The other day we looked at the idea that changing the structure of our life is fundamental to success in recovery.
Today we are going to take a look at what the fundamental mindsets and attitudes are in successful recovery. The idea is that if we look at a large sample of the “winners” in recovery, we should be able to see some commonalities among these people and thus figure out what is truly important for sobriety.
Attitudes/mindsets – spiritual fundamentals in recovery
So what are the common attitudes that we see among the “winners” in recovery? Here is what I have seen working in myself and others:
1) Gratitude – This is fundamental to recovery and I see this as being a tool that can pull someone out of a bad day or a bad situation. Gratitude is the cure for a mindset of relapse.
Think about it…anyone who is in danger of relapse has shifted back into a very selfish, “I-deserve-to-get-messed-up” kind of mindset. In addition to this, they are probably saying “screw it” about their life in general and about their life situation. It is not the events that surround them that is driving the relapse but their reaction to these events. Even more specifically, it is their reaction to their reaction.
Gratitude is about changing our response to life. It is about looking for the silver lining in any situation and seeing that we can at least learn and grow through any unpleasant experience. And, gratitude takes practice. It is something that we can improve at, and something we can control. That is why I call it a tool. It is available to anyone who is willing to use it.
The winners in recovery have learned to use gratitude as a tool. It is a powerful way to shift perspective and see our situation in a more positive light.
2) Humility – This is particularly important in early recovery. Anyone who has all the answers at two weeks sober is headed for disaster. Being unable to become truly open minded and take in new ideas is a huge block to recovery. It is not about being completely humiliated, but more about shifting into “learning mode.” Asking ourselves, “what does this person have to offer me?” in any given situation. If we go through life and experience new things but refuse to learn from any of it, we are wasting our life away. In order to grow and evolve as a human being we have to be tuned in to the idea that we can learn new things. This is humility in action; how we grow in recovery.
3) Helpfulness – When I think about all the people around me who have achieved long term sobriety, they are always helpful people. Always. Not one of them is so self centered that they are generally not helpful to others. This has to be a fundamental trait of success. When we reach out and help others in recovery, some powerful things happen. Not only do we genuinely get to help another person, but we also get a huge bonus to our own recovery. One, we reinforce the lessons that we ourselves need to follow to stay sober. Two, we boost our self esteem and thus prevent our own relapse, because we give ourselves permission to value our own life more (because we know we are providing real value). Being helpful is a universal trait of success in recovery. Those who are selfish when it comes to this always seem to end up relapsing.
4) Eager to grow and learn – This goes along with humility, in that those who are successful in recovery are those who are eager to learn more about how to live sober. Anyone who is hesitant to learn more and put real energy into their recovery is in serious danger of relapse. If you are not excited about the possibility of living sober and learning more about yourself and finding new ways to grow, then you are just not “there yet” in terms of wanting to make recovery work for you. The mindset of success in recovery involves an eagerness to learn and soak up new knowledge.
5) Self care and valuing of self – We might not have this when we first get clean and sober because most of us have some form of low self-esteem when we first enter recovery. This is something that must develop over the long term though if we are to stay clean in the long run. Without building up our self esteem, we will be vulnerable to relapse. The best defense against relapse is for us to place an extremely high value on our sober life. We have to care about ourselves, our life situation, and our relationships in order to have a natural defense against relapse. Increasing genuine self esteem through positive action is the best way to go about doing this. Success builds on itself in recovery when we start making good things happen in our life.
All of the people who I have seen who have found long term success in recovery have built self esteem as they stayed clean. They are people who are growing and who feel better about themselves than they did when they first got sober.
Notice how these fundamental mindsets work together. Being helpful to others will naturally build up self esteem, because we know that we are valuable when we give real help. Having gratitude will allow us to stay teachable, even in situations that seem like a total loss, and so on.
Next we will take a look at the fundamental principles of creative recovery, and see what similarities there are among those who have found long term sobriety.