What is the best approach to early recovery?
The first few months of sobriety can be extremely tricky. A very high percentage of addicts and alcoholics will relapse within this time frame. So what does the creative theory suggest for making it through this initial stage of recovery?
Seek a controlled environment
Seeking out a controlled environment for early recovery is just common sense, given that so many environmental and social factors can potentially contribute to relapse. In other words, you’ll be safer in treatment where there is far less temptation than there is out in the “real world.” Going to rehab is one way to change your environment, but you might also consider more permanent changes, such as moving to a new location or entering into a long term treatment facility.
Changing your environment is not the ultimate solution for recovery, but it can be a large part of your creative efforts. For me, choosing to live in long term treatment was part of creating a new life for myself. At first, I thought “becoming institutionalized” was a step backwards in my life, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made, and opened up a whole bunch of opportunities for me.
So if you’re considering treatment, don’t view it as a negative thing that limits you somehow. Instead, realize that changing your environment can be part of your creative efforts.
A big part of transitioning to the creative life in recovery is about changing the entire structure of our lives. For some people this will involve a drastic change in environment. Be aware of this potential need for change and use it as an opportunity to embrace creation in your life.
Look ahead to holistic living now
Even in early recovery, it pays to start looking ahead to holistic living. Even in the first few days of sobriety it makes sense to start considering our overall health, our emotional balance, and so on.
The holistic approach to recovery starts out slow and it builds up over time. The payoff is huge once you are living the creative theory, but you have to take a lot of small steps in order to get the ball rolling.
How can we consider holistic living in early recovery? Think about improving the different areas of your life. For example, you might start working on these things in your first few months of sobriety:
1) Growing your spiritual connection
2) Exercising and taking better care of yourself physically
3) Going back to school to finish a degree
4) Building your recovery network
Now each of those things is like a snowball that you roll down a hill. The each start out small but later on they will get bigger and bigger. Pretty soon you will have a recovery avalanche. This is how the creative theory of recovery manifests in your life–it starts out slowly and then later on things just start clicking and growth becomes explosive. You just have to find a way to get through the tough part in the beginning and get enough of these snowballs going. If you can do that, then the payoff is huge later on.
Use overwhelming force
This is the best mindset you can have for early recovery: that of overwhelming force. The idea is to figure out what you think you need to do in order to meet your goal, and then triple it. Go far above and beyond what you think it will take to keep you clean and sober. Don’t just meet your goal; crush it with overwhelming force.
How can you do this? One example that I used in my own life was in choosing to live in long term treatment. If think this is a drastic measure in order to achieve recovery, you’re right. It is. But it also worked wonders for me and gave me all sorts of opportunities for holistic growth. Long term treatment was the framework that allowed me to transition to holistic living.
Another example is with meeting attendance. If you attend a 12 step program and go to meetings, simply go to twice as many meetings as you think you need. This is overwhelming force. You deliberately go above and beyond what you think you need in order to ensure success.
Focus on building your network
This is especially important for younger people in recovery, but it also applies to anyone in recovery. The idea is to find and connect with others in your life who are recovering. Now this doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to become a social butterfly and have 50 friends in recovery by next Tuesday. But you do need to find people who are on the same path as you are and find ways to reach out and connect with them.
This is most easily done in 12 step groups, because that is what is most prevalent out there, but the exact program of recovery is not critical. What’s more important is that you find people that you can talk to that you can relate with in terms of recovery and overcoming addiction.
Networking is not the most important aspect of your recovery, and it becomes even less important as you maintain sobriety (because you become empowered through holistic living and good relationships start developing naturally in your life). But it can still be critical in early recovery for getting you through potential “tough times,” and it can be especially important for younger people.
So this is the road map for the first few months of recovery:
1) Seek a safe environment – to help you make a clean break from addiction and the lifestyle that went with it.
2) Start thinking about holistic growth right away.
3) Use overwhelming force – think big. Don’t make a half hearted attempt at sobriety. Go all out.
4) Connect with others – build a network of friends in early recovery for support.