Minimalism in Recovery

Minimalism in Recovery


I have been thinking more and more about what is really, truly important in recovery from addiction.

My answer to myself: not much.

That is not to say that nothing matters, or that nothing is important. It is just that none of the usual stuff seems to matter much….none of the daily grind that I tend to get all caught up in and carried away with.

And yet I still get distracted. So how to focus on what is really important in our lives?

Everett Bogue says:

The secret to focusing on the important is simple:

  • Turn off the TV.
  • Donate your junk.
  • Turn off your smart phone.
  • Quit your day job.
  • Stop buying stuff that doesn’t matter.
  • Cultivate silence.
  • Work on your art.
  • Have your own ideas.
  • Push for change.
  • Do something that matters.

He is talking about creating a business, making art, or writing a novel, but I think this stuff applies beautifully to recovery as well.

Think about it: as an addict or an alcoholic, we are basically consumers. We consume everything in sight. Drugs, alcohol, people, and so on. We use stuff up and we constantly demand more.

Everyone knows that the addict’s favorite word is “more.”

Addiction leads to tolerance. And that means we need more. More, more, more. It becomes a mantra and a mindset. We consume in order to live. Drugs and alcohol, but other stuff too. Some addicts become dependent on people as well, and have a tendency to use them, too. Some addicts have a tendency to do a lot of things to excess.

I have always said that addiction is complex. We want for it to be very simple, but in fact, our addiction affected us very deeply in several different areas of our lives. But a huge part of addiction is this “consumption mindset,” I think. We are simply wired to consume as much as possible in order to fulfill ourselves.

So the idea of minimalism in recovery is intriguing. If you network with others in recovery who have significant time, you will notice that many recovering addicts tend to drift toward a simpler life. They eliminate. They declutter. They streamline their life.

So many addicts and alcoholics have chaos in their lives that is left over from active addiction. The successful path in recovery demands that we manage this chaos, minimize it, eliminate it.

Less becomes more in recovery. We clear away the chaos in order to enjoy the simple things in life. We learn to appreciate simplicity and peace.

Some advantages of minimalism

Consider the idea of minimalism in recovery for a moment. Less can be more. Minimalism is an ideal we can strive for in recovery from addiction, but should we?
I tend to think that we should. For example, when practicing minimalism in my life, I enjoy the following benefits:

  • Less stress, less headaches.
  • Less mental baggage over stuff. Less mental baggage over responsibilities. (For example, no person practicing minimalism would work 2 full time jobs, just so they could buy more stuff).
  • Enjoying experiences rather than focusing on buying stuff. Appreciating the simple things in life without demanding expensive toys to be happy. Avoiding materialism and consumerism.
  • More free time. Less work. Less grind. Less need for money. Less obsession over money. More peace of mind.
  • Less debt. More financial freedom. Less worry. More freedom.

Take another look at Everett’s list. The first half of the list is how you declutter your life and eliminate all the noise. The second part of the list is how you hone in on what is truly important to you and start doing work in your life that really matters. You can’t really embrace the second half of the list until you address the first part.

You have to simplify before you can narrow your focus on what is really important to you.

Recovery from addiction represents a similar transformation. They talk about “changing people, places, and things” that tripped us up in active addiction.

We have to walk away from a life of chaos in order to change in recovery. We have to eliminate some stuff. Most of us have to eliminate quite a lot of stuff in order to really change our lives.

Minimalism does not have to be extreme to be useful. You do not have to sell your home, your car, and all your worldly possessions to gain benefit from a minimalist lifestyle. But you might think about some of these principles and how they can affect your recovery, and how they might change you spiritually.

I have lived for over 3 years now without owning a television. No tv, period. What a liberating experience. Highly recommended. On the other hand, I believe it is more important to avoid extremism than it is to practice minimalism. I still have a computer, a cell phone, and a car. But giving up television for several years has had a profound and positive effect on my life, to be sure.

What do I do when I am not watching tv? Two things come to mind, both are fairly “minimal” in nature: I run (physical exercise), and I connect with other addicts and alcoholics in recovery. Sure, there are other things that come into play, but those 2 activities both play a huge role in my recovery, and they both get a lot of my time and attention.

Exercise and networking with others in recovery. Does it have to be more complicated than that? Probably not. And of course, you don’t have to give up television to do those 2 things, or to do anything else for that matter.

But thinking about minimalism can still be a huge eye opener for people.

“Work on your art.” What does this mean? For some people, it might involve working with others in recovery. You don’t have to be painting a canvas. You might change the world in other ways. For me, networking with others in recovery has become something of an art form. I don’t just do it mindlessly….I focus on it. I practice it. I strive for improvement.

This speaks to the idea of personal growth, too. If you are too busy consuming stuff then you can’t practice your art.

I am going to say that again because it is darn profound, and probably gets at the heart of what I am trying to say here: if you are too busy consuming, then you cannot focus on the important.

What is important? Creation. Hence, the creative theory of recovery.

You have to actively create a new life for yourself in recovery. It is not enough to stop the drugs and alcohol and merely drift through life, passively consuming stuff or entertainment purposes. It doesn’t work. I know this, because I have watched people relapse trying to do it. You have to create.

It takes energy. It take motivation. And, you have to focus on the important. Does that mean you have to be an extreme minimalist? No. But it does mean that you have to find new priorities in your life when you stop using drugs or alcohol.

Clear away the chaos and focus on the important. Do not expect external stuff to fill your life with joy and passion. Working overtime in order to buy a bigger flat screen television is not the path to nirvana, especially for a recovering addict or alcoholic who is wired to keep chasing that next high. It just doesn’t work in the long run.

You can be happy with less.

Eliminate, declutter, and simplify your life. This will give you the power and the freedom to create what you truly want out of life.

The key to successful recovery is creation. And that requires a blank canvas of sorts.

How cluttered is your life? Are you in a position to create a new reality for yourself?

Consume less. Create more.

Learn more about the creative theory of recovery.

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