Early recovery is almost always a battle of intense change and nothing will come easy at first. It takes a lot of energy and momentum to reverse your entire life and turn things around. This is to be expected.
But later on as you start to accumulate clean time and sobriety, life–and your recovery–should get easier.
If it is not, then you are doing something seriously wrong. Go back and work on the fundamentals some more.
Once you have established significant sobriety, your new goal can be summarized in only 4 words:
Maintain abstinence, avoid complacency.
Now what does that imply? The first part should be obvious enough. Your number one truth in your life should always be:
“Don’t use drugs or alcohol no matter what.”
This is part of the fundamentals: the zero tolerance policy that you have made with yourself. You do not allow yourself to use, period. You do not allow yourself even to dwell on the idea of drinking or using drugs.
But what about the second part: avoid complacency?
This is important. Any time that you heard about someone who had several years sober and they ended up relapsing, they almost always refer to the idea that “they got complacent” in their recovery.
Another way to say it more bluntly is that they got lazy.
They stopped taking positive action every day.
They stopped pushing themselves to grow every day.
They stopped setting neat goals for themselves and then chasing them.
They stopped pushing themselves to live up to their full potential as a human being.
They stopped trying to learn and to grow and to be a better a person.
Maybe they got lazy and they just stopped doing all of these positive things in recovery. Or maybe they became depressed for some other reason and they stopped taking positive action. Or maybe they are not lazy at all but they still quit doing the positive things in their life.
It does not really matter how we label it. If you stop pushing yourself to live an awesome life, then you are slowly headed for relapse. Slowly. That is part of what makes it so tricky.
So what is the answer to this? How can you prevent complacency, and stay active in your long term recovery growth efforts?
Go back to the basics. Look carefully at your entire life and look for growth opportunities. Are you still smoking cigarettes, for example? Maybe you can start exercising and quit that habit. Implementing a win-win solution like this is a huge victory in your recovery.
Then go back and examine your life again. What about your relationships? Can you improve any of them? Can you reach out to people in your life that may be struggling, help them somehow?
How are you using your time and talents to help others? Could you do something more? Could you find a new way to reach out to people?
Go back to the basics and start taking positive action, but do it every single day.
Set a huge goal for yourself that would transform your whole life if you achieved it. Then, work hard towards it every day.
Don’t just sit there. Go join a church community or hit a few 12 step meetings if you are truly lost for direction. Find people who need help and then help them. Find ways to give back to others that stress your unique gifts and talents.
When you become idle again, give yourself time to reflect and seek out your next goal, but not too much time. Start playing with an idea in the back of your mind: what do you want to accomplish next? Do you want to learn something new? Get a new degree? Find a new way to help others? Reach out to a specific group of people?
There is a real danger in the “modern” recovery movement of today, and that is in this idea that we need to accept ourselves. Be very cautious of this idea. I think it is wrong.
Instead of giving in to the whole self acceptance thing, keep pushing yourself to improve your life as you remain sober.
If you listen to the “winners” around the tables of traditional recovery programs, you will hear them say “it just keeps getting better and better.”
They are right! If you keep pushing yourself to grow in recovery, then it absolutely will keep getting better and better. I know my life does, and yours can too, if you put in the effort to make positive changes every single day.
It always comes back to daily action. That is how you build your recovery, and maintain your momentum. Take positive action, daily. This is how you transform your life, and it is also how you maintain your recovery. A single day at a time, pushing yourself to make positive growth each day.
End of the course
So that is the end of this little alternative recovery mini-course. The idea was simply to lay out the fundamentals of recovery for anyone who is looking for an alternative to the popular programs out there such as the 12 step or any religious based programs. So let’s recap what the course suggests that you do:
* Make a decision to change your life.
* Decide that total abstinence from drugs and alcohol will be your method of recovery, and that your mental enforcement for that will be “the zero tolerance policy.”
* Ask for help – if you cannot get clean and sober on your own. Be honest with yourself here. If you can’t do it, you can’t do it. Seek treatment if necessary.
* Find and use support systems in early recovery. Some need this more than others.
* Take positive action daily. Abstinence + personal growth. This is the heart of the program. Push yourself to do more. Grow more. Learn more.
* Maintain sobriety by avoiding complacency. Do this by returning to the basics, and pushing yourself to make continuous personal growth. Avoid self acceptance if it allows you to justify laziness.
So that’s it! If you find this method helpful, please share it with others. It has been working for me for over a decade now.