Shaping Your Future Self in Addiction Treatment

Shaping Your Future Self in Addiction Treatment


How do you actually shape your future self in drug addiction or alcoholism treatment and recovery?

How do you become the person that you really want to be?

My first suggestion to you in this regard is that you need to start out very slowly and deliberately. If you try to rush into this brand new life of sobriety then it is very likely that you will get over confident, find yourself on a “pink cloud,” and possibly just relapse completely because you tried to take on too much all at once.

Instead, here is what I recommend for the newly recovering addict or alcoholic:

First, go to rehab. Build your foundation in a 28 day treatment program if you have the option. Most people do have this option if they are willing to ask for help and make a few phone calls. Figure out what needs to happen for you to get yourself into inpatient treatment. If you are still stuck in active addiction and you are still self medicating then you should start here: Go to rehab. Go to inpatient. Go through a full medical detox and follow that up with residential treatment. Find a 28 day program. You may have a million and one excuses as to why you do not need an inpatient treatment for 28 days, and you may have excuses as to why you cannot “afford” to disappear for that long from your life, and so on.

None of those excuses add up to anything at all. The fact is that if you go to inpatient treatment and get started on this new path in life then you will look back on it one day as the single best decision that you ever made. Ever. I certainly can look back at my decision to go to treatment and see it as the defining moment of my own life, and of all my success and happiness that I enjoy today. It was the single best thing that I ever did for myself, period. Go to treatment.

Next, once you have gone through a 28 day inpatient program, you will go back out into the real world and start to work an actual program of recovery. This is different from being in the protected environment that you had at rehab, and it is much more challenging. However, there is support and help available if you are willing to put in some effort.

And this is exactly what is going to be required in order to shape your future in recovery. First, you surrendered and asked for help and went to rehab. That is great, and that is the starting point and the foundation for your new life. However, a lot more work is required. Fear not, because there are people who will help you. But you must commit to yourself that you are going to go through with this and do the work. You must commit to positive change.

In early recovery, after you leave inpatient rehab, you are going to be following directions and taking advice from people. The rehab program will likely have you following up with counseling, therapy, 12 step meetings, and maybe IOP (intensive outpatient). Go do all of those things and follow through with all of them to the best of your ability. This is the single most important thing in your life right now, and you need to treat it as such.

For the first year or so of your recovery journey, it would be wise to keep taking advice and suggestions from people in order to navigate your decision making.

The idea behind one of the critical steps in AA and NA is to sort of remove yourself from the decision making process. Instead of saying “I want to do this, and I am going to go do it” you are saying to yourself “I wonder what my higher power would have me do in this situation?” And so you seek out the advice and support and suggestions from your sponsor, from your peers in AA, from your therapist, and so on. Instead of using your own crazy ideas to screw up your recovery, you rely on the advice and input from other people.

Keep doing this for the first full year of your recovery. At this point, you are not really shaping your own future; you are letting other people shape it for you. And that is fine! They will do a much better job of dictating your future than you could at this point.

After a full year of taking suggestions and advice, you will be in a much better position to start designing your own future. Now you can set some goals and start working towards them.

When you had 6 weeks sober and you were fresh out of rehab, you were not really in a position to dictate your future just yet. You were not ready to tackle the whole world and set your own ambitious goals, because you would have just sabotaged yourself. It takes a few months of actively working a recovery program before your thinking really begins to heal. So if you get out of a 28 day program and try to go save the world, and yourself, you are likely to fail. Instead, you need to take advice and listen to your sponsor, your therapist, your peers. You need to take advice and do what is in front of you for a while, rather than concocting your own ideas and goals. Just go with the flow for a year, do what is suggested, and allow yourself time to heal.

As you enter your second year of sobriety, you can start to form goals, make plans, and start to direct your life a bit more. At this point, I started making goals for my own self in recovery that included things such as “go back to school” and “get a better job” and “start a side business” and “get into great physical shape.” I would not have made those same goals if I had been setting them when I had 6 weeks sober. It paid off a great deal for me to wait, to just keep my head down for a year and do what people were telling me to do. It doesn’t sound very glamorous or exciting, but if you just follow directions for the first year of recovery you will have a huge advantage going into the rest of your life. This is how you build a strong foundation.

Once I had that foundation I was free to start shaping my future, and I realized that I actually had the power and the resources to be able to do it quite well. I got the degree, I got the job I wanted, and I even got into good shape physically. With each goal that I achieved my confidence grew, and I realized more and more that I actually could accomplish what I set out to do. I had to work hard at it, and I had to focus on one goal at a time for the most part, but I could pretty much tackle anything, and that was an amazing revelation for me.

My life just kept getting better and better as I shed my bad habits and replaced them with healthy habits. And I can clearly see, looking back now, that this is the real key to shaping the future that you want: Not that you do the things that need to be done, but that you establish the positive habits that need to be established.

A one time task performed does not change much in the life of a recovering alcoholic or addict. But a new healthy habit that is permanently adopted can be very, very powerful in the long run. And if you keep stacking up positive habits and live a few clean and sober months with those habits, things really start to change.

But in order to get this point–in order to get the place in which you are healthy and stable enough to really shape your own future–you have to put in the work to build a strong foundation first. So ask for help, go to treatment, and start taking the advice and suggestions that will eventually change your life forever. Good luck!