What does it take in order to overcome a drug or alcohol addiction and avoid relapse forever?
For starters, I would encourage you to forget about the concept of “staying sober forever” and instead adopt the mindset that they encourage in traditional recovery programs, which is the “day at a time” philosophy. If you do it right and you work a good recovery program then you may very well stay clean and sober until the day that you pass away. However, we don’t want to create an unnecessary burden on ourselves by placing this demand on our sobriety right out of the gate. Better to take it slow and try to be realistic about your journey in recovery. This is not to say that you are doomed to relapse, but rather that you want to keep things in proper perspective and focus on getting through each day sober. Tomorrow can take care of itself and you do not need the added anxiety of having to project into the future too much.
In order to do well in addiction recovery you need a strong foundation. I would recommend that you start your journey by going to an inpatient treatment center. If you do not know how to go about doing this then simply pick up the phone and start making some calls. Call up a treatment center and inquire as to how you can get into rehab, what the terms are, what insurance is needed, if you qualify for a different rehab center, and so on. They will help to direct you to the help that you need to recover.
Now after you get an appointment scheduled to attend inpatient treatment you are well on your way to recovery, but there is plenty more ahead of you. Do not be discouraged if you are at this point though as you have your entire sobriety ahead of you and lots of help available. The nice thing about addiction treatment is that you do not have to do it alone. You will have a group of peers–both in rehab as well as at AA or NA meetings or other support groups–who are going to help you along the path to healing. You don’t have to do it alone.
My biggest recommendation to you following a stay at an inpatient treatment center is that you follow through with the aftercare recommendations that they give you. They are going to want you to go to IOP groups, counseling, therapy, AA meetings, and things of that sort. The specific recommendations may be different from these listed here but the basic premise is always the same: You need social support and fellowship with others in recovery if you are going to have a chance at staying clean and sober. Trying to do it all by yourself after leaving rehab is not a good option. You need other people in order to recover.
Now after you have gone through treatment and you have been following up with things like group therapy, one on one counseling sessions, AA and NA sponsorship, and various meetings, you still need to do a bit more in order to really build out a full life for yourself in recovery.
In other words, even if you go to rehab and you follow up with AA you can still become complacent in your recovery and end up relapsing.
Therefore you need to create a strategy for long term recovery in which you do more than just sit in meetings every day. You need a plan for recovery that allows you to push yourself to learn more, to improve yourself, and to keep growing as a person in recovery.
So how exactly do we go about doing this? How do we go from being relatively stable in early recovery programs to living a successful life in long term sobriety?
For me, the solution involved in taking a lot of suggestions and advice from other people, implementing their advice in my own life, and testing out their ideas.
This is a critical concept in my opinion, and you should start practicing this as soon as you are stable in early recovery.
So how do you do this? Go to your sponsor, your therapist, or your counselor and ask them for advice and direction. Ask them what your main priority should be right now. If they say something vague like “Just try to stay clean and sober” then pin them down and say “What is one thing you would recommend that I do every single day in order to make that happen?”
This is an important question because it drives at one of the critical concepts for successful recovery, and that is building positive habits.
Think about it: If you go to a single AA meeting today, and then you never go again, what have you accomplished? What good is it to go to a single AA meeting and then never return there?
Instead, what is powerful is doing 90 AA meetings in 90 days–which is why that gets suggested all the time in recovery programs. You see, it is the daily habit that is powerful. It is the ongoing habit of plugging into that recovery source every day that gives you strength in your program. It is in that habit that you give yourself a chance to embrace the fellowship, to make new friends, to learn some lessons on a deeper level.
The power is not so much in the individual action itself, but in the habit or the lifestyle change that can result from the habit.
You can expand this idea beyond just going to daily AA meetings. For example, at one point I was asking people in recovery what they did in order to stay happy and healthy in their life outside of going to meetings. So I started hearing things like “I go jogging” or “I go to the gym” or “I do yoga” or “I do seated meditation” or “I walk around in nature.”
So I started to take suggestions like this and emulate what these successful people were doing in their own lives to see if it enhanced my own life.
What I found is that some of their suggestions were a great fit for me and really helped my recovery, while other suggestions were not so great.
So I eventually dropped the advice that did not work for me and I continued to focus on the habits that seem to empower me. So I started working out and exercising on a regular basis, and this has had a huge impact on the quality of my sobriety. I also started to experiment with seated meditation, and this has given me some amazing benefits as well. In particular, I seem to get more intellectual breakthroughs when I meditate, and I tend to get emotionally balanced when I work out physically. Both practices seem to reduce anxiety and also help me to sleep better.
I never would have started either of those habits on my own unless someone had suggested them to me first. Luckily I was open minded enough when I got those suggestions to be able to give those habits a chance to work in my life. So what I would recommend to you is that you be open to suggestions from people in recovery who are already successful, who already have the sort of life that you want to live. Take advice from those people and then put their suggestions into action. Test it out and see if it works for you. If not, move on and find another suggestion. Good luck to you on your journey!