ahead. If you can do it, more power to you. Whether you are a “real” addict or not is beside the point. If you can stop using and attain a better life, then so be it.

    Here is the tricky part: if you can NOT do this, admit it. And then ask for help.

    But that is the key: you have to get honest with yourself.

    Do not fall into the trap of saying: “Oh, I did not quit using drugs or alcohol this time, but I did not really want to. If I was more serious about it I surely could overcome it on my own. I just don’t want to right now. It is not the right time.”

    That is denial, pure and simple. If you are at that point then you need to get honest with yourself and realize that you are trapped in a mind game.

    Look carefully at your past. Have you not seriously tried to stop on your own? If not, then do so. Make an honest effort at it. And if you succeed, that is great. If not, time to ask for help.

    Long term sobriety can be more of a solo flight….an experiment in personal growth. But early recovery almost always requires support from others. If you can stop on your own, then do so. If not, realize that you are going to need some assistance.

    Overcoming fears and anxiety that might block you in early recovery.

    If you do manage to make a decision to do something about your problem, and you follow up that decision by asking for help, you are going to notice a trend very quickly: everyone will push you towards 12 step programs, and meetings.

    Now there will be exceptions to this of course. There are a few variations out there that do not rely on the 12 step model. But for the most part, if you ask for help from 100 different people at random, then probably over 90 of them will end up directing you towards either A) 12 step recovery of some sort, or B) Treatment centers or rehabs that are 12 step based.

    So in 9 cases out of 10 you will be directed to AA or NA meetings as the foundation for your solution.

    If you happen to have anxiety of any sort, this may not sit well with you. Meetings can be intimidating, and in some cases, they may put you on the spot and expect you to even say something. For someone with anxiety, this can be absolutely paralyzing.

    Even for someone who is just full of fear or is nervous in general, the thought of attending such groups or meetings may be a bit much.

    So fear can hold us back from taking action in recovery. What can be done about this?

    First of all, realize that a full level of surrender will generally conquer even a strong amount of anxiety about groups and such. You may well be terrified of groups, but once you cross that threshold of surrender and become truly miserable in your addiction, you will no longer care.  Moderate anxiety takes a backseat at this point.

    True surrender to your disease drives you to a desperate point where you stop caring about almost anything and everything. It is close to suicidal, but it is also indifference. This is the point where you sort of abandon hope and you no longer give so much power to your fear. It is then that you become open to the idea of change, open to the idea that maybe you could endure such groups, and so on.

    So surrender can conquer fear. If you are still too scared to give such solutions a chance, perhaps you have not fully surrendered yet. Give yourself a break, open up to the possibility that your fear is overblown. When you surrender to your addiction, you will stop caring so much about fear and anxiety.

    There really is no other secret to conquering your fears or anxiety about recovery. You either dive into recovery head first and realize that there was nothing to be afraid of, or you remain stuck in your addiction. There is not much in between. Everyone who surrenders to their addiction eventually comes to realize the support that they get in recovery is nothing to be afraid of. But it can still take time to come to that realization. It can still take a moment of surrender before the addict or alcoholic is ready to move past their anxiety and give recovery a chance.

    Committing fully to recovery and taking massive action.

    By far, one of the most important concepts in early recovery is that of taking massive action.

    Massive action is what you need in order to overcome any addiction. Why?

    Because addictions are very difficult to overcome, and any drug or alcohol addiction is firmly entrenched in your life and in your habits.

    Think about it: what do they say that you have to change now that you are in recovery? Everything! They say that you have to change everything, and they are basically right! You really do have to change your whole life if you want to have a chance at staying clean and sober.

    Folks, this is no small feat. This is not a little task that lay ahead of you. No, this is monumental. This is huge. Overcoming drug or alcohol addiction is likely to be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life.

    Think about that. Overcoming addiction is your greatest challenge. The toughest opponent you have faced, ever. This is your biggest battle.

    So why would it NOT take massive action? Of course it is going to be the greatest effort you have ever put forth! You are not just going to take action in order to overcome addiction, you are going to put forth the greatest effort of your life. Ever!

    So do not think in terms of “what is the minimal effort I can put forth and make this recovery stuff work for me.” That is the wrong attitude entirely. You are doomed to relapse if you are trying to figure out how to cut corners with your recovery.

    No, it requires massive action. Overcommitment. Going the extra mile.

    How do you do this?

    The best way is to dedicate your entire life to recovery. Make it your only priority. Everything else becomes secondary.

    * Long term rehab? No problem….become willing to live there for several years if necessary.

    * 90 meetings in 90 days? No problem….attend several meetings per day (if they work for you) and become involved in helping out with them in any way that you can.

    * Recovery literature and self examination? No problem….dive into the material and study it like you have final exams on it next week. Don’t let up for a year or two.

    You get the idea. Don’t just take action….take massive action.

    Those who fail in early recovery can be easily diagnosed as people who did not take massive action. Anyone who relapses within the first 90 days of recovery can look back and agree that “yes, I could have done a lot more in order to work on my recovery. I did not take enough action.”

    This is a no-brainer. If you dedicate your life to recovery, and take positive action every single day, then guess what? You will remain clean and sober, and your life will get incrementally better, every single day.

    But if you try to slide by and do the bare minimum…trying to do “just enough” to maintain your sobriety, then guess what? Random life circumstances and events will eventually push you over the edge into a relapse.

    Think about it: life goes on, and we have our good days, our bad days, and eventually we will all have a terribly awful day. Simply live long enough and eventually you will have an awful day or two, maybe even an awful week. It is bound to happen eventually.

    Now if you are just doing the bare minimum in your recovery, guess what? The random chaos that hits your life every once in a while will be enough to push you over the edge. Now if you happen to be in the habit of taking positive action every day, and do so on a consistent basis, then you will be well protected against relapse.

    Early recovery tends to be filled with chaos. Our lives are still getting sorted out due to the wreckage of our addiction. There are going to be bad days, and plenty of excuses to go get a drink or a drug. You need protection from that, and the only way to get that protection is to take massive action in early recovery.

    Dive into your recovery head first and take lots of positive action, every single day. This is the only way to insure your success in early recovery. If you are not taking massive action then you are constantly running the risk of relapsing when things take a turn for the worse.

    Do you need a full medical detox?

    Many addicts and alcoholics wonder if they really need a fully supervised medical detox. The answer to this question is “no” if you only use the following substances:

    * Cocaine (or crack)
    * Marijuana
    * LSD (or Psilocybin, magic mushrooms, etc.)

    If you use any other drugs, then you probably DO need a full medical detox. This would include substances such as:

    * Alcohol (even if it is “just” beer).
    * Opiates (including prescription painkillers like Vicodin, Oxycontin, Morphine, Methadone, etc.) but also street opiates such as heroin.
    * Other prescription medications (such as Benzodiazipines like Valium, Xanax, Ativan, Klonipin, Librium, etc.).

    If you are in doubt, call up a local rehab on the phone and ask them if you would require detox or not. If they cannot answer your question then call another rehab. 90 percent of rehabs out there should be able to answer this for you with a 5 minute phone call.

    In particular, recognize that withdrawal from alcohol can be life threatening, and in some cases it is actually safer to continue to drink until you can get into a medically supervised detox.

    In extreme cases, withdrawal from Methadone and certain barbiturates can be fatal as well, although this is quite rare. When in doubt, seek medical treatment.

    Most people erroneously believe that withdrawal from heroin must be more dangerous than other drugs, because it is the most miserable withdrawal. In truth, heroin withdrawal is much, much safer than alcohol withdrawal. An important distinction that could save a life…

    Always seek a medical detox for alcohol and Benzodiazipine withdrawal.

    If in doubt, call and ask local treatment centers what you need.

    Do you need residential treatment?

    Probably.

    If you are struggling to get clean and sober then chances are good that you would benefit a great deal from residential treatment.

    Most people believe that rehab should essentially “cure” the addict or alcoholic. Or, at the very least, public perception is generally that rehab should be fairly effective at producing abstinence from drugs and alcohol.

    The reality is that drug rehab and addiction treatment does not work as well as everybody would like to believe. It does work. But keep in mind that:

    * Drug rehabs and alcohol treatment centers never enjoy success rates much higher than 5 percent, especially when measured at a 1 year time frame.

    * Most addicts and alcoholics who finally get sober and make it stick end up doing so only after multiple trips to rehabs. Many people take 3 or more tries before they finally “get it.”

    * No one can be forced to live clean and sober. Personal conviction and willingness is much, much more important than finding just the right rehab.

    * Some people do get clean and sober without rehab at all, but this is a very small percentage of addicts and alcoholics. Most need professional help to get well.

    Some drug rehabs and treatment centers will boast about a high success rate, but don’t buy into the hype. It is a tough population to work with, and there are no magic bullets out there. If one rehab found a secret formula for success then they would all adopt it. Don’t kid yourself into thinking there is an easier, softer way. Recovery takes work, plain and simple. Rehab is just a method to get you started on your recovery. It cannot create success for you.

    Remember that: treatment can help you, it can guide you, but it cannot create success for you. The hard work is still up to the individual. Period. No magic short cuts.

    With that said, most addicts and alcoholics will still benefit a lot from treatment. It still gives a person the necessary break that they need in order to get a new start on life. Just realize that there are no magic cures, and no treatment center can give you a 100% chance for success.

    Another concept to keep in mind for early recovery is that if you have tried one level of treatment in the past, and it failed, then consider “stepping up” to a more intense level of treatment.

    For example, these types of treatment for addiction are roughly in order, from least intensive to most intensive:

    * Counseling
    * Outpatient
    * Inpatient short term
    * Long term

    So if you try one thing and it fails for you, try something more intense next time.

    The bottom line is that if you have tried to get clean and sober on your own, or by seeing a counselor, and failed repeatedly….then you need residential treatment (and possibly even more help). If you can quit on your own or with simple counseling sessions then by all means, do so. Otherwise, seek inpatient rehab.

    Cost is a common objection that does not hold up to scrutiny if you examine the long term savings. Successful drug rehab will pay for itself in less than a year, and probably even quicker than that. Of course if you relapse, then the cost hurts a lot more, but keep in mind that even a failed treatment episode can plant a seed for later. In other words, even if you leave rehab and end up using, this might be part of your process, and part of the path that ulimately leads you to long term sobriety. Remember that it takes most people at least 3 tries before they achieve long term sobriety.

    Do you need long term treatment?

    Quite possibly.

    Most addicts and alcoholics seriously underestimate how difficult it will be to overcome their addiction at first.

    There is a simple reason for this: most of the challenges that we face in life only require us to put forth a modest amount of effort in order to get decent results.

    This is NOT the case with addiction and alcoholism. If you put forth a small effort, you will relapse. If you put forth a modest effort, you will relapse.

    Only a 100 percent commitment to real change is going to help you in recovery.

    Given that, long term treatment makes a lot of sense. Of course, it is not for everyone.

    But keep this in mind: nearly every single addict and alcoholic, including those who desperately need long term treatment, often dismiss the idea of living in rehab completely. Most simply do not think that they need that much help.

    But of course, many people do. Long term rehab is a solid foundation if you really want recovery. Most people have not fully surrendered and do not believe they need this level of care.

    So, can you get clean and sober without going to long term treatment? Sure. But if you have tried short term treatment in the past, and failed, then it might be worth your time to step it up.

    Most people dismiss the idea of long term rehab because it is too great of a time investment. But watch what happens in your life if you continue to drink or abuse drugs for the next two years. In all cases you would have been much better off to check into long term rehab instead of “staying on the outside” where you thought you were desperately needed in order to keep the world spinning. Most people say “I can’t go to long term, people need me. My family needs me.” And so on. They make excuses and think that they are essential to the functioning of the outside world.

    Guess what: the world needs you clean and sober. And it will wait for you, whether you believe it or not. So if you have constantly failed at other forms of treatment, you might consider long term rehab as the solution that might finally work for you.

    By no means is long term rehab a magic bullet. It does not guarantee success. But it probably affords you the best possible opportunity to turn your life around, if that is what you are truly after.

    Sometimes, long term treatment succeeds where other short term solutions have failed. It is worth exploring if you are serious about your recovery and nothing else has worked for you.

    What to do if you relapse.

    If you relapse, there is only one thing to do: fight through the shame and the guilt and get yourself professional help as quickly as possible. Period.

    This is the only sensible option, the only thing that needs to be done. If you relapse, get yourself back to a safe place as soon as you can. Prolonging a relapse or just “enjoying if for a while” is a recipe for disaster.

    Many people die after a relapse, and several others stay out for years or even decades after a tiny “slip.” It is not worth it. So much value can be destroyed over time if you do not take immediate action.

    All that matters after a relapse is that you do something about it NOW. Making future promises to get back in the swing of things is no good at all, and may never manifest. You have to take immediate action, or it just gets harder and harder to turn the boat around.

    If you have relapsed, cut your losses immediately. Your goal is to get sober again and survive. Forget about saving face or trying to hide the fact that you screwed up. Your goal is to stay alive at this point. Remember that from a physical perspective, relapse always gets worse in terms of the chemical reactions in your body. Tolerance changes and they have even shown how your disease progresses while you were not using drugs or alcohol. Many people die from addiction due to relapse, not just from years of continuous abuse, but from the shame and the guilt that drives further using after a relapse.

    Immediate action. You have to get professional help after a relapse, and quickly. I recommend calling up drug rehabs or treatment centers and asking questions to find out how you can get in. Ignore costs and swallow your pride and get the help that you need fast. Everything else is irrelevant. You are either clean and sober or your life is a train wreck, there is no in-between. If you have relapsed then you need to get back on the right path, fast.

    Simple. If you relapse, get yourself into rehab. Fast. Nothing else matters.

    What are the alternatives to rehab?

    Not everyone who gets clean and sober does so by going to a treatment center. So what are the alternatives? Let’s take a look:

    * You can go to your doctor and possibly take medication that allows you to overcome your addiction. This is bound to be a controversial approach, because a lot of people have a problem with the idea that you can take drugs in order to treat a drug addiction. There is some merit to that argument too, especially when you consider the success rate of using medications to treat addictions (the rates are not so great, pretty lackluster actually). For example, you might take Campral to fight off alcohol cravings or Suboxone as a partial opiate medication to stay off of heroin or other opiates. Replacement drugs like Suboxone sound great in theory, but the numbers do not really paint a very exciting or hopeful picture. If pills worked even halfway decent at treating addiction, the big pharma companies would be going nuts with this stuff. But in my opinion, they don’t work all that great, so you do not see a huge buzz about these anti-addiction medications.

    * You can skip rehab and just start going to 12 step meetings such as AA or NA. If this works for you, run with it. Certainly cheaper than a trip to rehab, and possibly just as effective for someone who has fully surrendered and “will do anything for their recovery.” But again, if you look at the numbers and the success rates, straight 12 step programs do not exactly have a magic wand when it comes to helping addicts and alcoholics. If you dedicate your life to a solution, it will probably work for you. But how many who try AA or NA will really committ to it that fully? Go google the success rates of AA and you will find quite a wide range of claims, but the truth can be found by looking at the large meta-studies done over several decades. The verdict on those? Not so hot…..less than 1 out of 20 still clean and sober after a full year.

    * You might seek religion, and find sanctuary from your addiction through a church community or a religious conversion of some sort. Works for some, not for most. Worth mentioning, and certainly worth keeping an open mind about.

    There are of course variations on these strategies but those are the basics. Religion, medicine, and 12 step programs. If someone tries to tell you that any of these methods are invalid, do not listen to them. Any of these strategies could potentially work for you because all of them have worked for others.

    What is important is that you find what works for you in your recovery. Find your own path. Make it work. It is your responsibility to stay clean and sober. No one else can do it for you. So accept it fully, and explore your options to find what truly works best for you.

    Most people are heavily biased in telling you to pursue the solution that worked for them, or to pursue a solution that they may have witnessed working for a friend or family member. This is a narrow minded approach that is actually dangerous. If someone tells you that there is only one strategy that works for recovery, run. There are many paths.

    Seek support systems that encourage growth.

    Popular wisdom says that “we are the sum of the 5 closest people that we hang around with,” or something like that. Pretty much accurate, and that is why you want to surround yourself with positive influences in early recovery.

    They have a saying that reflects this in 12 step programs: “stick with the winners.” This is the same idea. If you surround yourself with positive people who are full of energy and trying to improve their lives, then guess what? This will rub off on you and have a positive impact. Of course the negative is true as well: eliminate the negative people from your life who no longer align with your goals.

    You can take this a step further by involving yourself with clubs or organizations that are focused on positive energy and growth. Twelve step meetings are a good starting point, but you can also look outside of traditional recovery venues, and consider things like joining an aerobics class or gym, making speeches at a Toastmaster club, or just pushing yourself and your friends to make conscious growth in your lifes.

    If personal growth becomes a habit in long term recovery, then support systems that encourage it become less important. But in early recovery, most addicts are still trying to establish these new positive ways of living. So seeking support from others makes a lot of sense in early recovery.

    In particular, focus on finding people and new friends who:

    * Are high energy.

    * Take personal responsibility without blaming others all the time.

    * Are not being a victim.

    * Are motivated to grow and improve their lives.

    These are the kinds of people you want to surround yourself with in early recovery. Encourage your own personal growth by associating with others who are on the same path.

    Use focus early in recovery, but start thinking about balance too.

    There is a transition period that happens in between early recovery and long term sobriety. That transition is about the shift from being laser focused on staying sober, to finding balance and harmony in your life.

    Early recovery demands focus. You want to pretty much focus 100 percent on your recovery and ignore most other aspects of your life for a while. This is necessary in order to stay clean and sober in the early days of recovery.

    Later on, when you have been clean and sober for several years, you no longer want, or need, this laser focus. Being clean and sober comes to you much more naturally after a few years in recovery, and it becomes much more important to pursue balance instead.

    Why is this the case?

    The reason balance becomes more important in later recovery is because recovery is about living, it’s about life. You need balance in order to enjoy life and avoid complacency that might set in if you continue to focus too much in one area.

    Focus works in early recovery because you need it just to avoid relapse, and because you are learning so much about how to live a new life. Maybe you use a specific recovery program, and dedicate your life to it. This intense effort may work very well in early recovery.

    As you transition to long term recovery, keep the idea of balance in mind. For example, maybe you are neglecting your body physically, and could stand to exercise more. Or maybe you are still smoking cigarettes after a few years in recovery, and would like to quit. Or maybe you feel like you need to interact more with others in recovery, and find new ways to reach out and help others. Whatever the case, consider the big picture….look at your entire life, your entire recovery. And don’t be too critical. If you see a gap in your recovery, try to fill it, but don’t beat yourself up.

    Some other areas of your recovery that might benefit from a little “balancing” include:

    * Emotional health
    * Healthy relationships
    * Education, going back to school
    * Exercise, physical fitness
    * Quitting smoking or dropping other bad habits
    * Helping others in recovery
    * Seeking spirituality

    So in early recovery, don’t be afraid to focus heavily on just staying clean and sober. But as you progress, recognize the need to branch out and grow in new areas.

    Surrender fully and be humble. Walk the walk. Forget about talking the talk.

    So many people who start out in recovery are way too cocky. I see this over and over again in early recovery and it always leads to relapse. You have to be humble enough to slow down and learn a little bit.

    This cannot happen if you are talking too much, and too focused on carrying a message to others that you do not yet have. If you go to 12 step meetings and you are smart enough to pick up quickly on the lingo, that does not make you more likely to stay clean and sober necessarily. More imporant is to actually apply the principles that they are talking about and do some real soul searching.  Hint: it is not fun and easy, like prattling on at an AA meeting is.  It takes guts, and work.

    When a recovering addict starts “talking the talk” in recovery, and becomes preachy, they cannot really focus on their own growth. What they are really doing at this point is boosting their own ego under the guise of “helping others.” If you are in your first year of recovery then it might be more helpful for you to listen and learn, rather than rambling at meetings. Yet many newcomers think that they have all of the answers, and ramble on at length trying to convince the room that they know how to stay sober.

    I am not discouraging the newcomer from sharing. What I am saying is that I have never witnessed a success story in recovery from someone who was overly eager to share at length, without first getting humble and attempting to learn a new way of life. It is easy to talk a great game in recovery. It is another thing entirely to break down, get emotional, do some real soul searching, and ask for help in early recovery. You want to be doing the later rather than the former. Forget about looking like a big shot in early recovery. Focus on asking, and answering, the tough questions. Be humble, ask for help, and become desperate to learn a new way of life. This is the path to success in recovery.

    If you are still trying to look good in early recovery, you are setting yourself up for failure. Let go absolutely.

    Network with others. Seek people who have what you want. Filter out people who do not.

    I would go so far as to say that in early recovery, your success depends largely on your ability to aggressively filter out negative influences. This is especially true if people around you are still using drugs and alcohol, or encouraging you to do so.

    Don’t worry about being alone. Friends and companionship will come into your life, especially if you remain sober and keep taking positive action. Losing a few friends from your life of addiction is a small price to pay for a new life in recovery. The younger you are, the harder that is to accept, but it is still true. You will make new friends in recovery, positive people who are willing to support you.

    Eliminate negative people from your life. You don’t have the time or energy for them in recovery. Staying sober will be hard enough without them.

    Take it slow. You have a long time to grow ahead of you.

    There is a tendency in early recovery to be overwhelmed, and to think that you have to conquer the whole world with massive personal growth and exciting changes, all at once.

    Don’t rush.

    Take things slowly. Recovery is a long, long process that stretches out for decades in front of you. It will take the rest of your life. Do not rush it.

    Are you sober today? Good. Are you committed to staying clean and sober for the rest of today? Great. Go with that for now. More will come to you in time.

    Personal growth will happen if you keep the right attitude. Don’t think you have to climb every mountain tomorrow. Stick with your mantra of “I will not use drugs or alcohol today, no matter what.” Slowly expand from there.

    What is the thing you want to change most in your life today? Focus on that. Don’t let a bunch of other goals run you in circles. It is OK to focus on one thing at a time, and make steady progress.

    Prioritize. Recovery might be summarized like this:

    1) Don’t use drugs or alcohol no matter what, and
    2) Pick another goal and reach for it.

    You don’t need 20 goals. Just nail that first part (don’t use no matter what) and then try to add in a growth experience. Start exercising. Quit smoking. Expand spiritually. Whatever. Pick a goal that sparks your interest and go after it.

    Achieve something, then move on. It took me years in my recovery before I finally quit the cigarettes. But I finally conquered that goal, and now I have moved on to another goal. Life gets better and better over time. Master one goal, then move on and tackle a new one. This is progress.

    And prioritize. What would have the biggest impact in your life right now? Do that. Chase that goal. Throw yourself at it.

    Prioritize, execute, master it, then move on. Slow, deliberate growth. No need to rush things. Take your time and know that you will get there.

    Do not get overly enthusiastic in early recovery.

    A common mistake in early recovery is to find the so called “pink cloud” and get overly enthusiastic about staying clean and sober.

    Most people would think that this would be a positive sign, to become so overly excited about recovery, but it almost always seems to turn out poorly. If you are too enthusiastic in your first month of recovery, it usually means that you are overconfident, not listening enough, not humbling yourself enough, and that you have not truly surrendered to your addiction yet.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am all about positive energy. But it has to be built up slowly, over time. If you come out of the gate and are preaching about the virtues of staying clean during your first 30 days, then something is wrong. That is not an image of true surrender. I have never seen a person stay clean and sober when they were shouting the benefits of recovery from the rooftops during their first week of recovery. You have to be in a state of surrender, not one of overconfidence.

    Remember, take it slow. Start with your number one goal of not using drugs or alcohol today no matter what. Enthusiasm can slowly build from there as you experience real growth in recovery.

    The problem is when your enthusiasm gets way ahead of your progress, or of what is realistic. It is OK to be positive and have hope for the future, but wild optimism that leads to wreckless action is not going to help you in recovery. Stay grounded and stay humble. The path to success is slow, deliberate, and full of learning.

    Do not glamorize your addiction. Ever.

    This is a tough one, especially for younger people in early recovery. It is so easy to glamorize our addiction and talk about how much we used, how wasted we got, and so on. But it never helps, even though it feels comfortable and easy to talk about that aspect of our lives when we are first getting clean.

    The problem with glamorizing is that it conditions our minds to want the drug again. You may think you are stronger than that, but your lizard brain does not care. If you constantly talk (or think) about the good times that you had with drugs or alcohol, then guess what? Your subconscious mind is going to go into overdrive in producing more cravings, whether you want those cravings to occur or not.

    If you keep talking about “the addiction part of it” and reminiscing about the good times you used to have, your brain will end up making you miserable. You will crave the drug and keep denying yourself from having it, until you cave in and relapse.

    The best way to treat this problem is to focus on having a keen awareness of glamorizing, and shut it down instantly. Do not tolerate it at all. When you notice yourself glamorizing, stop immediately. If you want to go use drugs and alcohol, then by all means, glamorize drug and alcohol use. But if your intention is to stay clean and sober then you need to be vigilant at keeping your thoughts clear from that stuff.

    Remembering the good times or talking about how you use to get wasted will only make you miserable in the end.

    Hit the recovery literature.

    Reading positive literature, be it recovery related or otherwise, is a good replacement strategy in early recovery, period.

    Of course anything that teaches you how to live clean and sober is going to be beneficial.

    I would go even a bit further than this and suggest that anyone who is even half interested in learning a new way to live should explore any spiritual books that they care to investigate during their early recovery. Daily meditation books are fine, but I would urge the newcomer to go beyond those books and dig into stuff that is teaching you specific concepts in greater detail.

    Of course there are standard AA and NA books, but beyond 12 step literature, I would recommend a couple books right off the top of my head (all of which focus on, or at least touch on, spiritual concepts). As an aside, I have read through hundreds of books on spirituality since getting sober. These are some that had the most impact on me:

    The Power of Now (Eckhart Tolle)

    Personal Development for Smart People (Steve Pavlina)

    The Tao of Pooh (Benjamin Hoff)

    Conversations with God (Neale Donald Walsch)

    The Pavlina book is extremely practical and barely brushes on what I would consider to be “traditional spirituality.” The CWG book is at the complete other end of the spectrum, but is a great read as well. I cannot imagine someone reading any of these four books and not getting some deep meaning out of it. They are all excellent.

    Consider journaling.

    Before I was writing on the web, I was writing on a laptop, simply saving my thoughts on a hard drive. Journaling is beneficial but of course you have to actually do it in order to reap the benefits. But it is a lot like exercise in that you cannot really describe how powerful the benefits are to someone. You simply have to dive in and start doing it, and then you will look back and be amazed at how it has helped you to grow.

    If you force yourself to journal every single day, it becomes a mind dump of sorts. If you have trouble meditating, or if you don’t seem to benefit from meditating, try journaling. Just sit down and spill your thoughts on the page, and save it. Talk about what is going on in your life. Just dump it all out there. Get it down on paper, or type it in and save it. This is hugely theraputic because it frees up mental energy for other things.

    We tend to overestimate our own ability to control our minds. We think that we are in expert control of our brains, and we are not. Journaling is a tool that allows you to reclaim your own thoughts. Do a “brain dump” once per day and your mental clarity will jump noticeably in less than a week. If it does not, simply stop journaling.

    The other huge benefit of journaling is that you can look back at your old entries and see how much you have grown over time. Pretty awesome, especially if you journal through the first year of your recovery. The amount of growth you will make then is astounding. Well worth documenting in written format.

    Pursue spiritual growth.

    Don’t get hung up on the word “spiritual.” Everything we have covered thus far has been spiritual. The term is quite broad, and certainly encompasses things such as exercise, helping others in recovery, and so on.

    If you have background in religion or any sort of organized meditation or prayer rituals then I would suggest that you seek to reconnect with that in your recovery. You don’t have to if you don’t want to of course, there are other paths. But it may be worth exploring again now that you are clean and sober. Just don’t feel forced.

    I would highly recommend meditation, but even more than that, exercise. Most people dismiss this idea (who do not already exercise) because they think that working out could not possibly be spiritual. I disagree, and believe that most workouts (if they are intense enough) are actually more spiritual than simple meditation is. I also think the benefits are the same, with an edge to physical exercise of course. I say this as someone who experimented quite a bit with meditation, and have done some sessions as long as 45 minutes before. That may not make me an expert, but I meditated for several months, and eventually came to realize that physical exercise was superior to traditional meditation, at least for me.  Your experience may differ of course.  Test, test, test.   See what works for you.

    Beyond meditation and exercise, I believe that helping other people is spiritual in nature. If you are not actively helping others in your recovery then I would suggest that you probably have room for spiritual growth, at least to some extent. I am not positive if this aspect is absolutely necessary for sobriety, but I definitely witness it in all of the “winners” that I see in recovery. I also know that I get huge spiritual benefit myself from helping others in my own life.

    Some people get confused in early recovery and tend to make 2 major assumptions:

    1) That the solution is spiritual (rather than holistic), and that

    2) Spiritual growth is equal to religious activity, or is based on their preconceived notions of what “spiritual” means.

    The truth is that the solution is actually holistic, which includes spirituality.

    Spirituality is broad. It is wider than what most people believe it is. Do not define it too narrowly in your mind, or you will limit yourself.

    The real key in seeking spiritual growth is in your attitude about it. You have to be seeking, and earnest to explore more.

    Take direction from others. Later on, you can call the shots again. Right now you need guidance.

    If you are too stubborn in early recovery and insist on doing things your own way, then guess what? You are very likely to relapse.

    The fact is that when we first get clean and sober, we do not know how to live. We don’t. We know how to get through life by self medicating with drugs and alcohol, but we do not know how to do it clean and sober.

    Now that we have made the decision that we would like to be clean and sober, we need new information.

    We need to learn how to live clean and sober. This is a process. It takes time.

    If you are going to learn how to live a clean and sober life, you have to adopt the proper attitude. If you are trying to maintain that you are smart and know what is best for you, then you will probably not see the lessons that you need to learn in order to live sober.

    Humility is critical. You don’t have to put yourself down in any way. Just accept where you are: you have hit a bottom, your life is screwed up, and you need help. You need new information to relearn how to live.

    This is the critical attitude that you must adopt. You have to be humble enough take some direction.

    We have a strong tendency to believe that we are the only ones who have our best interest at heart. Our tendency is to believe that no one else could possibly make important decisions about our lives. This is false.

    If you relinquish control when you get clean and sober, and let someone else tell you what to do, then your life will get better. For example, go to rehab. Be honest with the counselors there. Do what they suggest that you do. Put aside your own ideas about how to live and do exactly what they suggest.

    You will be amazed at the results. And, instead of becoming a robot or a slave like you might be imagining, you will gain incredible freedom by taking direction from others.

    Prioritize recovery as being the most important thing in your life.

    So many people in early recovery screw this up. In most cases, I believe the reason that they do is because they have not yet fully surrendered to their addiction. They are not really ready to change just yet. They need more pain in their life first.

    The concept is simple. You have to put your recovery first. It has to be the most important thing in your life, by far.

    This means more important than your spouse, your kids, your religion, your higher power, your job, and your career.

    It does no good at all to pay lip service to this idea and agree with it, but not believe it in your heart. If you don’t actually believe that your recovery must come before all of this other stuff, then just forget it! You are not going to stay clean and sober.

    Your recovery must become the most important thing in your life. Period.

    Wrap your mind around the concept and make it happen. Commit to yourself that your recovery is the source of all good things. Without it, you cannot connect with your higher power. Without your recovery, everything else fails (eventually).

    Recovery must come first. Get it straight in your mind. The most important thing in your life is that you not use drugs or alcohol today, period. All else is secondary to this.

    Don’t just say this….believe it. Live it. Prioritize. Recovery comes first.

    Focus on honest communication without hurting others.

    It would be easy to dismiss this idea of honest communication as not being a super important part of your recovery. But as much as I do not like to admit it, honestly communicating your feelings to other people may be one of the most critical concepts you can learn. Let me explain.

    Recovery is about relationships. It’s about you and your relationship with yourself, with your higher power, and with other people. The relationships with other people can be especially tricky, and that is where honest communication comes in.

    Now, I am not talking about communicating facts. I am talking about feelings.

    Feelings are not the same thing as your opinions. If you tell your wife “I feel that you should call me when you are not coming home after work,” that is not a feeling. That is an opinion disguised as a feeling.

    But if you say “I feel sad when you don’t call me or come home after work,” then that is feeling. See it in there? SAD. You feel sad. Tell her that.

    If you communicate actual feelings to people (sad, mad, glad, or scared) then it will change your life, and change your recovery. You will get relief.

    When we DON’T communicate these feelings to people, we get resentment and self pity. Both of those things can easily push you to relapse.

    This is a very hard thing for most people to do. To honestly communicate your feelings. If someone upsets you or makes you angry, then you should (at some point) confront them and tell them how you FELT when they did that. It is such as simple thing. You don’t have to explain yourself in great detail, just tell them what it made you feel, in one word: sad, mad, glad, or scared. Just communicate the feeling and then move on. That is all that is necessary.

    When you communicate the feeling, it frees you up, and it also teaches the other person, much better than if you are giving opinions and telling them what they should and should not do. They will hear you loud and clear if you just state a simple feeling.

    If you can master this in early recovery then your chances of staying clean and sober will skyrocket. It is very difficult to do. The next time you have some sort of argument with someone, try it. Just communicate the simple feeling that you have (sad, mad, glad, or scared). Tell them nothing else. No opinions. Just the feeling you had. And then see how that works out. You will be amazed at the results.

    Consider avoiding new romantic relationships in early recovery.

    This is nothing new, you hear this advice toted around 12 step meetings as well. “Stay out of new relationships for the first year” and so on.

    It is common advice because it is absolutely true. You should definitely heed the warnings.

    As evidence to this, I lived in long term treatment for almost two years, and watched about 30 guys relapse while I lived there. Almost every single one of them relapsed due to a relationship. It really was astounding.

    We think that we are immune to this sort of thing. When we meet someone and start falling for them, everything feels so good, we are on cloud nine, nothing could possibly go wrong. It is that euphoria of a new love in your life. It blinds you to everything else. And we feel calm, strong, and invincible. We think we are immune to bad possibilities. We think that we are special, that we are somehow stronger than other people.

    But of course this is not true. Everyone who gambles with a new romantic relationship in early recovery learns this the hard way. It never turns out like we think it will.

    Also, if you revisit an earlier point, remember that recovery must be the most important thing in our lives. Period. When you have 3 months sobriety, and you fall in love, guess what? Recovery is no longer the most important thing in your life. You may wish for it to be, you may want for it to be the most important thing, but you are kidding yourself. You don’t have enough foundation. The euphoria of the new relationship will take over, it will dominate your thoughts throughout the day, and recovery will get put on the back burner.

    And you will fool yourself because you will feel so good due to your new relationship, and you will have no thoughts of using drugs or alcohol. None at all! And so you will stop pushing yourself to grow and to learn about yourself, and instead you will focus on the new relationship.

    This never works. The new relationship feels so good and it feels so right and it is so easy to do, but it never works. I have watched a lot of new relationships in early recovery and I have never seen it turn out well for both people. Never. Not once.

    Stay single in early recovery. Build a foundation (with yourself, and with your higher power). This is the path to success.

    Practice gratitude.

    You may hear other people in early recovery who say: “I’m so grateful to be clean and sober today!”

    Maybe you are not grateful to be sober just yet. If so, that is perrfectly fine. Don’t sweat it. Maybe you are clean and sober now but it is quite a struggle, and perhaps you are not grateful to be clean yet. That’s OK. Don’t force it. Honesty is more important.

    However, that does not mean that you cannot practice gratitude. What are you grateful for? Try to feel grateful for existence itself. You are here now, and that is a miracle, if you can see it that way. The universe is awfully big and awfully random. Existence is miraculous. You can be grateful for a lot less than your sobriety.

    Notice too that I said practice gratitude. It takes practice. It is a process. No one is perfect at it. I don’t care if you are some super religous monk who meditates 20 hours per day. No one is grateful 100 percent of the time. You have to practice gratitude.

    So just be conscious of the idea. Push yourself to be grateful, but don’t force it. It doesn’t help to fake it. But you can notice the little things in life, and take the time to appreciate them, and your appreciation will grow. Focus on it, and it will grow. Practice gratitude and it will increase.

    You will have moments, even in early recovery, where you are content, and everything seems fine in the world. A moment of peace. Feel the gratitude in those moments. Embrace the simple idea that everything is fine, everything will work out, at least in that moment. And appreciate the fact that you exist, in that moment of peace. It does not have to be anything more than that.

    Stay conscious of those moments and focus on them. Embrace them. This is how you practice gratitude. Appreciate the little things, and take delight in them.

    Gratitude is powerful enough to prevent relapse. It is not just some mystical nonesense about being happy. If you practice gratitude on a regular basis, your chance of relapse will plummet.

    Practice acceptance of yourself first, but start pushing yourself to grow as well.

    There are 2 concepts you will hear about in recovery that can be in direct conflict at times. They are:

    1) Accepting yourself for who you are, and

    2) Pushing yourself to grow as a person.

    Doing one sort of negates the other. So which should you focus on? What is the right mindset for recovery?

    This is one instance where having support in recovery can be helpful. Others who have experience in recovery can help point you in the right direction.

    I would say that as a general rule, you need to focus on acceptance of yourself and forgiving yourself when you first get into recovery.

    However, very shortly thereafter, it is time to get down to business and start focusing on change. If you prolong self examination and working on yourself and attempting to grow as a person, you will eventually relapse.

    Complacency kills. If you don’t grow in your recovery, you will relapse at some point.

    So use the idea of acceptance, but do not let it become an excuse for inaction. You have to get active in your recovery if you want it to work out in the long run.

    Stay on guard against typical uses of “acceptance” as an excuse. Do not let yourself fall into the “acceptance” trap. Just because parts of your life may be “good enough” does not mean you should not work to make them better.

    Forgive yourself in early recovery, but don’t be lazy. Recovery takes work. Push yourself to grow.

    Build on each success you achieve in recovery. Seek holistic growth.

    It does not do you much good in your recovery if you take one step forward and then take two steps back.

    This is why you need to use an holistic approach where you make conscious, deliberate growth in your life. This might be described in two parts:

    1) Make a positive change in your life and master it until it becomes automatic for you.

    2) Seek the next positive growth experience for yourself and attack it.

    For example, I got clean and sober and basically made continuous sobriety my number one priority in life, until it became a habit. It was eventually automatic. That does not necessarily mean that it is always going to be easy from that point on, but it should become your default.

    Next, I made the decision to get into shape. People urged me to exercise and I finally started listening to their suggestions. So I started running on a regular basis, and made it into a habit. Several years later and I am still in the habit of exercise. It has become automatic for me. A positive habit, if you will.

    Friends and family urged me to return to school to finish my degree. At some point, I dove into that goal, and conquered it.

    At some point–after I started exercising–I decided to stop smoking cigarettes. I tackled this goal with everything I had, and–after failing countless times–I finally managed to quit smoking. What wonderful freedom! But keep in mind that I still continued to run, exercise, and also to stay sober.

    In other words, I built on my previous growth. I locked in each gain, and then moved on to the next growth experience. This was slow, deliberate, conscious growth.

    I did not have to conquer the world when I got clean and sober. These growth experiences took me the better part of a decade to achieve. It did not happen all at once.

    Things really started to change for me after I developed the discipline to master regular exercise. That is when I was finally able to seriously tackle the smoking problem. Once I quit smoking successfully, I knew that I could achieve difficult or challenging goals, as long as I took it slow and focused on one major goal at a time.

    So use the idea of holistic growth. You might seek a better life for yourself in any number of categories, such as:

    * Emotionally – becoming more stable, changing up the relationships in your life, forgiving yourself, etc.

    * Physically - getting into shape, quitting smoking, etc.

    * Financially – getting out of debt, learning to manage your money better, etc.

    * Mentally – getting more education.

    * Career - advancing in your job. Switching to a new field, etc.

    * Spiritually – strengthening your connection with your higher power, helping others, etc.

    And so on. You might have goals in many different categories. And your goals might change over time.

    It is all well and good….just know that you do not have to tackle everything at once. Choose your next goal, make it significant, make it challenging for yourself, and then tackle it with everything you’ve got.

    Then, once you master that goal, move on to your next growth experience.

    This is the path to success in recovery. This is how to overcome complacency, by continuously seeking a better life for yourself.

    The path of holistic growth is wide, with many goals to choose from.

    Ask yourself: “Of all the possible goals I might pursue right now, which one would have the greatest benefit to me?”

    Figure out what that is, then attack it.

    Once you master each goal, ask yourself that same question again and again about what you should be doing next. Thus, your life will get better and better in recovery.

    Summary of key points

    Early recovery is not easy by any means. Let’s take a quick look at some of the key points that you will need in order to make it through this tough time:

    * Massive action – if you do not take massive action in early recovery, you are bound to relapse.

    * Ask for help. Seek treatment. Surrender fully.

    * Prioritize recovery as the most important thing in your life.

    * Get honest. Communicate your feelings.

    * Seek holistic growth to overcome complacency.

    This is all geared toward helping you to achieve success in early recovery.

    For information about success in long term recovery, be sure to check out www.spiritualriver.com for more free eBooks and guides.

    If you found this information helpful, please share it with others. Feel free to print it out, save it, share it, download it, email it to others, and so on.

    Good luck in your recovery!

    Recommended resources

    These are all books that I have read and used to great effect on my journey in recovery. If you found the information here helpful at all, then you would probably benefit from reading some of these books as well.

    Codependent No More by Melody Beattie – The definitive guide to read if you are the friend, family member, or loved one of someone who is struggling with addiction or alcoholism.

    Stage II Recovery by Earnie Larsen – Talks about the idea that we can continue to grow in our recovery after we have mastered the basics of staying clean and sober.

    Creative Recovery: A Complete Addiction Treatment Program That Uses Your Natural Creativity by Eric Maisel – this book does not align perfectly with my own ideas about creative recovery, but it is pretty close, and offers a unique alternative to 12 step based approaches.

    The Zen of Recovery by Mel Ash – Awesome book if you are the least bit intrigued by zen buddhism.

    The Tao of Sobriety: Helping You to Recover from Alcohol and Drug Addiction by David Gregson – Great book if you are interested in Taoism and you are in recovery.

    Conversations With God by Neale Donald Walsch – an excellent resource if you struggle with the higher power concept in any way.

    The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson – One of the best books out there for Christians to read if they are interested in taking action and getting results. Really inspiring, short read.

    The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle – This book introduced me to the idea that I was not my mind. Very, very powerful. A must read.

    Personal Development for Smart People: The Conscious Pursuit of Personal Growth by Steve Pavlina – Extremely practical and inspiring. No fluff or filler, very actionable book.

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