What is the first year of sobriety like for someone who is working the creative theory of recovery? What actions should they take in order to maintain a successful recovery? Let’s break it down:
First priority – get grounded
First things first. You have to get through “stage one recovery” and actually find your footing in sobriety in order to have any kind of chance at long term success. In other words, you have to stop using drugs and alcohol long enough to get somewhat clear-headed and find at least some level of stability in your life.
Many people will do this by going to a detox or treatment center. This method worked for me but it is by no means a magic bullet, as I also attended treatment a few times prior, only to go back to using as soon as I left.
Going to a treatment center only gives you an opportunity, it doesn’t really guarantee you anything. But it can be helpful in finding your footing in stage one recovery.
There are other ways to “get grounded” in sobriety and make it through stage one recovery. Treatment just happens to be a rather organized form of doing so. For example, you might hide out in your basement, detox yourself (not recommended by the way, as this can be potentially dangerous) and then start attending 12 step meetings every day as a means of support in order to squeeze out the first few weeks of sobriety. Whatever gets you through. The point is that you have to get through this initial stage of short term recovery before you can transition to creative living.
The failure rate in getting through this initial stage of recovery is quite high. Most people struggle to make the transition into long term sobriety as the statistics clearly point out that the majority of people will relapse much sooner. Because of these poor odds, I recommend using overwhelming force as a strategy for making it through this initial period. For me, that meant living in long term treatment.
After you get grounded in your recovery, the next step is to transition into long term, holistic living. Everything you do from here on out should focus on living the creative theory.
Specifically, that means using 3 core strategies:
1) Caring for your self
2) Personal growth
3) Networking with others
Build a support network
In early recovery especially, having a strong support network is critical. You need people to help you recover. Some will not like to admit this, but you need the help of others.
Having peer support in early recovery is beneficial in a number of ways. One, they can help you directly, through shared experiences and mutual learning. Two, they can help you directly through real support, such as by taking you to a meeting or simply talking with you. Three, they can help you indirectly, simply by being a person in your life who is going through the same thing that you are (early recovery).
The easiest way to build a support network in early recovery is to attend 12 step meetings. That is where the most recovering people are concentrated at so this is the quickest outlet for you. There are other ways to find people in recovery as well, but it is quickest to just go to meetings and meet people. Regardless of how you choose to network with others, there are pros and cons to networking exclusively within the 12 step fellowships.
If you use sponsorship or coaching…
Sponsorship can be a real opportunity for you if you find someone who can look beyond 12 step dogma and push you to grow holistically. Those who claim to be open minded but stick very closely to “traditional” methods are probably not the best route for you to go.
What you want instead is someone who can see the whole picture, and who can help you to start growing in different areas of your life. If you are convinced that you need a sponsor or coach of some sort, then it is worth looking for someone who has an holistic approach that goes beyond spirituality.
For example, my sponsor pushed me to get a job and also to go back to school and get my degree. These things were not part of any program; instead, they were on a path of holistic growth that my sponsor encouraged for me.
Start exploring growth avenues
If you have a strong foundation in recovery then it is time to get growing. Exploring personal growth in new areas of your life is one of the keys that will unlock a lifetime of purpose for you. How do we know which areas of our life to grow in? Let the 3 strategies guide you, for starters.
For example, the strategy of “caring for self” might mean for some people that they will look into starting an exercise program. This can be a huge part of recovery that many people initially overlook, because it does not seem to directly relate to overcoming addiction.
However, regular exercise plays a huge role in recovery and can be a powerful tool for long term sobriety, once someone “discovers” it. This is a subtle and indirect tactic for recovery that is not obvious. Thus, it is a good example of why we should explore different growth areas in recovery. Not every one will use exercise as a recovery mechanism, but everyone will have at least some non-traditional techniques that make up an important part of their recovery.
Take action in a number of areas
This can be counter-intuitive because most people subscribe to the theory that you should do one thing and do it well, or that focusing exclusively on spirituality is the best way to go. The idea in the creative theory is to take action in all areas of our life. This plays to the natural growth curve in recovery.
Recovery is a like a snowball. Our growth starts out slow initially. Early recovery is tough and many will relapse. Growth is slow. Progress is made inch by inch at first.
There is no shortcut; no way around this. Growth in recovery takes time. This is true regardless of what areas of growth we are focusing on. Many who focus on traditional recovery will be focusing almost exclusively on spiritual growth. This still takes time, even with all of your efforts focused.
Take advantage of this inevitably slow growth curve by spreading out your efforts. If you attempt to grow in several areas of your life, you will still make the same slow and steady progress that others are making – you’ll just be doing it more effectively. This is the idea of the snowball. Lots of effort up front, with a huge payoff in the end. After a year or so of living the creative theory, your life becomes an explosion of growth and purpose.
Always be in learning mode
There are lessons to be learned everywhere in recovery. Put a positive spin on everything by looking for the learning experience in it. Take something useful out of every situation, especially those that have a direct impact on you. Start living consciously and paying attention.
Transitioning into long term sobriety is a learning experience. It happens slowly over time as we figure out new ways to approach old problems that we used to self-medicate over. This takes practice and persistence. There are no shortcuts. You have to make it through every single experience without picking up a drink or drug. That’s the persistence part.
The learning part is in your attitude; your mindset. Don’t just grit your teeth and struggle to make it through without using. Figure out what helps you and what makes it harder for you. You’ll be more positive in general if you are always looking for the learning experience in things. And of course you’ll become more effective at living in recovery too.
Always be learning.
Find ways to reach out and help others
If you can find a way to help others in early recovery, this is powerful insurance against relapse. There are at least 3 benefits to reaching out and helping others:
1) By doing so, you help yourself through empowerment and learning. In other words, when you help others, you reinforce ways to help yourself. This becomes especially obvious if you are helping others with recovery. Doing so reinforces what you yourself need to do to stay clean and sober.
2) By doing so, you help yourself indirectly, through an increase in networking (think of the 3 strategies). You build your recovery network when you help others.
3) By doing so, you help yourself indirectly through an increase in self esteem. Again, this is part of the strategies as a boost in self esteem relates directly to “caring for self.”
How exactly can you reach out and help others? The answer to that is part of your creative journey. Don’t be upset if this doesn’t become obvious for you right away. Give it time and you will eventually find your path. Chances are it will be in a way that you never would have expected.
Practice gratitude daily
Gratitude is the icing on the cake so to speak and if you consistently practice the 3 strategies in the creative theory then the attitude of gratitude should be a natural result of that. What was said up above about learning goes hand in hand with the idea of gratitude, because we seek opportunity in every situation and start appreciating any event in our life that we can learn from, even if it is not what we would normally consider to be an ideal situation. This is how to put a positive spin on our experiences in recovery. Thus learning new things about ourselves and about life go together well with the idea of practicing gratitude daily.
If you pray, pray with gratitude. If you don’t pray, then just practice feeling grateful. Increase self awareness so that you become more conscious of when you are grateful. Embrace the feeling because it is an empowering mindset and can work wonders for your recovery.
That ought to be enough for the first year of recovery, don’t you think? I still work hard at implementing these ideas!
Good luck to everyone out there in your recovery, blessings to all…..