In order to live a successful life in recovery you have to work an active recovery program.
This would be in contrast to what I see all too often, which is the idea that a person might quit drinking alcohol or taking drugs and then just sort of passively live a recovery plan in their life. I see such people either relapse very quickly or I see them sort of limp along in recovery for a while before they eventually go back to their old destructive patterns.
The problem with passive recovery is that it is not dynamic enough to be able to handle the inevitable ups and downs that life is going to throw at you eventually.
In other words, if everything in life were perfect and there was absolutely no chaos or random events that happened then you could probably go through a detox program and just go back to living “a normal life.” You could avoid recovery programs, you could skip out on all of those AA and NA meetings, and you could just sort of go back to a normal life, just minus the drugs or the booze. And you would probably do just fine.
The problem is that life does not work that way.
For whatever reason (I did not design the universe by the way!), life seems to want to keep throwing new and unique problems at us.
Think about that for a moment. Look back at your own experience through the years, and realize that this is absolutely true: Life keeps throwing new problems at you. Problems that you have not yet had to deal with before, suddenly they are right in your face and you have to figure out how to deal with something. The problem came out of nowhere, and you did not really expect it. A great example of this is alcoholism and drug addict itself: When I realized that I was truly an alcoholic, I was a tiny bit outraged at the universe, and I can remember thinking “I did not even give my permission for this to happen! Why me?”
Therefore, what I want to convey to you today is the idea that you are not going to just orchestrate the perfect moment in your life that will bring you into recovery, and then you can just move on and be done with this addiction treatment stuff forever.
Instead, I want to illustrate to you that the real truth is that you must adopt a path of personal growth. You are going to commit to recovery for life, and that means that you are dedicating yourself to positive change and personal growth on a permanent basis.
If you want to engineer the perfect recovery, then you have to make sure that you stay engaged in personal growth for the long haul. This is because the biggest threat to your long term sobriety is that of complacency: People get lazy in the long run and they let down their guard and it can cause them to relapse. We want to avoid this trap of complacency, so we need to actively figure out a plan for doing that.
Again: You cannot treat your recovery passively and still succeed in the long run. If you are using a passive approach to your personal growth then really you are just hoping that everything works out fine in the end, rather than actively pursuing positive changes for yourself.
The reason that you must adopt a growth oriented mindset is because your life is going to change and evolve and keep throwing new problems at you. Those problems have the potential to cause you to relapse if you are not careful, and therefore you need a proactive strategy to be able to meet those new challenges in your future.
It is almost as if recovery wants us to get good at adapting to new problems in life. Our old solution was always the same; we would simply go self medicate with our drug of choice. The new reality in our recovery is that we have essentially removed that option from our toolbox, and we have made a commitment to ourselves to not say “screw it” and go relapse. We have removed our number one solution, and therefore we need to seek alternatives.
This is why recovery is really all about seeking solutions. And testing out new solutions in your life is scary and intimidating and it causes you to feel vulnerable at times. Nobody wants to expose themselves as being the beginner in life, nobody wants to dive into the new and untested if they can help it, they would rather go with what they know.
But going with what you know will fail every time in recovery. In order to succeed you need new solutions, and you need to keep coming up with new solutions, and you need stay in the mindset of personal growth, the mindset of seeking solutions, pretty much for the rest of your life.
So how do you do this? How do you engineer your life and your recovery so that you are set up to seek new solutions?
First of all I would start this process by going to inpatient treatment. Their job at rehab is to start teaching you new solutions for your addiction problem, and show you how you can go about building a new life for yourself. After you finish up with rehab they are going to direct you to aftercare services, which will probably include both meetings and therapy of some kind. Some people go to IOP, some people go to counseling, some people go to support groups, and so on. At these places you will be tapping into a whole lot of advice and direction, much of it from other people who have already walked a successful path in recovery.
One thing that you want to do in early recovery is to model others who have succeeded. No need to reinvent the wheel here; simply do what other successful recovering alcoholics have done in the past, and you should get similar results to what they have in their life. So find someone in recovery who has the life that you want to be living, and then start taking advice from that person. This is the idea behind sponsorship in AA and NA, and it can also work to some extent outside of the fellowship as well. I got a lot of great advice from a therapist in my early recovery journey and following through with the suggestions that they gave to me was critical in my success. But I had to figure out how to get out of my own way so that I could actually take the advice and follow through with it, rather than to resist it as I used to during my addiction.
The perfect plan for your addiction treatment really involves you doing almost none of the actual planning or design, and instead allowing others and trusting others to show you how to live your life. While this may feel scary at first, it is the best possible path to success that you could be on, especially if you are very early in your recovery process. The tendency for a newly recovering alcoholic or drug addict to self sabotage is really, really strong. In order to overcome that tendency you need to put all of your trust in other people and allow those people to tell you what to do and how to work a recovery program. Trust in this process even though it feels awkward and scary. Trust in this process because it will get you out of the misery of your addiction and give you a new life.
If you want a new life in recovery then you have to be willing to surrender completely and walk away from that old life. To some extent this means walking away from yourself, from your ego, from your old ideas about how to find your own happiness. The new challenge is to allow others to show you how to live, and in doing so, you will find peace and joy within yourself. Good luck to you on your journey!