You have to give yourself credit for sobriety. Some struggling addicts and alcoholics have not yet learned how to do this.
If you are constantly beating yourself up in recovery then it is very difficult to feel good about yourself.
The idea is that you are healing. Allow yourself to feel healed, to feel healthy.
Do not deny yourself the rewards of recovery based on guilt.
Do not beat yourself up if you are still stuck in addiction, but do take action
If you feel like you are stuck in your recovery then there is a simple solution:
Do take action. Don’t beat yourself up, but on the other hand, make sure you are taking action. There is a fine line there because some people will get caught in a cycle where they are not taking any positive action in recovery, then they start beating themselves up over it. Then they “punish” themselves by being lazy and not taking any action. Don’t do this! Instead, you need to snap out of it and take some sort of action.
If you find yourself trapped in this cycle of inactivity, my suggestion to you is that you deliberately go out of your way to get inspired so that you start taking positive action. In most cases that will mean that you need to seek help outside of yourself in order to get motivated. There is nothing wrong with doing this and you should not feel ashamed in the least. Go ask for help. That is what recovery is all about. One addict or alcoholic helping another to find a better life. Take advantage of this concept!
You can do so by reaching out to your peers in recovery, or to a sponsor if you have one. You can even take cues from a therapist or counselor if you are seeing one. If you do not have any of those options available to you, then you have some work to do! Go find some connections in your recovery. Find people who are in recovery and who are willing to talk with you. If you have to, go to AA or NA meetings. There are always people at meetings who are willing to give advice and make suggestions. Trust me, if you want suggestions about how to take positive action in your life, and you ask for that advice at the beginning of an AA meeting, you WILL get feedback and advice. This is actually a very powerful technique that most people never take advantage of.
Of course, to really take advantage of it you have to get honest. You have to be honest with yourself and then you have to share that honesty with others. You need to tell people where you are really at in your recovery and then ask them what your course should be. Then you have to actually listen to their advice and try to apply it in your life. This is the second major hurdle (after getting honest). You have to actually follow through on the advice they give you.
So that is two tough tasks that you need to complete:
1) Get really honest with yourself, and with others.
2) Take the advice you are given and actually apply it in your life. Take action.
Of course, if you do both of these things then your life will transform and things will get better and better every single day. Keep doing these things and your life will just continue to get better. It really is amazing. It’s also pretty hard to do and therefore it is rare that a person actually follows through and takes this advice. Listening to others is not easy. Following through on their advice is not easy. But the rewards are huge.
If you can take these two suggestions and actually implement them, give yourself credit for doing so!
Any alcoholic or drug addict who is in treatment is like a miracle
If you are clean and sober today then you are a miracle. Any alcoholic or drug addict who is clean and sober right now is like a little miracle.
You may argue that you are “just like normal people” at this point and that it is no big deal that you are no longer ruining your life and self destructing with drugs and alcohol. This is the wrong way to look at it though. Instead, you need to realize that most addicts and alcoholics simply die from the disease and never get any help. I made an infographic one time and the statistic I remember is that up to 87 percent of alcoholics never even seek treatment or help at all. Period! So almost 9 out of 10 alcoholics never even try to get sober. And of those who do try, many will relapse and fail. Those are pretty staggering odds if you ask me. And here you are, (hopefully) clean and sober today, reading this as if you are not even special. But trust me, you are. Any alcoholic who has found sobriety is a miracle who should definitely count their blessings. The biggest blessing is that you are sober today. What a gift. What an opportunity. Never forget that and stay grateful!
Healed people heal people–therefore your sobriety has tremendous value!
I have a sponsor in recovery and that person also has a sponsor. So this sponsor of my sponsor is my “grand sponsor.” And I was talking with him a while back and he told me about this concept that he is exploring in his life. The concept is “healed people heal people.”
It is sort of like a “pay it forward” kind of thing. And if you look at how sponsorship and recovery works then you can see this concept in action. If you can take someone in addiction and turn their life around, then they can actually start to help others alcoholics who are struggling and help to turn their life around as well. So you have this first order effect where the sober alcoholic can then go on to help more alcoholics sober up. But then of course you can also have second order effects where THOSE alcoholics that just got helped who can now go on and help others as well.
So you can find someone who is drinking every day and bringing all sorts of madness and chaos into the world and if you can sober them up then you can actually reverse that trend. That person can go on to help others find sobriety and so instead of just eliminating the chaos in the world you can actually reduce it many times over. Healed people go on to heal more people.
If you are part of this chain of healing then you need to give yourself massive credit. Maybe you do not work directly in trying to sober other people up but if you are sober today then you are setting an example that is probably more important than you believe. Just being sober is a beacon to other struggling alcoholics. You are part of their healing process if you can set an example of sobriety.
The simple way to jump into this cycle of healing is to get involved with traditional recovery and sponsorship. That way you can directly affect others in recovery who are looking for help with their alcoholism. If you work with them and help to heal them then they can go on to heal others as well. As you can imagine, you get a pretty big boost to your recovery when you get involved with this sort of healing cycle. Making a difference in the lives of others gives your own sobriety a tremendous boost.
How to actively manage your personal growth in recovery so that you remain sober
If you are clean and sober today then that is a miracle. With that miracle comes the responsibility of protecting your sobriety.
Any alcoholic can drink at any moment. If you are actively working a program of recovery then this is not an immediate threat. It is always a possibility but that does not mean that you have to live in constant fear of relapse. Nor does it mean that you could become unlucky suddenly and relapse just because your number came up or something.
You can protect your sobriety by taking action. If you want to remain clean and sober then there are certain things that you have to do in order to maintain the positive direction in your life. You took action in order to become sober, and you must keep taking action in order to maintain sobriety.
The most common reason that people relapse in long term sobriety is because they stop taking positive action. They stop growing. Their personal growth stagnates and they get lazy. This happens very slowly over time and before you know it, a drink or a drug starts sounding pretty good to them. Conditions have to be just right and then suddenly they will relapse. Expect that it is really not sudden, it just seems that way. In fact, the relapse started long ago when they stopped taking positive action, they stopped pushing themselves to improve their life every day.
Recovery is a quest of personal growth. You should be excited about the positive changes and the positive action you are taking in recovery. If you are not excited about it then you have a task ahead of you. Your task is to get inspired and get excited and to start taking positive action again.
It is OK if you find yourself drifting a bit in recovery. There will be times like this for everyone, where you get distracted from personal growth and lose focus. But you must always recognize this and then bring yourself back. Realign yourself with positive action. There are many ways to do this. One way is by asking for help and feedback from your sponsor or your peers. They can help you to see when you are drifting away from personal growth.
Some people argue that this is not the ideal way to live in recovery. They believe that you should focus on self acceptance so much that you no longer push yourself to grow and make changes. I disagree with this. I believe that you should always have a new goal, a new area of growth to explore, a new idea for how you can improve your life or become healthier.
Ask yourself: What do you have to lose by pushing yourself to improve your life? If you can enjoy the ride, then the direction of your life should be “upward.” You should be improving your life and yourself as long as this does not hinder your enjoyment of life.
Relapse happens when things go bad for a really long time. Think carefully about this. You will not relapse unless things in your life have become screwed up for a really long time. Things don’t just get bad for a day or two and this causes relapse. It doesn’t work like that. You don’t relapse in a day, or even in a week. It takes longer than that. The seeds of relapse get planted well in advance. Just ask anyone who has relapsed at an AA meeting how it unraveled for them. Ask them how long ago they really relapsed before actually picking up that drink. They will always tell you that it was months beforehand when things started to slide downhill. Things got bad, then they stayed bad, for several months….before they actually picked up a drink.
This is vital information. You can use this to help you prevent relapse. Obviously, the key to preventing this sort of thing from happening is to embrace a process that can overcome this sort of “slide” down into relapse. That process is one of personal growth. If your life is improving then you are not going to pick up a drink and relapse. If you are working on yourself and your life situation and constantly improving it then you are not going to be prone to relapse.
There are two ways that you can think about this sort of “life improvement” when it comes to relapse prevention:
1) Improving your life (internal).
2) Improving your life situation (external).
Both of these things are important.
Many people in recovery focus on one of these paths at the expense of the other. What you want to do is to make sure that you spend time and energy on both of these paths of growth.
Therefore you will work to improve your life both internally and externally.
Externally, you will change the “people, places, and things” that can help to make a difference in your recovery. So you will associate with positive people. Maybe you will find a new place of work. Or maybe you will get a new place to live that has more positive people around. You can make changes in your external world that can help lead to a healthier life in recovery.
Internally, you can work on improving your life in a way that helps to prevent relapse. For example, maybe you have all sorts of resentments that caused you to want to drink. If this is the case then you should go find a sponsor and work through the steps with them. Alleviating these resentments will go a long way in helping to prevent relapse. This is internal work that you must do. You are making changes on the inside, rather than focusing on the external world.
Both of these are important. The reason they are both important is because both your internal and external world have potential triggers for relapse. If you want to protect your sobriety then you need to address both of those areas.
How to find positive habits each day so that your life continuously improves over time
You become what you do every day.
Your life is made up of action. Your thoughts may seem like they are really important to you, but really it is what you actually do every day that starts to mold and shape who you become.
Your life is a series of actions.
And if you look back at the past ten or twenty years, you can simply add up all of the actions that you have taken in life and arrive at where you are now. It all adds up to your present reality. Reality doesn’t lie.
Therefore if you want to change who you become in the future, you need to focus on changing your actions.
Specifically, I suggest that you start establishing habits that have the power to create a new direction of health in your life.
For example, you might go to your recovery circles and ask people what sort of habits they engage in. Ask someone who has several years sober what they do every day. What does their day consist of? What do they really do with their time?
Ask several people in recovery. Because there are many different ways to establish healthy habits in recovery.
One trend that I noticed during this phase of my recovery was that my sponsor exercised on a regular basis. I talked with some other people in recovery (including one therapist) and they said that they exercised on a regular basis as well. Everyone was suggesting that I get more physically active in my life, and that this might help me in my recovery.
Honestly, at the time I did not see it. I thought it was a waste of time and therefore a stupid suggestion. But eventually I heard the suggestion from enough sources that I decided there must be something to it. So I took action.
This is where the real key is. You must take action. Nothing changed for me until I dove in and took action. Just thinking about it did not help. Coming up with excuses and reasons why I did not need to exercise was not helping me. It was all just mental noise until I finally decided to take some action. As you can guess, after I took action and committed to regular exercise, I got a lot of benefit out of it.
There were other suggestions that I took in this very same way that did not work out. They have a saying in recovery: “Take what you need and leave the rest.” You can only do this when you actually implement ideas and test them out for yourself. Someone might suggest that you meditate every day in order to relieve stress. Will this actually help your recovery? You will never know unless you test it out! Don’t judge the idea or rule it out completely until you have tested it for yourself. This is what I was doing with the idea of exercise for a long time. I judged it as being useless before I had actually tried it. When I finally tried it I found that it helped me out a great deal.
This is why being open minded is so important in recovery. You have no idea what will actually help you the most, and you won’t know for sure until you have tried many different things. You might call these actions “mistakes” if they do not work out for you, but in reality you have to try different things in life in order to find out what is most effective for you.
Through testing different suggestions you can eventually discover the daily habits that will lead you to a better life in recovery.
I had to take many suggestions and test different ideas before I finally found the habits that have led me to a better life. I did not discover some of these daily habits until my third or fourth year of sobriety! Stay open to new ideas and be willing to test things out for yourself.
And, give yourself credit for doing so! This is part of the reward of recovery, that you get to explore new ways to live and thus improve your life.