The decision to get clean and sober is also the decision to live a better life.
Think about it: Why would a struggling addict choose to get clean and sober at all? Why bother to do so if you are not striving for a healthier and happier life?
The decision to enter recovery is a “quality of life” decision. You either want better for yourself in sobriety, or you don’t mind living in chaos and misery for the moment (or you are still in denial about it).
Given all of this, the decision to get sober is the decision to choose life, happiness, and vitality. You are wanting something better for yourself.
As such, it makes sense to align your goals in recovery with that of improving yourself and your life situation.
Note that these are two different things, your life and your life situation. One is internal (“your life”), and the other is external (“your situation”).
When you first surrender and get into an addiction recovery program, you may feel as if you will never be able to enjoy life again without being able to use your drug of choice.
However, this will quickly pass as you start to work a program of recovery and you begin to get back to “being human” again.
My recommendation for people in early recovery is to attend an inpatient treatment center. This is normally always the best possible course of action that they could take. You want to create a strong foundation in early recovery and this is the best possible way to do it.
When you go to treatment the whole idea is for you to listen, to learn, and to take some direction from other people. Your own decisions have backed you into a corner of pure misery and chaos, so it is time to listen to the advice of others instead.
This may feel a bit “bad” at first, and you may be down on yourself because you basically no longer trust yourself to make decisions and to find your own path in life, but this is the nature of surrender. You are going to feel “defeated” at first, and this is a good thing. Total and complete surrender is necessary in order for you to start listening to advice and making better life choices.
Our lives are essentially ruled by our habits and our day to day routines. In our active addiction we have lots of unhealthy habits that were destroying our health and our happiness. Addiction consumed us and that was the only way that we could cope with our problems and with the stress of everyday living.
In recovery we need to exchange those old bad habits for new and healthy habits. But in order to do that we need to have a plan, and we need to listen and learn what these new habits are from other people. By default, when you walk into recovery you are already using your existing tools for solving problems, which mostly consists of abusing your drug of choice in order to medicate your emotional and mental state. Now that you are deciding to be clean and sober, you are going to need a whole new set of tools, and a new set of solutions for living your day to day life.
Therefore, recovery is all about finding and using new solutions. When you are in very early recovery you are soaking up new information like a sponge, taking suggestions from therapists, mentors, sponsors, and peers in recovery programs, and you are then applying that new knowledge in your life in order to test out these new solutions.
I have my own set of solutions that work very well for me today in my recovery, and I have built up those solutions and tools over the last 17 plus years of my recovery. I would not suggest that anyone else in recovery could use my exact set of solutions, nor would they work the program of recovery exactly the same way in which I work mine.
However, just because we are all a little different and we all might require a unique “solution set” for recovery, we can all benefit from sharing ideas and possibly stumbling on a technique or a strategy that really helps us a lot.
For example, at one point I started jogging as part of my daily routine, and at first this actually seemed to have a neutral or even a negative impact on my recovery. Eventually I got into shape (because I stayed with it) and at that point the daily exercise had a hugely positive impact on my sobriety.
This was not something that I anticipated. I started jogging because I believed that I needed to do some sort of physical exercise in order to be physically healthy in my life. What I did not anticipate was the massive emotional and mental benefits that I would get from being in good shape and exercising daily. I did not anticipate the huge boost that this would give to my sobriety. Getting into good physical shape was a huge game changer for me, and it is absolutely one of the main “pillars” of my recovery program today.
Again, I never would have guessed that when I first got clean and sober. I had to take suggestions from other people and experiment with various strategies in my life in order to find out what worked best for me.
And this is why they preach open mindedness at AA, at NA, and at various treatment programs. Our old ideas did not work for us, and our old solutions only made us miserable. Today in recovery we need to keep seeking out new solutions so that we can find a better way to live. This is how recovery works.
What you may not realize is that your life is going to continue to change and evolve over time, even while you remain clean and sober. New challenges are going to present themselves to you in the future. When those challenges arrive at your doorstep, you are going to be faced with a simple choice: Find new solutions that are healthy and empowering for you, or revert back to your old solution which leads to relapse and misery.
Making either choice is always going to be a struggle, because these are new challenges that are showing up in your life. So it is a struggle either way, regardless of which path you choose. It is hard work to be stuck in addiction and to hustle up your next “fix” every single day. It is also hard work to get honest with yourself and to seek new solutions for your life while in recovery.
Every day, every alcoholic and drug addict in recovery is making this choice, over and over again: Do I seek new and healthy solutions, or do I revert back to my drinking or drug use in order to “cope” with life? Which path do I choose?
If you have made the decision to get clean and sober, if you have made the decision to go to inpatient treatment and turn your life around, if you have made the decision to embrace recovery and to try to live a better and healthier life for yourself, then go all the way with it. Don’t stop short and just hit a few meetings and basically white knuckle your way through sobriety. Life is too short for that and you have far too much potential in terms of joy, happiness, and making a positive impact in this world.
Instead, embrace recovery and the fact that it is based entirely on personal growth and continuous learning, growth, and self improvement. Which is another way of saying that you are making an agreement with yourself, right now, to avoid complacency and to constantly push yourself to that next level of personal achievement–in all the various areas of your life.
Making this commitment to “full recovery” is another way of insuring that you stay far, far away from the threat of relapse. Good luck to you in your recovery!