Surplus in Addiction Recovery

Surplus in Addiction Recovery

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Everyone gets a surplus in recovery. When you stop using drugs and alcohol, extra stuff comes into your life. Lots of extra stuff. Not just money, either. You get lots of other extras when you get clean and sober.

“Surplus?” you ask. “What kind of surplus? Is that anything like a stimulus? I didn’t know that you got any kind of surplus when you got clean and sober.”

Well, I’m here to let you know that there are a few potential surpluses that you may not have been counting on. And furthermore, they may be much larger than what you expect. Let’s take a closer look.

Here are some things that you can expect to have more of after you finally get clean and sober:

* Time and mental energy
* Finances
* Physical energy
* Emotional energy

You may not be ready for all of this extra stuff in your life. This can be especially true in early recovery, when you are sort of still in shock from simply being sober. Everything is amplified. If you have an entire day to yourself, and suddenly there are no distractions around for you, it can actually be a bit overwhelming for some people.

Likewise, having extra money is known to be a huge trigger for some people in recovery. Just having cash in their pocket can be dangerous–it can shift their attitude, their mindset. A surplus in cash can be a bonus, but it can also be a negative in some cases.

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So it pays to think about the idea of surpluses, and how they can affect us in recovery. You might also take a look at your current recovery, and think about where your surplus is, and how you might capitalize on some of the extra “stuff” in your life….whether that stuff is time, money, emotional energy, or whatever.

So let’s dig in and look at some of the details when it comes to “recovery surplus”:

Time and mental energy

I can remember being in early recovery and being amazed at the amount of extra time I had on my hands suddenly. Of course I was no longer actively seeking that next high, so my time and energy was greatly freed up in that aspect.

But the feeling of having “surplus” went beyond this as well. What I really started to notice more than anything else was the mental energy that was being set free. Not only was I no longer chasing drugs and alcohol, but I was no longer obsessing over drugs and alcohol. This made a huge difference and was enough to really change how I was living my life.

Suddenly, I was left with a whole lot of time on my hands, and a whole lot of “imagination time” to fill up in my head. Instead of worrying constantly about where my next fix was coming from, my obsession was lifted and there was a bit of an empty space left behind (no laughing at that please!)

I can remember reading books in early recovery, marveling at the sheer time investment of sitting down and actually spending time reading. Of course I knew that this was possible, and I had done it in my distant past, but it was a new revelation in recovery. To be able to have the time and the mental energy to devote to a story was pretty amazing, especially in early recovery. It was impressive to me that I could even care about something like this again.

So the days were sort of stretching out in front of me in my early recovery, and so I naturally started to revisit some ideas and hobbies that used to interest me. This made a lot of sense to me and I started to enjoy my life again in sobriety in a way that I had not anticipated. During my addiction, I had believed that the simple pleasures in life (such as reading, for example) were completely dead to me. The massive surplus in time and mental energy in early recovery gave me incentive to start exploring some of these things.

If you are in early recovery then you would do well to think a bit about your own “surplus” and what you want to fill it with. One really awesome and growth-oriented path is if you can fill that surplus with something that really helps other people. If this is something that takes big advantage of your talents and really puts your strengths to good use, then that is all the better. You can imagine how powerful it is in recovery when you take all of that time spent in negativity (using drugs and alcohol) and turn it into something positive that continues to grow and pay benefits to you. Helping others–in almost any capacity–is quite like that. It rewards you over and over again.


Ah yes, money.

I suppose I might take some flak for this, because there are plenty ofpeople in recovery who continue to struggle with their finances. But I can’t help but keep returning to this same idea over and over again in my experience:

Managing money in recovery is easy. Flat out.

If you are really working on personal growth in recovery, or attempting to honestly work a serious program of any kind, then money should take care of itself. Really, if you continue to have problems with money in your recovery, then that points to a serious flaw on some level.

Now I do realize that many people enter recovery with some serious financial burdens. But as you stay clean and sober, these should naturally straighten out. A few years into recovery should get most people on the right financial path, and at the very least, you should not be digging your hole any deeper. If you are, then this points to a problem that is arguably spiritual in nature.

Some people are addicted to gambling. Others will spend money for the momentary emotional boost, and then later feel guilty about it, as it just racks up more debt. Spending becomes an addiction, and each purchase gives a short-lived little boost to your happiness for the day. But after that it fades quickly, and you are trapped in a cycle.

And still others are just terrible at paying bills and are not making smart choices with their money.

Whatever. I don’t care what your excuse is–if you are clean and sober, then your finances should get significantly better in recovery.
In fact, you should experience a surplus.

All of that money that you used to spend on drugs and alcohol should be sitting in your bank account right now, and you should be like “Dang, where did all this extra money come from?” If you are not at that point, then I would say you have some footwork to do in recovery. Figure out where your holes are and plug them. Are you spending emotionally to try and buy a quick dose of happiness? Are you making poor choices in recovery? Are you really happier when you are spending, spending, spending?

I know some people do struggle with money, in spite of being clean and sober, but I just don’t get it. Why make life so hard? Work hard, cut your spending, and start enjoying the feeling of abundance in your life. Happiness is not created when you buy stuff.

Recovery should make your finances easier. If it doesn’t, maybe you could ask someone else for help. Either way, living clean and sober should have plenty of extra money flowing into your life that otherwise would not have been there (had you continued to use drugs and alcohol).

You should have a “value mindset” in recovery. When you are working a job, you should be thinking: “How can I do the best job possible today? How can I go above and beyond and really “wow” my supervisor? How can I genuinely add value to the world rather than being a leech on society?”

If you use this type of logic in recovery then money will come into your life. It is produced by having the right attitude. There is no magic to it at all….I am not trying to convince you of some self-help system or anything. Just do good work and the money will come. Work hard and minimize your spending and things will work out well for you.

If you could maintain your finances to any degree in active addiction then you should be hitting a home run now that you are clean and sober. If not, time to rethink your game plan.

Physical energy

Living clean and sober in recovery produces a surplus in energy. You should be more energized and more physically capable of tackling your daily activities than you were when you were still using drugs and alcohol.

In my active addiction, I thought it was normal to feel like crap all the time. I was dumping chemicals into my body every day, smoking cigarettes, smoking drugs, and drinking large quantities of alcohol every day. I was constantly abusing my physical body and the only time I felt decent was when I had medicated myself enough so that I no longer felt any pain. Of course after the drugs and the alcohol faded away I was back to feeling miserable again.

In active addiction my sleep was terrible. More often than not I was not getting true “sleep,” but rather was simply passing out from drinking and waking up without being rested up much at all. This was a horrible way to live as I almost never got any quality sleep.

Now we can take this example much further, and look at things such as nutrition, but I think you get the point. When you are drinking and using drugs every day, your physical energy level is going to be quite low and the way that you feel on a regular basis will be quite poor. This will be amazingly better once you are clean and sober, thus you will have a large “surplus” in terms of your physical well being.

Some people recognize this as part of the “pink cloud” in early recovery. Although that can have an emotional aspect to it, at least part of it is physical as well.

Some of the basic recovery principles will help you to build your physical surplus in recovery, too. For example, many people who are living in recovery:

* Start exercising on a regular basis, or at least get more active and move their body on a more consistent basis.
* Quit smoking cigarettes, thus increasing their physical health.
* Start eating healthier, and practice better nutrition. Eating more consistently too.
* Sleep better now that they are clean and sober, and actually get some quality sleep in their life.

And so on. All of these examples and more can combine to help you to have a lot of extra “feel good” in your recovery.

For example, if someone in my family needs me to help them move, I can take on a huge task like that and put forth a lot of effort to help them….because I have surplus in terms of my physical health today. I am not struggling just to get through life anymore in a physical sense. I am not struggling to stay healthy. I have surplus, thanks to my recovery. I have an abundance of health today.

Emotional energy

Do we really get a surplus of emotional energy in recovery? Do we gain an ability to handle or deal with more chaos in our lives?

That is not quite accurate. What really happens in recovery is that we get better at processing our emotions, and we also get better at setting boundaries so that we are not allowing so much chaos into our lives.

The idea is not to see how much stress we can handle. The idea is actually to minimize stress through good decision making.

Plus, when we do have our emotions triggered, we need to be able to deal with those emotions in a healthy way, rather than trying to cover them up or self medicate them away like we used to.

This happens over time in recovery, and it is a learning process. Becoming better at dealing with our feelings is a process of maturity. It takes time, and experience. But as we continue to do this in our recovery, we become better and better at it.

For example, things that used to “knock us off our square” will no longer have as great an impact on us. We learn to deal with things in a healthier way, such that we do not react as much, and do not fall into an emotional trap.

Our ability to deal with things emotionally in recovery is not a surplus that we are actively looking to spend. Rather, the smart person in recovery will guard their emotional balance and purposefully block too much chaos from entering into their life. This is about having healthy boundaries. So we learn to deal with our emotional side much better, but we also learn how to actively manage our emotions, and how we can defend our sanity from the forces that would cause us the most damage.

Think about your surplus

Are you enjoying surplus in all of these areas in your life? If you are, then you should feel gratitude towards the idea. If you do not feel grateful about your finances, or if you do not feel grateful for your emotional well-being, or your physical health, or whatever–then that means you have some work to do.

Where is the abundance in your life? Where is it overflowing with good things, and nothing but success?

And where does it need some work?

Stop and think about this, and figure out where you need to focus your efforts. Maybe you are naturally a health nut, but your finances are in disarray. In this case, you need to put in extra effort into fixing your financial life.

Recovery is about balance. Long term recovery is definitely about balance. This becomes more and more true the longer you stay clean and sober. In general, balance becomes increasingly important the longer you are sober. Why? Because early recovery demands focus, but long term recovery demands holistic growth. Recovery is about living, remember. So if your life has a major problem in it, (such as poor health, for example), then you need to take care of it.

It is like a tripod. Knock one leg out, and the whole thing crumbles. Long term recovery is the same way.

People with multiple years sober have relapsed due to a medical condition that snuck up on them. Others have relapsed because their financial life finally spun far enough out of control and they became overwhelmed with debt.

You get the idea. These are just examples, and they do not even tell the whole story. There are other areas of your life that could threaten your recovery too.

This is why an holistic approach is so critical for long term recovery. Treating the addict or alcoholic as a “whole person” makes sense, because recovery from addiction is such a broad undertaking.

So think about your own surplus, and where you are doing well in your life. Also, consider where you need to brush up, and take some action.

Then, get to work. Simple as that.

Create more surplus.


Also, be sure to check out my latest visual guide on how to stop drinking.

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