How do you become deeply inspired to take positive action in alcoholism recovery? When I was trying to get clean and sober and I was still struggling, I honestly did not even think this sort of thing was possible in my future. I felt like I would be doomed to live a life of unhappiness and boredom because I honestly believed that the only thing that excited me was drugs and alcohol.
Boy, was I wrong.
Sobriety can definitely be exciting and stimulating, but first you have to get past the rocky start at the beginning.
I don’t think there is any way to avoid this. There are some things that you can do in order to help yourself through it, but everyone has to go through the pain and discomfort of withdrawal. Your first week in sobriety may not be exactly “fun.” But then again, most of the fun of drinking has been long gone by that point, so what is there to lose? You have to start over somehow. Early recovery is something that you just have to get through.
Starting over from scratch after you surrender to your disease
I would not say that surrender is “inspired action.” Instead, it feels like….real surrender. It feels like you are giving up. It feels like a defeat.
That’s OK though. Because real surrender is necessary. It opens the door to a better life, and there is no way that the alcoholic can get there without first going through this surrender process. It has to be done.
And so the path to real inspiration in recovery starts slowly. You probably won’t get excited about your new life in recovery during the first week of sobriety. It takes some time for this to build up, for it to become real and exciting.
What does it mean to become deeply inspired, anyway?
My definition is that you become inspired in recovery when you get excited about personal growth. There is a moment that every alcoholic and recovering drug addict experiences at some point where you realize that you are actually excited to wake up each morning, just to see what each new day is going to bring. And that is when you are taking inspired action. Your recovery has become so good and your life has become so much better that you are excited to be living it again. That is real inspiration. Now you are driven to find new ideas, to find exciting new things to learn, to try to improve yourself.
To me, that is real inspiration, when you are driven to try to improve yourself and your life. That is when recovery gets exciting. Because now you are motivated to keep the positive changes flowing. Not only have you achieved good results, but you are inspired to continue with them and expand on them. It is the point in recovery where you know that it works, and that is exciting. Because now you don’t need blind faith to push your forward or convince you to make difficult changes. You have evident results in your own life that can help to move you forward.
Taking advice from others and discovering a new life for yourself
In early recovery the key thing is to get out of your own way and listen to others. If you fail to do this then you might sabotage your own recovery and instead end up relapsing. This can happen to the smartest of people, even though they would naturally think that they can figure out how to remain clean and sober on their own. The disease is tricky though.
Therefore the key is to take advice. A big part of the solution is to ask for help, take some direction, and get out of your own way. No one really wants to do this if they can help it, but in alcoholism recovery you don’t really have a choice. If you insist on figuring it all out on your own then you are fairly certain to relapse. Everyone needs help in order to recover. If they don’t need help then we don’t label them as “alcoholics” or “addicts.”
So this is a process that you have to ease into. The best way that I have found to ease into it is to dive in head first by checking into a rehab center. When you walk into the doors at rehab you are sort of handing your life over to someone. So in fact you aren’t really easing into anything, you are simply handing someone else full control of your life for a while.
This works well for most people. For at least the time that you are in treatment, you will likely be clean and sober. That much you can count on. Their job at that point is to teach you how to remain clean and sober after you leave treatment, a task that is much more challenging (but still possible). That’s the idea behind rehab–dry someone out and then teach them how to live sober. It is not easy but it can be done. And I believe it is a fairly necessary step on the road to recovery for most people. There are alternatives to rehab but for the most part you have to have a way to sober up and get control of yourself. If you cannot do that on your own (on the outside) then you have to put yourself into a situation where you can achieve short term success. Rehab is set up to accomplish this. It is not the only way but it is a definitely a solution for many people.
The positive feedback loop that happens when you realize that positive action is improving your life
So perhaps you go to treatment and they sober up. You get out and start to live a life of sobriety. Maybe you are going to AA meetings at this point and maybe you are in therapy. Perhaps you have a sponsor in recovery that you are working the steps with. There are many different paths to successful sobriety.
What is exciting to me is when you reach that point in your journey when you realize that it is working.
I reached this point somewhere around the six month mark when I was living in long term rehab. I was about to lay down and go to sleep at the end of a day and I realized that I had not thought about drinking or using drugs at all that whole day. No cravings for the whole day! That was a miracle. I couldn’t believe it. I was truly shocked at this realization, because I had told other people when I first got sober that I did not think this would ever happen for me. I felt like I was doomed to be obsessed with drugs and alcohol forever. I thought that I would always be unhappy.
But then the miracle happened. By six months into my sobriety, I had apparently built up enough of a new life that the old life had been completely replaced. I was able to go through an entire day without craving alcohol or drugs. Not even once. This is not because I had rewired my brain so much, but because I had build a new life. You don’t just sit there and fix your drinking by thinking about it all day. Instead, you take action. You create a new life for yourself. You build a new life through positive action. That is how you get to this point that I had reached where I realized that a miracle had occurred. I had made it through a whole day without thinking of drugs or booze.
This was at about six months sober, give or take.
Then a few years later I had another realization. I had been trying to quit smoking cigarettes for several years in my recovery journey. And I was struggling pretty bad with it. Every time I tried to quit it seemed that I failed. I had been sober for about 4 or 5 years at this point and was very stable in my sobriety, but I couldn’t seem to shake the nicotine addiction.
I tried and I tried but I continued to fail. I tried different methods of quitting. I tried to create incentives. And I continued to fail. At one point I thought that I might just be doomed to be a lifelong smoker.
But then finally it happened. The miracle happened! Maybe I should be telling you to “just wait for the miracle!”
I was finally able to quit. I gave it a supreme effort and I really pushed myself to do all sorts of things. For example, I started exercising and jogging every day before I even attempted to quit this time. That was so I would have a way to give myself a “natural high” when I finally put down the cigarettes. And I used some other strategies as well. I tied them all together and I was finally able to kick the nicotine.
Part of my strategy was to stay up for a really long time, then to sleep through my nicotine withdrawals. This actually worked. I stayed up for 48 hours straight and slept through the worst of my withdrawal symptoms. I slept for a really long time, for about 14 hours continuous. And when I woke up from that super-nap I had a big smile on my face. Because I felt different, I could tell instantly that my body was no longer addicted to nicotine. That was really an amazing feeling.
Now because I had struggled for so long with this addiction, and because I was at the point where I did not even think it was possible for me to succeed any longer, I was really amazed when I finally managed to pull it off. And the fact that I was jogging 6 miles per day just to be able to get enough endorphins flowing in order to overcome nicotine withdrawal was pretty amazing.
It was just so difficult for me and I was so amazed that I finally pulled it off and this led to a huge realization.
My revelation from this was that I had real power. I could do stuff. I could make things happen.
Just like they put on some cheesy motivational posters that you see in middle school or something. I was totally pumped up because now I realized that I had power. I could accomplish stuff. I could set a goal in my life and chances were good that I could achieve it. I could do nearly anything I wanted, so long as I prioritized and focused on it.
This was an exciting realization for me. Because now I could set goals. Now I could decide what I wanted in my life, and I knew that I could probably achieve it. Quitting smoking had proved that to myself. Because that was honestly the hardest thing I had done so far in my life. It was even harder than putting down the drugs and the alcohol. And yet I had somehow persevered enough to make it through to the other side.
And so I realized that this was how you accomplished really difficult goals. You just had to throw yourself at it and push really hard until you made it happen. I knew how to do this now, whereas before it was just something I read on a motivational poster.
Adopting the right mindset for personal growth and learning (hint: gratitude)
You might think that the right attitude for this sort of growth is to get yourself all fired up and believe that you are super powerful.
But honestly that is not it. Instead, what you want to do in recovery is to practice gratitude.
Being grateful is the key to personal growth in recovery. It is also one of the keys to learning in recovery as well.
If you are grateful then it means you are teachable. You can learn stuff because you will be grateful for the lesson in everything that you experience.
Even a “bad” experience can come with a silver lining in it if you can learn something from it. And this is a big part of how you get inspired in recovery.
If you feel like you are not very inspired lately then what you really need is a shift in attitude. First of all, you need to look down at your hands and realize how amazing it is that you even exist at this moment and get to experience life itself. Nothing more is ever required for real gratitude.
Oh sure, you could make a list, and write down how grateful you are for your friends, for your family, for your smartphone, and all of that.
But real gratitude is about kneeling down, kissing the ground that you walk on, and realize what an incredibly lucky bunch of atoms you are to be able to even realize that you exist and have an identity. Real gratitude is about existence and sobriety. Nothing else is ever required.
Once you have your mind set on this sort of grateful feeling, it should inspire you to take positive action. And you may even feel a duty to give something back to the universe. Because suddenly you existed and you get to walk around and experience all of these amazing things (if you take the time to realize how amazing it all is!). And so you might even feel compelled to give something back, to help someone else out, to do something nice for someone.
This is the perfect attitude for personal growth. This is the perfect mindset for pushing yourself to learn new things.
And this is how you remain sober in the long run. Because your addiction is going to keep trying new tactics to trip you up, and the only way to remain sober is to stay one step ahead of your disease. And you do that by learning, by helping others in recovery, by pushing yourself to get to that next level. You cannot get there by standing still. You don’t maintain sobriety by being at a total standstill. That only causes relapse.
Adopting a daily practice that can lead you to regular inspiration
If you really want to rock out your recovery then you need to do some thinking about your daily practice.
What things do you do each and every single day that contribute to your sobriety?
It’s an important question. In fact, I think you can design a long term program of recovery by simply answering this question and being mindful of what your daily routine is doing for you.
For example, I exercise every day. And I write in a journal every day.
Those are two things that I do no matter what. I no longer have to wonder each day if I should exercise or not. I already made the decision long ago that this was something that was really beneficial to me in recovery and I had to do it. Every day. So I made a commitment and then it became a habit. And so now I do it without hesitation, without even considering. It is automatic.
Writing a journal and exercising are just two examples. I don’t necessarily think that everyone should do those things. In fact, I know at least one person who is very successful in their sobriety and they don’t do either of them. Are the wrong? Am I right?
No! It is not about being wrong or right. It is about finding what works for you. And that is a very individual path in recovery.
If you struggled for a long time to get clean and sober (who didn’t?) then you already sort of know what doesn’t work for you. You tried some things to beat your addiction and you failed repeatedly.
So then hopefully at some point you surrendered fully to your disease and you asked for help. Maybe you went to rehab. And you started to listen to others and take suggestions from them. They told you what to do and you did it. And so you started to find some things that were working for you.
I did this myself and then I continued to iterate the process. For example, I eventually dropped seated meditation after I discovered distance running. I eventually stopped reading recovery literature and I started writing instead. I eventually started using a recovery forum online instead of going to AA meetings in person.
These are not the “right” choices for everyone. They were just the right choices for me. Or rather, they worked for me. Other things would have worked for me as well, but these are some of the things that I ended up doing.
If I was going to meetings every day would I still be sober? I would guess that I probably would be. But that wasn’t the path I decided on after I took lots of suggestions and experimented. Instead I found that writing and exercise and online recovery worked much better for me. So I found different solutions and I continue to try to keep an open mind today.
If you are struggling to get excited about sobriety then I would suggest that you try something different. Try something new. And the best way to do that is to take suggestions from other people in recovery who are successful (excited about their life!). Listen to them, do what they tell you to do, then evaluate your results. Rinse and repeat.
This is how I found my path.
What about you? Have you found inspiration in recovery? Let us know in the discussion forums. It only takes a second to register!