Long term success in recovery is all about setting ourselves up to do well. This is largely due to the fact that recovery is more of a marathon than a sprint. “The rest of your life” is always a long time.
So what can we do to set ourselves up for success? Here are some of the factors that seem to have worked well for me and for others:
Accept a slow growth curve
This is somewhat painful to accept in the beginning because we want results right away. But it takes time to see the results of our progress, especially with holistic growth.
When we grow in many different areas of our life simultaneously (such as in early recovery), there is not enough focus and progress will not be rapid. This is actually a good thing. The problem is that most addicts and alcoholics want to see instant results. When we were using drugs and alcohol, we always got instant results. But in recovery we have to have a bit of patience because there is a bit of a learning curve.
We are learning how to live again, and that takes time. So forget about instant results and accept that you are in a process of recovery. A process of healing. If it happened overnight it would not be worth much and it would not be stable.
So the key here is in your perception. Do not be too antsy to rebuild your entire life. Creation takes time and persistent effort. The key is in the persistence. You don’t just “get lucky” and build an awesome life for yourself. Instead, you deliberately and purposefully build this new life, one piece at a time. Accept the learning curve and accept that it is a slow process. Celebrate your small victories.
Think strategy not tactics
What is your overall strategy for recovery? Most people who answer this question refer to a list of tactics, such as meetings or working the steps. But take a step back and look at the big picture here: what is your overall direction in recovery? If you are thinking strategically, then you should be thinking along the lines of:
1) Moving towards healthier living – some people in recovery get so focused in on one thing (such as spiritual growth) that they let everything else slide, which ends up sabotaging their recovery. We need to move towards greater health in all areas of our life. Think emotional balance, healthy relationships, physical fitness, and so on.
2) Push for holistic growth – if we can grow in multiple areas of our life, then our long term outlook for recovery gets that much stronger. A laser focus can be helpful in early recovery when we are just trying to stay clean for another day, but in the long run we must broaden our outlook and start seeking holistic growth.
3) Working with others – if you can turn this into a long term strategy then you will almost guarantee your success in recovery. Find a way to connect with others in recovery on a regular basis and find a way to help them. If you can built this into your life and make it a part of who you are then you will have a very strong defense against relapse.