In order to seize the opportunities that will lead you to a successful life in addiction recovery, you must first build a proper foundation for yourself.
Without this foundation you will not be in a position to be able to take advantage of the opportunities that arise. More to the point, you won’t even see many such opportunities unless you are “living right” in recovery.
For example, let’s say that you are hoping to find just the right person to sponsor you in recovery and lead you through the 12 steps. If you are not really attending many AA meetings then your selection of people is going to be limited. By going to a variety of meetings (as is often suggested) you gain exposure to more and more people who might turn out to be a good fit for sponsorship. The opportunity to connect with just the right person comes from taking the suggestion to build a strong foundation.
The first opportunity that you really get a chance to take is the one that allows you to get clean and sober in the first place. So this would be the chance to ask for help and to go to treatment. I would strongly urge the struggling addict or alcoholic to seek out inpatient treatment as their first step on this journey in recovery. If you want to have a real chance at recovery then you have to give yourself every possible advantage. Going to inpatient treatment is one of the strongest things that you can possibly do for yourself.
Unfortunately, when the struggling addict or alcoholic reaches the point at which they are truly willing to change, they are not going to jump up and click their heels together with excitement as they run off to rehab. Quite honestly, if someone has that sort of enthusiasm when they are entering recovery it generally does not end well, as they are not really at a place of desperation.
In other words, the moment of true surrender that actually produces success in recovery does not look like someone who is full of positive energy just waiting to seize an opportunity. Instead, the person who is going to be successful in recovery looks completely defeated. Dejected. They are barely able to crawl their way into rehab and beg for help. That is the image of what could become a success story in recovery.
So once you hit rock bottom and you are ready to ask for help and go to treatment, you are ready to begin this new journey that is called recovery. Going to rehab is the starting point of what could become “the first day of the rest of your life.” Now in order for this to be the case you are going to have to follow directions and do what you are told to do.
In other words, you need to have a certain amount of humility. You need to be willing to set aside your own ideas about life and how it works so that you can learn a new way to live.
Your old solutions for living were not working for you. You tried to medicate your way to happiness and it ultimately made you miserable. The way to rebuild your life and to find happiness is not to take your own advice.
That’s right–in order to find the good life in recovery you have to learn how to ignore your own advice for a while. This can be accomplished by working the third step in AA, but there are other ways to relinquish self will. What really needs to happen is that you need to make a strong commitment to yourself that you will not trust yourself to make any decisions alone. That way, you can live by the advice and guidance of other people in recovery, and you will not end up screwing up your recovery.
Why is this necessary? Because self sabotage is extremely common in early recovery from addiction. Your greatest enemy is yourself. Therefore, you need some sort of mind trick in order to remove yourself from the decision making process, at least temporarily. So make an agreement with yourself that, for the first year of your recovery, you will not make any of your own major decisions. You will only consult with other people and listen to their advice. Trust your sponsor in AA, trust your therapist, trust your peers at an AA meeting, but do not trust yourself. Do not trust your own ideas and your own decisions in early recovery, because the addict that lives within your mind will try to trip you up and get you to relapse.
Now once you have built a foundation by going to inpatient treatment, you are in a much better position to start taking advantage of all the benefits that sobriety has to offer. Now you can actually improve yourself and enjoy your life. But how exactly do you do this?
By stacking habits.
Recovery is ultimately nothing more than trading out bad habits for positive habits.
So when you go to rehab and you talk to a therapist and you work with a sponsor, all you are really doing is figuring out how to curtail the bad habits and implement healthy habits.
Think about it: What good is it to quit drinking unless you make daily sobriety a habit? What good is it to go to a single AA meeting, never to return to a meeting again, unless you were to make it a habit?
Nothing that you do for your recovery is really going to make an impact or difference unless you establish it as an ongoing habit. The thing that keeps people clean and sober are not one off events, but instead they are lifestyle changes and habit changes.
This is the opportunity that you need to seize–the chance to eliminate a bad habit and then trade it in for a healthy habit.
For example, I quit smoking cigarettes and started jogging instead. That was a huge opportunity that has paid me dividends many times over in my recovery journey. Switching from smoking to exercise has been so huge for my own recovery journey.
At one point I quit playing video games and put that time and energy into starting a small business instead. Again, trading in one habit (that bordered on being an addiction) for a more positive habit was a huge trade up for me.
I used to spend time sitting in bars being miserable. Then I quit drinking and started hanging out at AA meetings and going to coffee with people in recovery.
When you think about seizing an opportunity in recovery, I want you to think of examples such as these, where you trade out a bad habit and you substitute in a positive change. If you need help with this in your own life, simply start taking the advice of your therapist or your AA sponsor, and do what they suggest for you to do. Take the actions that they suggest and then look back later and measure your results. It quickly becomes clear what a healthy opportunity really looks like in recovery.