The best path in your addiction recovery should be a series of positive changes. We already know that attending treatment is a great way to kick start these positive changes, but let’s go deeper than that.
What is recovery other than change? You are changing your whole life. It starts with eliminating the substance of addiction. You eliminate the drugs or alcohol.
But we all know that recovery does not happen based on mere abstinence. If abstaining were the whole solution, we would not need entire recovery programs.
So just quitting the addictive substances is not enough. Recovery demands more from us.
Those who fail to work an active recovery eventually relapse. Those who fail to make positive changes always end up drinking or using drugs again.
Why does this happen?
The reason has to do with our state of constant change. Nothing is static in our life. All of it is changing and evolving, constantly.
No one is truly “standing still” when it comes to their strength in recovery.
Say that you quit drinking and you have a month of sobriety. Your ability to resist the first drink is at a certain level of strength.
That ability to resist the first drink is going to ebb and flow slightly over the rest of your life. At some times it will be stronger than others. There will be moments of weakness, where your resolve and strength to remain sober may wane slightly. Depending on how much it wanes, you may outright relapse and drink.
So there is this baseline that you establish–how strong you are in resisting that drink.
How resolute you are in your recovery.
How established you are in your recovery, in pushing yourself to make positive changes.
The key is maintaining a strong baseline
So if your baseline is fairly weak, if you are only somewhat committed to your recovery, then during those times when life ebbs and flows a bit, you are more likely to relapse.
On the other hand, if you are stronger in your recovery, then even during the inevitable ups and downs in life, you will still remain strong enough to maintain sobriety.
This is a critically important point so please take care to understand it.
Everyone will have ups and downs in recovery. Everyone will face temptation at one point or another. Everyone will have bad days, weeks, even months.
However, you have the ability to prepare for those down times, and make your recovery strong enough to “weather the storm.”
How can you do this?
By creating positive momentum in your recovery.
Build on your success by achieving positive goals in recovery
How do you create positive momentum?
It’s pretty simple really. You have to set a positive goal in your life, and then meet it.
Then, you have to do it again.
Congratulations, you have created positive momentum, and you are now officially rockin’ it in recovery!
This is an awesome place to be and an awesome way to live.
Don’t just get clean and sober, then stop.
Don’t just sober up and then decide “I think that is enough positive change for one lifetime, what more do they really want from me anyway?”
This is a terrible attitude to take. Anyone with that sort of mindset is almost destined to relapse at some point.
Because you are never static. You are either creating positive momentum and strengthening your recovery, or you are NOT.
You choose. But there is no in-between. You can’t just coast. If you are coasting, then you are sliding towards a relapse.
So then you have to ask yourself:
“What is the opposite of coasting through your recovery?”
The opposite of coasting is positive change. Over and over again.
And when you make positive changes over and over again, you build up momentum. You get excited about seeking more positive change.
Positive results start to motivate you. You realize that reaching several of these positive goals is having a huge impact on your overall life in recovery.
This is not something that you do in your first year of recovery so that you can learn how to live sober. This is simply how to live sober. You do this from now on, seeking positive change, always.
Start with your most important goal
One way to build real momentum with positive change is to start with your most important change first.
If you happen to be a cigarette smoker in early recovery then your most important goal is almost certainly to quit smoking.
If you talk about this goal with others in early recovery you will likely get mixed support. Many people in early recovery believe that you should just continue to smoke in order to strengthen your chances of staying sober. Their argument is “why make it tougher on yourself?”
Two things about this: One, the data already proves that quitting smoking in early recovery does not hinder your chances of success. The data proves otherwise. And two, the potential upside of quitting smoking in early recovery is HUGE. Not just because it is such a positive and life changing goal, but also because it would be such a huge WIN for you in your recovery.
You need a win in your recovery, and it needs to be a big win. Why? Because a big win will create momentum for you.
If you can tackle your biggest goal in recovery and nail it, then think of the positive momentum this will create. If you conquer your toughest goal then what will you make of lessor goals? They will be a piece of cake!
And thus, this is how to build on your success in recovery.
Start with your most important goal, and nail it. Then, set another important goal for yourself, and work hard to achieve it.
If you stop doing this at some point in your recovery, you will become stagnant and run the risk of possibly relapsing.
But based on the positive changes that you achieve by setting and achieving these goals, why would you want to stop?
How to attack your biggest goal in recovery
I suggest that you start with your biggest goal in recovery, and work hard at it to get your first “win.” This is of critical importance because it will motivate you to continue on and set and reach new positive goals. You want to start out with a win in order to start building momentum.
So, how do you do this? How do you insure that you are successful in reaching this first goal in recovery?
You do it by attacking the goal and dedicating your entire life to achieving it.
I had to do this myself when it came to quitting smoking in recovery.
I had been clean and sober for a few years in recovery, but I was still smoking cigarettes, and I wanted to stop quite badly.
But the problem was that I could not seem to do it. I tried and failed several times.
I explored various strategies to help me to quit. I recruited accountability partners. Nothing worked. I could not successfully quit.
At some point, I got really sick of this negative cycle. I was fed up with it. And I got a little angry. I said to myself: “I am going to dedicate my whole life to this goal right now. Time to get serious!”
Using overwhelming force
So what I did next was to set up a plan. My plan consisted of using every available resource that I had at my disposal.
One part of my plan was in my reward system. I saved up extra money and set it aside to reward myself after I successfully quit smoking. This worked really well, and I had several hundred dollars of “fun money” that I could spend on whatever I wanted if I made it to two weeks without any nicotine (two weeks is a huge turning point where most people achieve success if they can make it).
Another part of my plan was in vacationing. I planned this quit attempt so much in advance that I was going to be off of work for several weeks and taking a huge family vacation in order to distract myself. Again, this worked perfectly, but it took a lot of planning and organization to make it all happen.
This is overwhelming force in action. Giving yourself several hundred dollars as reward money and planning a huge family vacation as a distraction are both huge action steps. I did not just want to make a feeble quitting attempt, but I wanted instead to completely bury my goal of quitting.
Careful planning and a serious commitment made it happen. I was able to quit smoking and then went on to start exercising regularly too.
Realizing your true power
When I was finally able to quit smoking, I realize the full power that I had.
I was exercising now too, running six miles every other day.
And the thought struck me at this point: “I can do anything I want, really. Quitting smoking and becoming a regular runner was incredibly tough, but I did it. I can do anything!”
So I started doing stuff, challenging myself to make more positive changes. I finished a degree. Built a business. Got a promotion. And so on.
This is how positive change should happen in recovery. Get one win, and then build on it.