What are the key strengths that are needed for addiction recovery success?
The first strength that you need feels like the complete opposite of strength, and that is surrender.
You need to be strong enough to able to surrender and let go of the need for control.
Addicts and alcoholics typically fall into a certain trap–they try to control their drinking or drug use, and they battle with it over and over again, and they get locked into this epic struggle to be able to both control their drinking while also enjoying it.
This is the fundamental problem that the alcoholic faces: How do enjoy themselves while drinking without going overboard and losing control.
And so they struggle for control. They eventually isolate themselves more and more–not necessarily because they hate people, but because they know that they are dangerous around other people when they are actually drinking the quantities that they want to drink.
Therefore, in order to succeed in addiction recovery, the first key strength that you need is that of surrender. You must come to grips with the fact that you have a real disease, and then second, you must come to terms with the fact that you do not have your own solution for it, and that you must listen to the advice of others in order to learn a new way of life.
If surrender is the first strength that is needed for recovery, then the second strength is that of honesty, open mindedness, and willingness. These seem like three separate ideas, and we can certainly dive into the details of how each one is a little bit different, but at the highest levels of understanding, these 3 concepts are so closely intertwined that you may as well lump them all together as one. This is because if you are lacking in any single one of these 3 concepts your recovery is going to suffer because of it. It does no good to be open minded and willing if you are not also honest. The same goes for any other combination of 2 of these traits. You have to possess all three in order to excel in recovery.
I would go on to say that you need to ask for advice from mentors in early recovery and be willing to take their advice and put it into action. In other words, you have to do experiments in your early recovery that involve taking suggestions and then taking positive action. This is key to learning how to live a new life in recovery. If you leave the process entirely up to yourself and your own ideas then you are going to miss out on so many opportunities for personal growth.
Why is this? Because we are all very good at seeing the flaws in other people, but we are not so good at seeing the flaws in ourselves. And so we lose objectivity when we try to assess our own situation, our own needs, and our own character defects.
You might ask your therapist or sponsor: “What is the next thing, now that I am clean and sober, that I need to be focusing on?” In other words, how can you take your recovery a step further and become an even better version of yourself?
There are two mindsets that you might have in recovery, and they are discussed in the infamous serenity prayer. One mindset is that of acceptance, so that you can find peace. The second mindset is to “change the things you can,” which is to say: Personal growth. I think it is about 10 times more important to focus on personal growth than it is to practice acceptance. This is because, as addicts and alcoholics, it is easy to play the acceptance card when we are actually just too lazy to make the necessary changes.
In other words, one of the greatest strengths that you need to find in your recovery journey is to adopt a personal growth mindset. This goes along with a self awareness mindset, because before you can decide that you want to make changes, you have to figure out what needs to be changed.
So we need to first practice self awareness in our recovery journey. We can do this in many different ways, which can be as simple as doing seated meditation each day and watching what bubbles up to the surface as we sit in silence. Or we can ask our peers and our mentors for feedback so that we can learn what are character flaws are. We could also write in a journal every day, which provides us with a written history and record of our thoughts over time, so that we can see the trends later on and see where our mind is really headed.
We need to develop self awareness so that we can evaluate and fix our problems. I like to use the term “pain points” when describing the problem areas of our lives that we might want to change. What is your biggest pain point right now? What is your biggest source of frustration, anger, fear, shame, guilt, or worry lately? What does your mind keep fixating on lately that feels like negative energy?
My suggestion to you in your recovery journey is to identify your biggest pain point that you have at this moment, and then make a plan to fix it. You should of course focus on maintaining sobriety at all costs, but on top of that, you also need to push yourself to make positive changes. And your biggest return on investment when it comes to personal growth is going to be identifying your biggest pain point and then eliminating it.
You may need help and guidance in order to overcome your biggest pain point. You may need to seek advice from a sponsor, from a therapist, from your peers in AA, or from all of the above. You may need to work on it for a few weeks, a few months, or even a period of years. But if you are serious about living a better life in recovery and maintaining your sobriety then you need to identify your biggest pain point and then tackle it for all you are worth.
Your sobriety is your number one priority. Because of this, tackling your biggest pain point in life becomes your second biggest priority.
What happens when you finally conquer that pain point? You regroup, take another inventory, and figure out what your new biggest pain point is.
Just take them on one at a time. Ask for help and guidance while you are trying to conquer these problems. And as you progress, as you start to eliminate these pain points, you are going to find that you are happier than you have ever been before. This is because you are naturally supposed to be happy, but we tend to screw it up with our own character flaws and defects. Once you start eliminating those, you allow the joy and happiness to shine through. This is what recovery is all about.
Some people get sober and they don’t want to look into their past, or they don’t want to identify the negative traits they may have. “I want to focus on the positive only” they might say.
This is a mistake. In order to truly be free, you have to confront your issues, your hang ups, and your character flaws head on. This is how to get to your best possible life in recovery.