How do you unlock your full potential in addiction or alcoholism recovery? What is the best way to become the best version of yourself through the recovery process?
Now some people would definitely answer this question by saying “go to AA or NA and work through the 12 steps with a sponsor.” And that solution has certainly worked for some people. Although I would argue that just working through those particular 12 steps is not necessarily enough to truly unlock your full potential.
For example, I have been to AA meetings in which there were people in recovery who did not exercise and continued to smoke cigarettes. These people had worked through the 12 steps, had a spiritual awakening, and they were free from alcohol. But would we really say that they have unlocked their full potential, given that they are not really taking care of their body physically?
I think that timing is important when you ask this kind of question. When you first get into addiction recovery you need to focus. My suggestion is that you go to rehab, do a 28 day program, and dedicate your entire life to getting off of that drug of choice that is killing you. Focus entirely on abstinence. Do whatever it takes. So for the first year or two, that might mean that you go to rehab, go to meetings every day, and continue to ignore some of these other areas of your life that might become more important down the road.
I was in residential treatment at one point and a therapist was giving us a lecture on “balanced lifestyle.” I thought that this was misplaced because I knew that the key was intense focus on recovery, abstinence, and AA meetings. Everything else was just sort of a distraction. Why worry about nutrition when the real threat is relapse with a half gallon of vodka? I needed immediate solutions and I needed a way to make it through the next 24 hours without relapse. So I felt like talking about relationships and nutrition and exercise was a waste of time at that early stage in recovery.
But they were planting seeds for later on, essentially. Because at some point, if you remain clean and sober, nutrition does become important. And all of that other stuff does as well.
And so this has to do with unlocking your full potential.
Take a step back for a moment and consider your entire life. Consider that you are a human being and you have many different aspects to your health. You have your physical health, but also mental, emotional, social, spiritual, and so on.
Now when you get into early recovery they often focus heavily on spiritual health at the exclusion of everything else. They focus on the 12 steps as a way to build a connection with a higher power. And the idea is that you relapse spiritually before you pick up a physical drink or a drug. Therefore if you can prevent the “spiritual relapse” then you will never relapse physically either.
And it works for some people. But could this formula be improved at all?
I think it can.
The way to improve the formula is to consider more than just spiritual health.
Now again, this may be an issue of timing. In very early recovery, you should probably take the advice of professionals: Go to rehab, do the 28 days, do 90 AA meetings in the first 90 days, get a sponsor, and so on. Don’t ignore those things in early recovery just because you think the holistic approach is so smart.
However, in long term recovery, you will note that some people actually relapse for no apparent reason. Some recovering alcoholics and addicts simply become complacent. And I think those are the people who did well with the basics (rehab, AA, sponsorship, working the steps, etc.) but they failed to adopt a more holistic approach in the long run. They failed to unlock their full potential, and it eventually led them back to relapse.
So how do you go about doing this? How do you transition from early recovery to holistic growth? How do you go from laser intense focus on abstinence to worrying about things like nutrition, relationships, emotional stability, exercise, sleep patterns, and so on?
For me, I did not necessarily figure this out and make the leap of faith on my own. In fact, my sponsor encouraged me to go back to work part time, then he encouraged me to go back to college and finish a degree. Meanwhile, my therapist encouraged me to start exercising and working out.
In all 3 of those instances, I resisted the idea because I thought that I needed to focus on recovery and abstinence instead. But my mentors were seeing more potential and so they pushed me to try to unlock more of that potential.
I think that if you try to rush forward and do it all for yourself then you could overshoot in some ways and get into trouble. Many people in early recovery try to go too fast and they relapse as a result. Therefore I would advise you to work closely with mentors, either counselors or therapists or sponsors or some combination thereof, and use those people to help guide you in terms of holistic health.
To some extent the process is based on your immediate pain points in life. When struggling with addiction or alcoholism, your biggest pain point is the drugs or the alcohol. So you ask for help and you attempt to fix that problem. Once you gain stability you need to evaluate your life again, and ask the question: “What is my greatest source of anxiety, frustration, or pain right now?”
Whatever the answer is should become your next priority. Your mentors can help you develop a plan to tackle that issue, whatever it may be. And your mentors may be able to help you identify what your biggest pain point is in life right now.
So after you become clean and sober, and you find some stability in recovery, you need to start assessing the rest of yourself and the rest of your life, and then start taking action to fix things. This is essentially what happens if you work through the 12 steps in AA very thoroughly, but I think you can gain some additional perspective if you break down the possible pain points in a holistic sense while considering physical health, mental health, emotional health, spiritual health, and social health. If you look at all of those areas in your life then you will likely find some areas of weakness that need addressing. Then once you address those areas you will become stronger in your recovery as you take positive action to fix them. Good luck!