When you finally get clean and sober “for good” you will begin to discover a life that you never even imagined was possible before.
Why is this the case? Quite honestly, it is because your life was always held back by something, even before you ever picked up a drink or a drug.
In other words, if addicts and alcoholics are “broken,” then they are broken before they ever abuse substances. In Narcotics Anonymous they explain that the drugs or the alcohol are merely a symptom of our disease, they are how we act out because of our problem, but they are not the actual problem itself. There is something deeper, something at the root, something within us that is broken, and that needs to be fixed.
Now when you finally surrender to the fact that you have a serious disease you can begin to heal yourself and your life. Hopefully the struggling alcoholic will agree to go to inpatient treatment so that they can go through a proper detoxification. If you cannot break free from the physical dependence on drugs or alcohol then you are not going to be able to embrace any kind of new life for yourself. In that sense, recovery is an all or nothing proposition. If you continue to self medicate even a tiny bit then you will never break free from full blown addiction. Total and complete abstinence has to be the baseline that you achieve for success to follow.
So once you achieve total and complete abstinence, hopefully by attending inpatient treatment, you can get started on the business of discovering your best life in recovery.
My number one suggestion for doing this is to find mentors, sponsors, counselors, and therapists in your recovery journey that can help guide you.
Because there is an overwhelming number of suggestions that you will receive if you are in your first year of sobriety.
Go to an AA meeting and tell them that it is “your first AA meeting, any time, any where.” They will then go around the table and let every single person there give you suggestions.
If you were to write every single suggestion down and try to implement it, this would likely be impossible. There are simply too many suggestions for you to put them all into action in any kind of reasonable time frame.
Does this mean that the advice is useless because there is too much of it? Not necessarily. It just means that you are suffering from information overload in early recovery, and therefore you need a way to prioritize.
This is why we have a sponsor in AA or NA, so that they can distill some of that information overload and help us to zero in on what is truly important.
A therapist or a counselor can do the same. We talk to them, we give them some background information on what problems we have, and they prescribe solutions for us.
Keep in mind that addiction recovery is all about discovering new solutions. If you are not willing to look for new solutions in life then you are not in recovery yet, you are stuck in denial.
New solutions define our recovery. The willingness to explore new solutions are what define our recovery. We have to be open to suggestion, and then we also have to put things into action and actually explore the solutions first hand.
For example, I told my therapist that I was constantly feeling sorry for myself and engaging in self pity. They suggested that I write out a gratitude list every morning, and then at night, to reflect on 3 things that happened that day that made me just a little bit happier.
When you actually do those two things, when you actually reflect on what you are grateful for and also what made you happy, you shift your perspective fairly drastically. And if this becomes a daily habit, a daily ritual, then you have discovered a powerful new solution for yourself.
Much of recovery is not only about discovering new solutions, but in experimenting with those solutions and then adopting the ones that help you and turning them into habits.
At one point my sponsor in NA suggested that I start exercising physically. I had heard this suggestion before but I was never quite ready for it until that moment. So I started jogging with a family member and suddenly I was feeling good about getting into shape. I felt invigorated rather than exhausted from the jogging. I don’t know why it clicked, but it did.
So it became a habit. And then it became a lifestyle. And today, over 14 years later after starting, I would not think of going without physical exercise of some kind. That new solution became a habit and then that habit transformed my life.
So when you are attempting to discover your best new life in recovery, my suggestion to you is that you find people that you trust and people that you look up to in recovery, and then you start taking advice from them. If you have the discipline and the humility to do this, to actually take advice and suggestions from others, then you can grow much faster than if you depend only on your own ideas. Making your own mistakes is a very slow way to learn and to grow when compared with taking advice from a therapist or a sponsor.
Take the short cut. It is one of the only shortcuts that actually work in recovery. Listen to what your therapist or your sponsor tells you to do, and then do it. If you want to discover an amazing new life for yourself then you have to try some new things, and they cannot all be things that you thought of yourself. In fact, if you limit yourself to only your own ideas, then you are sure to never reach your full potential. In order to discover the best things in life we have to take input from outside sources.
All of the truly ground breaking ideas in my own journey came from other people. Someone suggested that I go to rehab. Someone else suggested that I live in long term treatment following rehab. Someone suggested that I get a part time job, that I go back to college, that I quit cigarettes, that I start exercising.
Sure, I could have come up with some of those ideas myself. But I lacked the confidence to know that each of those decisions was right, that I should focus and pour all of my available energy into one of those ideas at a time. It was a huge commitment to go back to college. It was a huge commitment to quit cigarettes.
And if you have to figure out your priority, and what you should be focusing on next–if you have to worry about that all by yourself, then it uses up potential mental energy that could be used to actually execute your next goal.
In other words, there are two tasks: One, you must decide what to do. Two, you must do it. Both tasks take mental energy and stamina.
If you use a sponsor or therapist to tell you what to do, then you free up a TON of mental energy that can be used to execute with.
So take this shortcut. Don’t decide what to do next, let your therapist or sponsor tell you what to do. And then, go do it.
Keep doing this over and over again. If you live this way for a full year of recovery you will be amazed at the results you get.
If you keep taking suggestions from others you will discover the best new life for yourself. And it will be so much better than anything you ever thought possible.