How do you go about living up to your full potential in long term addiction recovery?
In my experience, you really don’t have much choice in the matter. You can either push yourself towards personal growth, reaching for new levels of success in the various areas of your life, or you can grow stagnant and relapse. I have watched both of these outcomes happen to various peers of mine in recovery, and I was very cautious in early recovery about becoming complacent myself.
That is the real key: Avoiding complacency. In order to reach our full potential we need to keep pushing ourselves to learn and to grow.
In order to keep learning and growing we need to engage in the right sort of activities during early recovery. I would strongly recommend to anyone who is early in the addiction recovery process to get themselves into inpatient treatment as a starting point in their journey.
If you want to start out your new life in recovery with a strong foundation then you should go to a 28 day inpatient rehab program. If you are trying to figure out how to avoid “having to do that” then I would argue that perhaps you are not quite past your denial just yet. Once you completely break through the last bit of your denial, you will be willing to do whatever it takes in order to turn your life around.
Going to inpatient treatment will give you a lot of advantages, the first of which will be professional therapy. In treatment they will assign a therapist to you and this will allow you to start learning about your blocks that prevent you from living a better life in recovery. A therapist will be able to help you to see how you are your own worst enemy, and what you need to do in order to overcome those particular blocks.
For example, when I was in very early recovery a therapist pointed out to me that I was essentially “playing the victim” and that this was only serving to become an excuse for me to relapse. He argued that I actually had a lot of power and control over these situations and that I could take action to improve my life instead of complaining. The therapist also presented this in such a way that I felt compelled to at least test his theory and see if it was true. I had to admit that once I started taking positive action and I stopped complaining and playing the victim role for a few days, I noticed a huge improvement in my mood, attitude, and the results I was getting in life. But I don’t think I would have moved past that block–playing the victim role–if someone had not pointed it out to me.
Getting professional therapy is not the only reason that you would benefit by going to inpatient rehab. There are lots of other advantages that get set up from such a visit. Another example is with aftercare, which is often going to involve going to AA and NA meetings. There you could find and start using a sponsor in your recovery, who can help to guide you through the 12 step program.
Working the steps is not really magic; it’s just hard work that most of us do not want to do. It is not a shortcut or anything, but that doesn’t mean that it is not effective. The key is that you need to actually use the tools, talk with your sponsor often, and learn from what they are telling you. You have to actually put the ideas into motion.
Perhaps the most important part of this process is that you are actually doing what someone else tells you to do, rather than to take your own advice. Taking our own advice is what got us deep into our addiction. Following the advice of others is how we break free. Again, this isn’t really any sort of secret revelation–it is just hard work that no one really wants to do. No one really wants to humble themselves to the point that they surrender all of their decision making to other people. And yet this is what will put your life back on track most effectively. In fact, it may be the only thing that actually works–humbling ourselves and taking direction from others in early recovery.
If you want to reach your full potential in recovery then you have to consider all of your “pain points.”
So at any given time in your life, whether you have 10 days sober or 10 years sober, you are going to have certain pain points in your life. These pain points could be bits of anxiety, character defects (as described in the AA program), toxic relationships, or any number of other issues that bring us misery, discontent, and send us into resentment or self pity.
If you want to reach your full potential then it is not always about striving forward and reaching positive goals that you set for yourself–sometimes it is about taking a hard look at your problem areas and making a deliberate plan to eliminate those things.
You will find that even if everything seems to be going right in your life that just one of these pain points could still cause you to suffer in some way. And if you are still suffering then you are not reaching your full potential in recovery.
We cannot always identify our own pain points. Sometimes we have to have help with this. Sometimes we need a sponsor, a therapist, or a peer in AA to help us to see how we are tripping ourselves up.
You may need to forgive yourself, or forgive someone from your past. You may not have any idea how to go about doing that. So in order to move past that anger you may need to find the right mentor and talk it through with them. You may have to work on an issue like this for weeks or months to really move past it. You may have to do some exploratory writing about it. You may have to connect spiritually in some way to move past an issue.
In other words, once you identify a pain point, be prepared to do some serious work in order to move past it.
Each time you conquer one of these pain points you move closer to freedom. Each time you eliminate a “block” to recovery or overcome a character defect you get yourself one step closer to peace and serenity.
Because even if everything is going great and you are reaching new and positive goals, you can still be held back from freedom and happiness from just one single “pain point” in your life. For me, this was self pity and playing the victim. That was my first main pain point that I had to move past in order to reach peace in my life.
Ultimately, recovery is a holistic approach, which means that if you are completely neglecting certain parts of your health–such as your physical health, or your mental status, or your emotional stability–then the overall quality of your life is going to suffer. This means that you need to be very thorough in terms of scanning for these pain points that have the potential to trip you up and make you miserable. Reaching your full potential means that you are always looking for ways to improve yourself by inching closer and closer to real freedom.