In order to recovery you have to make changes in your life. Recovery is change. Recovery is personal growth. This requires energy.
When we talk about “having energy” in recovery, what are we really taking about though?
Essentially it comes down to taking action. But there are a few things that you have to have in order to even get to that point in your life where you are able to take action.
Some of those things include:
* Surrender – This is the entry point of recovery, where it all begins. Without this crucial moment of surrender there is no way that you can even get started in recovery. A lack of surrender indicates that you are still in denial and struggling to control your drug or alcohol intake.
* Willingness – The next logical step after surrender. Are you willing to change? Are you willing to even try? As your recovery journey evolves, are you willing to try to keep growing and learning new things in life?
* Follow through – this is really the “taking action” part. If you have surrendered to your disease and then become willing to learn a new of life, are you actually going to move forward and then implement those changes? If you are already doing so then you are successfully “following through” in your recovery. If you go to rehab and they suggest that you go to AA meetings and counseling after you leave treatment, then doing so is an example of following through. Basically you decide on a positive change in your life and then you carry it out. This is the basic progression through recovery–decisions followed by action.
So these are the three keys to creating energy in your recovery. You must surrender, become willing, and then take action. Rinse and repeat. If you get hung up on doing any one of these three things then you will just be holding yourself back from potential growth.
There is an old joke in the program about three frogs that are sitting on a lily pad and one of them decides to jump off. How many are left? All three–because making a decision does not guarantee that you are going to follow up with real action. And that is the point of the joke: it is not enough to just make a decision. You have to actually do something. This is the point of recovery, and this is where you generate your energy from.
The moment of surrender is devoid of all energy–you must build from there
When you first surrender to your disease you are not going to be suddenly filled with energy and enthusiasm. Instead the moment of surrender (for most people anyway) is described as a moment of defeat. It feels like giving up, because that is really what you are doing. You are giving up the struggle with drugs and alcohol, giving abstinence a chance to work in your life, and allowing someone else to give you directions for a while. This is the process of surrender but in order to truly embrace it you have to let go of your own ego. Doing so feels like a tremendous defeat.
If you put this moment of surrender in terms of hope then you might say that there is only a small sliver of hope remaining. The addict or alcoholic is completely miserable and they have finally given up their struggle with addiction in a moment of defeat. If they are willing to try to go on sober and learn how to live a new life in recovery then they must have a tiny shred of hope in order to do so. We might also say that they have just a tiny bit of energy left with which to make this decision. Essentially they are saying “yes, I have been defeated by addiction, I can no longer use my drug of choice successfully and be happy, so I am going to give up and surrender totally and maybe go get some help.” Notice that the person is not filled with energy and enthusiasm. They are not jumping for joy or grateful to have finally found a solution to their problem. This is not a joyful moment even though they may look back on it one day and realize that it should have been.
If you are at the moment of surrender and have been completely defeated by your addiction then hopefully you have just a tiny shred of energy left with which to “choose recovery.” If you allow yourself to ask for help then you can get started on rebuilding your life. This is a slow process that starts out with very little energy and enthusiasm. No one bounds into detox with a big smile on their face. If they do then they are likely nowhere near the point of true surrender.
So at the start of your recovery journey your “energy” is at its lowest point. In fact you may feel like you have no hope, no energy, and almost no willingness to do anything. But hopefully you have just a tiny bit of energy left with which to ask for help and start taking direction. “How can I get help for my addiction? Where can I go for help?” These are the questions that can start you on a new path in life.
How to create energy from nothing and build momentum
So if you have passed this moment of surrender and you are willing to give total abstinence a chance then you are ready to start building your new life. This requires changes and that requires you to have energy. But how can you make these changes when you are at your lowest point in your life and feel like you have almost no hope and no energy at all?
The key is to ask for help and then follow through. Simple as that. In fact if you simple keep doing this for the next year then at the end of that year you will look back and be amazed at how far you have come and how your life has transformed for the better. But you have to start small and be realistic–your whole life is not going to change overnight. It takes time.
So you surrender and ask for help. In most cases your friends or family will advise you to seek professional help if they believe that you have a serious problem. This will almost always point to inpatient rehab of some kind. Hopefully such people will help you to contact treatment centers and figure out what needs to be done in order to gain admission.
There are other options for getting help in early recovery but in my opinion most of them are a distant second to inpatient treatment. The reason for this is because:
1) Inpatient treatment generally includes a medical detox, which is safer for most people in terms of their physical withdrawal and dealing with symptoms.
2) Inpatient treatment involves staying in a safe and controlled environment where no drugs or alcohol are allowed. Therefore it is safer and short term sobriety is virtually guaranteed. With other recovery solutions the threat of relapse is constant and much more available.
3) Inpatient treatment includes other recovery solutions such as counseling, group therapy, and even 12 step meetings. It is therefore a more comprehensive solution than if you were to choose a different treatment option such as counseling.
After your moment of surrender you are devoid of all energy and may only have a tiny shred of willingness to work with. You may not know exactly what you want in life but you know that you are miserable with your drug of choice and so you want something else to happen. If that “something else” is inpatient rehab then you are probably starting on the right path to recovery. There are other ways to get clean and sober but none of them are as effective (IMO) as starting out at an inpatient facility.
So here is how to produce energy from nothing: give up everything in a moment of surrender. Just let go of it all and let everything slide. Surrender fully and completely to your disease and realize that you cannot win. You can’t keep using your drug of choice and be happy in life. That experiment has failed. It’s over. Just let it all go and ask for help.
If you have anyone in your life that genuinely cares about you then ask that person for help. Ask them to help you get clean and sober. Ask them to help you find a rehab and get into detox.
Ask for help and then follow through. This is how to create energy from nothing. This is how to start building willingness. Ask for help, then follow through.
To put it another way: Ask for advice, and then take it! Follow through on the help that you are given.
Ask for help from people you trust and then put one foot in front of the other. Go to treatment and do what you are told to do. Take direction and guidance from the professionals who are there to try to help you. This is how to start building a foundation in your recovery.
Some people call this “getting out of your own way.” If you are anything like I was then your own ideas about living and being happy were not working so well for you when you finally surrendered to your disease. You finally had to admit that your ideas about how to make yourself happy in life were a total failure. You were sick of using your drug of choice and you were miserable at the moment of surrender. So it is time to try something else and that has to involve other people’s ideas. You’ve tried your own ideas and they are not working out for you. So it is time to “get out of your own way” and let someone else tell you what to do (and how to live) for a while.
This is counter-intuitive because we tend to believe that this will sap our life energy if we are simply following orders from other people and relinquishing control. But the opposite effect is what actually happens–by taking advice and direction from others we become empowered beyond our wildest dreams. After you surrender and ask for help and then follow through, your life starts getting better and better each day. You asked for advice and then you took it, and now your life is trending upwards a little more each day. Everything is better than it was in the past and all you had to do was relinquish control and take some direction from other people.
This is how the process of building energy in recovery begins. You must “get out of your own way” and allow others to tell you what to do. Once you start doing this then you will look back and realize that everything is slowly getting better and better. Not only that but you will admit that you are now happier than you were in the past, even though your ego thought that you would be miserable taking directions from other people. Think carefully about this for a moment: Our ego believes that if we surrender and ask for help and then take advice from others that we will be miserable. But when addicts and alcoholics actually do this and start living according to someone else’s plan they find that their life gets better and better and that they are happier then they were in the past.
This is the great paradox in recovery: that of surrender. We are happiest when we let go of all control, give ourselves completely over to a new way of life, ignore our own ideas for a while, and let others tell us what to do. Very counter-intuitive and very hard to do. This is why most people have to become completely miserable before they will surrender. It is hard to ask for help and then follow through. It is hard to get out of our own way and take advice from others.
Interestingly enough when we allow ourselves to surrender and start taking direction from others, we start to build new energy. How exactly does this happen?
It happens because we suddenly realize that we are improving our lives without having to make an enormous mental effort. In fact we have stopped racking our brains entirely (like we did during our addiction, trying to figure out how to use drugs in order to maximize our happiness) and so we are sort of on auto-pilot now. We have given over control to other people. Go check into inpatient rehab and suddenly you no longer have to worry about how you are going to be happy for that day. The rehab has taken care of everything for you. You just show up and do what you are told for a while. This is how the recovery process unfolds–you relinquish control and thus get out of your own way. This frees up a tremendous amount of mental energy.
Now you are no longer wondering how you are going to be happy, how you are going to get more drugs, how you are going to deal with life and get more money and so on. All of it is swept away and even if you encounter more problems or decisions in the future you can outsource the “solution finding” to others. You can simply ask for advice and guidance from others in recovery (such as a sponsor) and actually I would encourage you to do so. Why? Because when you outsource these decisions you preserve your mental energy.
We hate to admit that others know what is best for us. Our ego cries out at this idea. We hate to admit that our sponsor might tell us what to do, and that following their advice might make us happier than our own ideas. Our egos cry out against this. But if we get to that point of surrender in our addiction where we are completely miserable, then we can finally agree to start living this way for a while and taking other people’s advice and this is when this amazing transformation happens.
We gain a ton of mental energy when we are no longer obsessing over how we are going to make ourselves happy. If we just agree to let go of everything and take advice and direction from others then we will suddenly:
1) Become happier.
2) Realize that other people really do have our best interests at heart.
3) Realize that we used to waste a ton of mental energy obsessing over our drug of choice.
4) Realize that we can be happy by taking advice from others and freeing up our own mental resources.
This does not meant that you have to become a robot forever that only takes orders from other people. This is exactly what your ego believes to be the case. The truth is that if you allow yourself to start living this way in early recovery (by taking advice from others) then your life will get infinitely better and you will have more control in the future than you ever had during your active addiction. By following advice from others and “outsourcing your decisions” in early recovery you will empower yourself for future strength.
Creating momentum in recovery
We have described the process of early recovery. It starts with the moment of surrender and slowly builds from there. You have to ask for help and then take advice from other people and follow through with it. Your ego believes this will make you miserable but in the end it only empowers you and makes you stronger.
At some point in recovery you will look back and realize that you have moved past that phase that we label “early recovery.” Now you are stable in your sobriety and you are no longer worrying about how you will make it through each day sober. You have achieved some stability by following advice from other people.
At this point your journey is not complete (and never will be). It is time to start branching out and pursuing personal growth on a new level. Abstinence is great but it is only the beginning. If you have a good sponsor in your life then they will challenge you to grow in new ways. If you do not have a good sponsor in your life then you either:
1) Find a new mentor/sponsor/coach.
2) Push yourself to make positive changes and learn new things.
Which of these you choose will depend a lot on your personality type. If you are early in recovery then I would suggest that you error on the side of having a sponsor. After several years in recovery then it matters much less, because:
1) You will have already conquered many of your biggest obstacles in recovery.
2) You will be better able to judge your own growth challenges and learning opportunities in recovery.
Recovery is a process of personal growth. This involves a continuous cycle of growth and reflection. You find something that you want to learn or improve about your life, then you do it, then you reflect on it. After reflecting on it for a while you figure out what you want to do next in terms of personal growth.