You may be surprised to find out that, not only is your life going to get better in addiction recovery, but that you can actually design a new and exciting life for yourself that just keeps getting better and better as time goes on.
Now one of the key principles here is that in order to live this new life that is so amazing, you first have to “pay your dues.”
What I mean by that is this: You must first surrender completely and go to inpatient treatment and get the professional help that you so desperately need. You must stop trying to figure out your addiction on your own and allow other people to tell you how to recover. If you are not willing to surrender completely and allow others to help you then you are just going to continue to struggle.
The sad fact is that you cannot jump right in after one week of sobriety and instantly start designing your own life as you see fit. That simply won’t work. The reason that it will not work is because your mind is still stuck with all of the hang ups that you had during addiction, and you have not really learned anything or progressed in your life, so when you try to design the perfect lifestyle you are almost certain to make mistakes. In other words, you have to crawl before you can walk, and if you try to control everything in early recovery then that is bound to trip you up very quickly.
Once you get into early recovery, hopefully you will go to an inpatient treatment center so that you can start building a foundation for your new life. The key is to start taking advice from people and doing what they suggest you do. At this point you do not really know what you need in order to be successful and you are not in a position to suddenly design and create your own dream life. That realization and knowledge will come slowly over time.
Let me give you an example of this. When I was in very early recovery, my sponsor and my therapist were both suggesting to me that I do some physical exercise. They wanted me to work out and get into shape, and at the time, I could not see any possible benefit from doing this. I thought it was a distraction from what I was really supposed to be focusing on, which I thought was spiritual progress. I did not understand why they thought exercise would help me. It was almost annoying that they kept pushing this idea on me.
I actually made a few half hearted attempts to exercise, but nothing stuck at the time. I continued to meander my way through early recovery and I tried various things like going back to school, going to AA meetings, writing in a journal, and so on. I was taking suggestions and testing ideas out.
At some point later on in my recovery, something clicked for me and I started exercising. I actually started jogging every day with a family member, and suddenly I turned a corner and I was in shape and it felt great to run. At that point this light bulb turned on above my head and I could finally see all the benefits that being in good shape brought along with it. Suddenly I could see how emotionally cleansing it was to have an intense workout every day. Suddenly it all made sense, and I realized that if I tried to convince other people to exercise, there was no way that I could convey the full scope and benefits of it to them. People would just have to discover exercise on their own and see how much it helps them, just as I had.
So that is what I want for you, is that you start to take suggestions from people in your early recovery journey and begin to learn what will help you and what will not. But it is important to realize that you have to be open minded enough to give some things a try, including some things that you already believe may be ineffective. Just as I believed that exercise was going to be fairly useless to my recovery, someone might be suggesting something to you like meditation or counseling or AA meetings, and you might believe that it will be ineffective for you, but it is probably worth testing it out.
Another point that I want to make is this: If you keep hearing a suggestion or piece of advice over and over again, then you should be willing to test out that idea over and over again until something clicks for you. I actually gave seated meditation a chance, and I gave exercise a chance, and nothing actually clicked for me until much later on. I had to keep giving those concepts a chance and revisiting the idea until finally everything lined up correctly for me to “get it.” And the reason that I revisited the concept is because I continued to hear the suggestion and the advice to meditate and to exercise, over and over again. So eventually I had to say “alright, maybe there is really something to this, I better try it again.”
Now in order to design the perfect life in recovery, you first have to build a foundation that is based on taking advice from other people. So you may worry that this new life will not really be your own, and that will be partially true at first. Unfortunately you just have to trust in the process and believe that, even though you are taking advice and allowing others to dictate your actions in early recovery, that this life you are building will ultimately be your own in the end.
After you build a foundation in early recovery you will reach a point in which you have the discipline and the ability to start setting some of your own goals. At this point you will have a much better idea of what a healthy goal really looks like, and what is worth striving for and what is not.
I think we subconsciously learn the value of balance when we are going through early recovery. In other words, our mentors and our therapist and our sponsor are going to be nudging us in the direction of balance and healthy living, even if we do not realize it at the time. Which is why my mentors were trying to get me to exercise when I was working so hard on meetings and spiritual growth. I thought that physical exercise was a distraction, but my mentors realized that it was needed to give my life some balance. You cannot always see those connections and decisions when it is your own life that is being designed, which is why it is important to take advice from others.
If you want to design a perfect life then you have to start out by building the perfect day for yourself. The perfect day is going to have some balance to it–it will not be only about spiritual connection, and it will not be only about physical health, and it will not be only about emotional well being, and it will not be only about maintaining healthy relationships. Instead, it will be a mix of all of those things, and therefore the perfect day and the perfect lifestyle will be one that lends itself to overall health and well being, that lends itself to a holistic lifestyle of positive action.
Which is another way of saying that, if you want to recover and thrive in recovery, then you need to take care of yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. Each and every day. You cannot neglect large areas of your life and expect to do well or to even be happy in sobriety. So take a holistic approach and be willing to take suggestions and advice from your mentors. Good luck!