Calm Your Mind and Lighten Your Load in Addiction Recovery

Calm Your Mind and Lighten Your Load in Addiction Recovery

How Secure is Your Sobriety

How can you get rid of stress in addiction recovery? How can you ease your might or lighten your burden as you remain clean and sober.

How can you live your life in recovery without becoming overwhelmed?

It is worth considering, because you certainly don’t want to be stressed out or full of anxiety in sobriety. This will only lead to unhappiness or relapse.

How it let go of all that negative stress, anger, guilt, and shame in early recovery

In early recovery it is very likely that you will have a lot of negative emotions going on. You have to learn to let go of those emotions and not let them dominate your life. If you let them get the best of you then they can drive you to relapse.

So, how do you avoid this? How do you overcome shame, guilt, fear, or resentment in early sobriety?

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There are many ways that you can go about it, but the first thing you might try to do is to ask for help. Ask others in recovery how they overcome these negative feelings. Ask them what they specifically did in order to remain sober. Take their suggestions and then apply them in your own situation as best you can.

One of the suggestions that I kept getting in early recovery was to exercise. I did not see how this would help me in any way, and no one who made the suggestion could really explain to me exactly how it was going to benefit me in terms of dealing with negative emotions. And now I can look back and see why describing that was so difficult. It is because when you exercise every day it gives you power over your emotions, but it is very difficult to explain to other people exactly how this power develops. It is sort of like a new confidence in your life but that is not quite it exactly either. But you definitely grow stronger in your recovery and the “little things that used to bother you” now bother you less. This is true whether you are running a few miles or you are running a marathon. Either way you are getting out there, you are finding peace within yourself, and it is like finding a calm within the storm.

Keep in mind that this is just based on one specific suggestion (to exercise daily) and it may not be the right fit for everyone in recovery. It happened to work well for me and it did me a lot of good, and it definitely helped me to manage my stress and deal with negative emotions. Your solution may look a lot different than this.

Therefore it is not the specific suggestion that you need to adopt, but it is the concept of personal growth and the fact that you are taking real action.

You never know exactly what is going to help you in your recovery journey. If you could predict that perfectly then you would not need so much “help” in recovery. But we never really know what is going to help us, so we have to experiment. We have to try lots of different things. We have to go to meetings and listen, we have to get sponsors and take suggestions, we have to apply the steps in our lives, and we have to take what works and then leave the rest behind. It is not an easy process but it can be fairly simple and straightforward. The best attitude to approach recovery with is the idea that you willing to try lots of new ideas in your life.

How to really apply the serenity prayer in your life

There is a lot of practical wisdom in the serenity prayer, and you can use it in your life every day if you care to apply the concepts.

One way that you can use it is to stop yourself from worrying so much. If you find yourself getting worked up over something, then you need to pause and figure out if that “something” is beyond your control or not. Usually it will be, or at least part of the situation will be beyond your control, and there will be certain things that you can do in order to try to gain control. So there will be two things in every situation, there will be:

1) A situation in your life that is “out there” (meaning outside of yourself) and it is causing you stress and part of it is beyond your control.
2) The situation may call for you to take certain action in order to try to improve things. So there is a part that you can do which is clearly defined.

If you are freaking out about something then your first step is to break the situation down as outlined above. In fact, the serenity prayer basically tells you to do this directly. It is telling you to take action and do what you can, but also to know which part you are powerless over. (“The wisdom to know the difference”). So you need to stop and think about the situation for a moment so that you know what your true responsibility is, and which part you simply have no control over. Then you need to act accordingly. If you want to worry, then worry about your own part, and the part where you can take action. Go take action. Once you do that, your responsibility for worrying is over. Stop worrying. The other part is “left in God’s hands” because you have no control over it. This is the practical way to apply the serenity prayer in your life.

The key is that you have to actually slow down enough to do it. This is why many people suggest that you take a daily inventory, because some people will live so frantically that they will not even notice if something is causing them stress at first. They will simply live through the stress and try to deal with it on the fly without ever taking a step back and really analyzing it. Using the serenity prayer to deconstruct your problems in life will force you to slow down and actually apply the concepts that can help you.

What steps you can take to establish a daily practice in your life

In order to live a happy and joyous life in recovery you have to do certain things.

It takes work.

That probably sounds like a real downer but in reality it is not so bad. Because to be honest, you do the work either way. If you continue to drink or use drugs then you will actually do about the same amount of “work” in life. In other words, you will still be dealing with stress, anger, fear, guilt, shame, and so on. You will deal with this stuff whether you are using drugs and alcohol or whether you are sober. But if you happen to be sober and in recovery, then after you deal with the negative stuff you have a much greater chance of learning how to minimize it or eliminate it in the future.

So don’t think of recovery as being a bunch of extra work that you have to do internally. That same “work” that goes on in your mind is going to happen anyway, even if you continue to drink. It will form as stress and anxiety and negative emotions. Your job in recovery is to bring all of that stuff up to the surface and deal with it so that you can be free again.

Many people get a sponsor in AA and they work through the steps with that sponsor. This is their method of processing all of that negative stuff that goes in your mind. If that method works for you then that is great, I would encourage you to pursue it. If not, there are other ways to do the work. But if you fail to do any internal work then you will never be truly happy in recovery.

In order to do this work and be effective in recovery you must establish a daily practice. What does this mean, this “daily practice?”

Every day in recovery you should be taking positive action. Every day in recovery you should be engaged in healthy habits that move you towards a healthier life. This is the exact opposite course of what you had in addiction, when every day you were taking negative actions that led you to more stress, anxiety, and depression.

Addiction is unique in that it attacks your entire life and every part of your being. It affects you physically, socially, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and so on. It infiltrates every single aspect of your life.

Therefore, when you think about it, any recovery effort that you make would have to be holistic. It doesn’t make sense to just treat the physical aspect of addiction, because doing so will lead you vulnerable to “spiritual relapse.” This is what the people who built AA had figured out, that the problem was definitely more than just physical, and simply removing the alcohol from their lives was not enough. They found that they had to go deeper than that, to figure out how to stay mentally strong against the threat of relapse somehow, and they found one solution through spirituality. It is important to note that this particular solution, while valid, is also somewhat incomplete. If you go to AA meetings you will hear many suggestions for recovery that do not deal directly with spiritual matters. For example, it is not uncommon to hear someone in an AA meeting suggest that you exercise, eat healthier, get good sleep, or avoid romantic relationships in the first year of your recovery. These suggestions do not have anything to do with spirituality, so what are they doing in that program? The fact is, recovery is holistic, and all of that stuff matters, but all of those concepts and ideas are not built into the 12 steps. This is one reason that AA meetings exist, so that they can give you “the other pieces of the puzzle.” Spirituality is great, and it is one part of the solution, but it is definitely not the whole solution. Recovery is more than just a spiritual malady. It affects every part of your life (emotional, mental, spiritual, physical, etc.) and therefore any solution for addiction must address all of these aspects as well. Recovery is holistic, whether you want it to be or not! Simply because it affects your entire being.

So what does this have to do with establishing a daily practice?

Everything. Your daily practice should be a set of habits and positive action that pushes you to address these different areas of your life. In other words, you need to be taking action on a regular basis that helps you to take better care of yourself.

This is what recovery is all about–taking better care of yourself. Recovery is a move towards better health decisions. Quitting drinking is just the obvious start of all this. It must continue further than that in order to keep growing in recovery and to protect yourself from the threat of relapse.

Every decision that you make that makes you healthier in your life helps to protect you a bit more from relapse. Why? Because you are less likely to relapse if you have spent the time, effort, and energy to build your life in a new and healthier direction. Relapse would tear all of that work down in an instant, and you know it. Therefore what you are really doing is building a life in recovery that is worth protecting. You are reshaping your life in recovery to be something that is healthy, positive, and worth preserving.

I cannot tell you exactly what your daily practice will consist of, because it is going to be different for every person. My daily practice is made up mostly of writing, physical exercise, connecting with other people in recovery online, and connecting with friends and family in the real world. But I don’t neglect parts of my daily practice just because I feel lazy or it is inconvenient for me. This is part of what makes it a practice. I have decided in advance that it is really important for me to exercise every day, for example. So I do that no matter what, even if I don’t feel like it. This is the power of having daily habits. Your habits can hurt you (if they are bad) or they can help you and protect you (if they are positive). Therefore you need to figure out what habits you should have in recovery in order to help you become healthier.

I exercise every day, not only because it leads to a goal of greater health in the distant future, but also because it gives me such positive side effects right now, this very moment. It protects me from feeling bad, depressed, or like I want to drink. It does that instantly, in the present moment. But it also has positive long term effects. So for me it is like a win-win, and has multiple benefits. I try to choose positive habits that help me in multiple ways, and on varying timelines. If I adopt a new habit in my life then it has to offer a lot of benefit in order to be worth my time.

So how do you know what habits to choose?

You experiment. You know the saying: “Take what you need and leave the rest.” In order to apply that in life you need to actually do the work. You can’t just think about the ideas and concepts and decide what fits with your personality and what doesn’t. This is ineffective. You have to actually take action.

Therefore, you might go to your peers in recovery (or your sponsor, or your therapist, or whoever) and ask them what suggestions they have for you. What do they think you should do in order to make your recovery more effective? What do they think you should be focusing on? What would they be doing if they were in your situation? And so on.

Go get that feedback. Talk to people. Hear what they would suggest for you.

Then, apply it. Actually do it. Take one of their ideas (or all of them) and run with it for a while. Actually test it out. Give their ideas a fair chance to work in your life.

And that’s it. If you put in this effort then you will get huge rewards for doing so. Obviously, you are not stupid and you are not going to keep doing something that is not helping you, right? So you will try different things and take different suggestions and naturally you will drop any ideas that don’t work out well for you.

And the key is, you will keep any habits that are serving you well and truly helping you. And therefore you will be much better off than if you had never sought out the feedback and advice, because now that advice has led you to make a permanent change. Not only did you do something new, but you have decided to incorporate that new idea as a daily habit. It has changed your entire life. Just as writing about recovery has changed mine, or daily exercise has changed my life, and so on. Your new habits will define you in some ways and lead you to a more positive life.

How your overall health in life is linked to your stress and mental outlook

If you are stressed or full of anxiety then your overall health in life is going to suffer a great deal.

If you have inner turmoil then that is going to be reflected on the outside as well. It will not bode well for any of the decisions that you make.

This is what makes the holistic approach in recovery so important. You must address all areas of your health if you want to be healthy overall. Because if just one area is seriously compromised then it can affect your whole life in a very negative way.

Let me give you a few quick examples:

* Early recovery, very spiritual person and also physically healthy but the start a new relationship and it goes bad. They relapse.

* Long term recovery, they are very spiritual but they get complacent and stop pushing themselves to grow in any way so they relapse.

* Someone is “doing everything right” in recovery and they are spiritual and they engage in personal growth. But they get sick and because they get so sick they end up taking painkillers which leads them back to the bottle. They relapse due to physical illness.

In all three cases here something different was needed in order to prevent relapse.

In all three cases, a holistic approach to recovery would have been better than what they were currently focusing on.

When you use a holistic approach to recovery you spread out your focus a bit (no longer focusing on just spirituality, for example). But in doing so you help to protect yourself from other threats in recovery that you may not have been able to otherwise anticipate.

Talking with the “winners” in recovery who seem to have a lot of serenity

If you want to find serenity then you should learn from the masters.

Find people in recovery who seem to have a lot of serenity in their lives. Find people who are calm and collected. Find people who seem to have low amounts of stress and anxiety. Then, ask those people to teach you their “secrets.” Ask them to teach you how to be more serene.

What they will do is to make suggestions based on what has worked for them. You would do well to implement these suggestions in your life and thus evaluate them. If they work for you, great! Keep doing them. If not, move on and keep exploring your new daily practice. Find the habits that empower you to be free.

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