Photo by Ligadier Truffaut
How can we strengthen our recovery for the long term?
With so many addicts who are vulnerable to relapse in early recovery, it makes sense to look at some strategies for staying clean and sober over the long haul.
One way to do this is by building up our recovery “muscles.”
What are the primary muscles that we need for recovery?
This is arguable, of course, so what I’m going to tell you is based on 2 things:
1) What has worked for me (at 7+ years of sobriety), and
2) What I’ve seen working for others around me
So here are the main “muscles” that I think you need to build up in early recovery, in order to enjoy a lasting sobriety:
1) Holistic growth – personal growth and development is the number one “muscle” on my list for a reason. The idea here is that if you are growing as a person in many areas of your life, you create a tremendous amount of leverage for staying clean and sober. This is accomplished in a number of ways: First, you learn new skills and coping mechanisms for how to resist the first drink or drug that could sweep you into a relapse. Second, by growing in different areas of your life you add value to your total life experience, thus making the stakes much higher for a potential relapse. In other words, you will treasure and value your sobriety more and more if you happen to be growing holistically while maintaining sobriety. If all you do is squeak by and barely stay sober by the skin of your teeth, then what motive do you really have to avoid a relapse? It’s by empowering your life and achieving new goals that you find the motivation to stay clean in the long run.
2) Spirituality – this is the glue that holds your recovery together. But more than just learning to rely on a higher power, or meditating as a tool to increase your awareness, the pursuit of spiritual growth can have an enormous impact on your long-term recovery efforts. The reason for this is because as we grow spiritually, we derive a number of benefits that help to ensure our continued sobriety. For example:
* Using spirituality to turn a negative experience into a positive one, by attempting to learn from it
* Evolving on a spiritual line such that we grow in terms of compassion, helpfulness to others, and personal effectiveness in a number of different areas
* Increasing our awareness so that we become more conscious beings, helping us to stay in tune to possible triggers or dangerous situations that could lead to relapse.
3) Gratitude – this might be the most useful muscle in your body, especially when it comes to recovery. Gratitude is so powerful that it can almost overcome addiction all by itself. Practicing gratitude is one of the best habits you can develop, so it pays to take the time to learn more about it. Here are some ideas to get you pumped up:
* Take out pen and paper and write out a gratitude list. Write down the things you are grateful for. Simple and effective.
* If you pray, then frame your prayers in terms of gratitude. Give thanks in everything.
* Slow down and appreciate things. Even simple things like a walk outdoors or a hot cup of tea. Savor the beauty in things and be grateful for existence itself.
These are my 3 biggest recovery “muscles,” and I’m glad I’ve taken the effort to work on them through my years in recovery.
What muscles are you working on in your recovery today?