It can be difficult in early recovery to know what to focus on. Part of the problem is that many of the people who are trying to help you recover are suggesting all sorts of different tactics and tips. For example, they might suggest that you get phone numbers of other people in recovery and call them when you feel like using, or to go to a meeting when you feel an urge coming on.
Now there is nothing wrong with these tactics, and they certainly can be helpful. But the problem is that there are so many tactics being suggested that it can be overwhelming for the newcomer. Wouldn’t it be nice to have an overall strategy, one that can give us direction for all of the little decisions that we have to make in our day-to-day lives?
Here are the 3 overall strategies that you can use to guide you in your recovery:
Growth and development
This needs to become a habit….something you look for on a regular basis. Where is the opportunity for me to grow in this situation? What can I learn about myself here?
When I was in early recovery, I thought that the only thing I needed to learn was how not to drink. The idea of learning how “not to” something doesn’t make much sense; it is like trying to learn how to “not be overweight.” Obviously the solution is not like this–instead of learning how to abstain from drugs and alcohol, we need to learn how to embrace the creative life in recovery and start living again.
But this wasn’t obvious to me at first, I thought the focus was on not drinking and drugging (and in the beginning, this is probably OK). But at some point my sponsor suggested that I go back to college in order to better myself. This was the first decision that I made in a long line of strategic moves towards growth and development.
When we grow in one area of our lives, it strengthens the whole. When we make progress on ourselves in one area, it can lead to confidence and motivation to work on other areas. Personal growth is therefore interconnected and holistic in this way.
Looking back, now it seems obvious that pushing yourself to grow and learn should be an integral part of recovery from drugs and alcohol. But in the beginning it was not that clear to me. The push for personal growth should always be an underlying strategy in the back of your mind.
Seek positive support structures and environments
As an overall strategy, seeking support would include a whole host of things such as:
1) Going to meetings, or making a commitment to attend (such as 90 meetings in 90 days)
2) Getting a sponsor and connecting with them
3) Befriending others who are in recovery
4) Changing out old using and drinking buddies for new sober friends in recovery
5) Finding new social environments that support sobriety instead of using
6) For some, finding a new work environment that supports sobriety
7) Choosing to live in long term recovery
And so on. The idea is to use the overall strategy of seeking supportive environments in order to guide your decision making. You might do everything on that list or you might do none of it. The individual tactics and ideas are not what’s crucial here….instead, just focus on making decisions that lead to supportive environments for yourself. At different points in my recovery I used different ideas from that list. Each time I was making a decision to enhance the supportive structure of my recovery.
Take care of yourself – in every way
The overall strategy here is simply one of caring. Care for yourself. Put your health and well-being first. With each decision, ask yourself: “Is this the best choice for me?”
Now at first this might seem obvious but this strategy can become a powerful agent of change. For example, it is this same strategy of caring that eventually led me to give up cigarettes in my recovery. It’s also the same overall strategy that has led to my regular exercise habits (I am now an avid runner…this has huge benefits for recovery by the way).
The overall strategy is: “Am I caring for myself?” This can apply to:
1) Physical – abstaining from drugs and alcohol. Proper nutrition. Fitness. Quitting smoking. Caring for your physical body.
2) Emotional balance – am I engaging in situations where I know I’m going to fly off the handle? Can I find a way to be more emotionally balanced today?
3) Social and relationships – are these the best friendships to be cultivating? Do I want to hang around with these people? Are they a positive influence on me?
4) Spiritually – will this decision bring me into alignment with my spiritual beliefs?
Remember these 3 strategies and see if you can apply them to your daily life:
1) The push for personal growth and development
2) Seeking out supportive people and environments
3) Taking care of yourself