The key to healing your life in alcoholism and addiction recovery is, quite frankly, a process that you must go through.
Your process may differ from mine a bit, but I believe that the fundamentals are going to be the same for everyone.
The beginning of the process for most alcoholics and drug addicts has to do with arresting their disease. And the way that most people end up doing that is by checking into a drug or alcohol treatment center. This would be the inpatient treatment center that lasts for 28 days and includes a medical detox portion at the beginning of your stay. Again, some people take a different path (such as detoxifying in jail or prison), but going to rehab is a fairly acceptable path for most people.
As you begin this process you must be open minded to new ideas. The reason that recovery demands this open mindedness is because your old ideas, your existing ideas, they do not work for recovery. You have proven that to yourself over and over again by trying to control your own drug or alcohol intake, and failing miserably at it. You have proven to yourself and to everyone else that you need help in order to beat your addiction. Therefore at some point you surrender to this fact and you go to inpatient rehab to get help.
Now healing your life is a process that, when checking into a 28 day program, is really only getting started. It is actually fairly simple to remain clean and sober while you are in rehab, and nearly any addict can pull it off, so long as they somehow get the gumption to check in somewhere in the first place. But the real challenge begins when the addict or alcoholic is leaving inpatient treatment, because suddenly the safety net is gone and they have to account for their own actions and decisions again. In other words, once you leave rehab, you are back in the driver’s seat again, and temptation can destroy you if left unchecked.
So how do you overcome these cravings in early recovery? Mostly with social support, at least in the beginning. This is why they recommend that you go to 90 AA meetings in the first 90 days. You need the support of other people who are going through the same experience that you are in order to give you hope and advice.
Part of this is simply identifying with other alcoholics who can sympathize with you. Part of it is so that you can get specific advice about how to avoid relapse on a daily basis. At any rate, you are probably going to need a lot of social support in your first year of recovery. Any alcoholic who has made it to their first year sober is very likely to tell you that they had a LOT of outside help. Meaning that they had lots of other people helping them to maintain sobriety.
Now once you get into the swing of early recovery, you will probably be going to meetings every day or have some sort of support network in place. Once you are at this place in your recovery it can be very tempting to kick your feet up and relax a bit and assume that you have recovery all figured out. I mean, you are clean and sober and you have made it this far, right? Surely the hard part is over with, no?
Not so fast. The nature of the beast is that you are certain to face new challenges in life. This is a certainty. You will eventually hit some drama, some chaos, and some difficult times in your recovery journey. It is only a matter of when it hits, not if it hits. You will be tested. Count on it.
Therefore, you do not get the luxury of kicking your feet up and relaxing. No, you need to push yourself to continue to grow, to continue to learn, to continue to seek new solutions in life.
If you do not do this on a continuous basis then eventually you will fall victim to relapse.
So how do you continue to keep this growth mindset, how do you continue to keep pushing yourself to learn and to grow?
One way is by working with others in early recovery. In other words, you need to find a way to give back to others who are struggling with sobriety. This is definitely proven to be one of the strongest paths that you can be on in long term recovery, because it helps to keep you “fresh” in terms of your own sobriety. Working with newcomers on a regular basis forces you to remember what you were experiencing at that time, and therefore you will focus more on the fundamental principles that can help you to remain clean and sober.
Another way to stay in the personal growth process is to challenge yourself to keep improving in all areas of your life. What happens to a lot of people in early recovery is that they focus in on spiritual growth to the exclusion of all other kinds of holistic health. So there is a whole world of personal growth to explore in terms of physical health, mental health, emotional balance, and social support. You can find weaknesses in all of those areas of your life, and in targeting and then fixing those weaknesses, your recovery will become so much stronger.
Believe it or not, this is one of the best ways to live in your recovery: By figuring out your weaknesses and your blind spots, then taking action to make a plan to fix those issues. In doing so your life will get immeasurably better in a very short period of time, because we tend to be our own worst enemies in recovery. By figuring out your blocks and character defects, the making a plan of action to take those out, you will vastly improve the quality of your life.
You may need some guidance in figuring out exactly how to do this. One way is by talking with a sponsor or therapist. Another way is through meditation, mindfulness, and possibly journal writing. You need to slow down enough to be able to see exactly where your trouble spots are in your life. Only then can you make a plan to fix your negative issues.
After you take out some of those major character flaws in yourself, you need to start looking at your overall health. As you remain clean and sober you will begin to value yourself and your life more and more, which means your self esteem will go up. As you place a higher and higher value on yourself, you will reach a point in which you will want to take better care of yourself. So you need to examine the various areas of your health, and start to take steps to improve these various areas of your life.
So you might, as a result, eliminate some of the toxic relationships in your life. You may also start to work out or get into better shape physically. Or you may want to work on improving your spiritual connection with a higher power through prayer or meditation. In any case, you need to take a look at the various areas of your health–physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual–and take some steps to improve yourself in those areas. Without doing this you find yourself drifting closer and closer to relapse without realizing what the problem is or why you are experiencing cravings.
In short, healing your life in recovery takes serious and deliberate work. You need to make an effort to improve yourself on many different levels, and you also need to be open enough to receive feedback from others. Getting this feedback will make it so that you are not wasting your time as much trying to improve things that don’t really matter. Model what the “winners” are doing in recovery, and learn from their example. Good luck!