The early days of recovery can find us coming up with what seems like a question a minute!
- “What do I do when an old friend calls or comes over to see me?”
- “If I have an urge to drink or use in the middle of the night when no meetings are going on, what do I do?”
- “Who can I trust for advice on how to get clean and sober and stay that way?”
Since this “new way of life” everyone in recovery talks about can be confusing, challenging or downright overwhelming to understand, let alone practice with any sort of regularity, having your anchor tied to a few key concepts—successfully used by literally millions of recovering alcoholics and now-clean addicts on a daily basis—can help immensely when walking forward into the unfamiliar land known as recovery. Here are three of the essentials:
1. Remember, virtually no one recovers on their own.
Sure, your mind will keep telling you things like, “I can handle it,” or “I’d feel weird calling any of these people I don’t know,” or “I was the one who got me into this mess, so I’m responsible to get myself out of it.” But there are plenty of statistics that will confirm recovering from addiction on your own is nothing to bet on or fool around with. It’s a deadly disease that kills millions around the world each year! Besides, help is available in the form of local treatment centers staffed by trained and caring addiction professionals, 12 Steps recovery fellowships, online recovery groups and podcasts, and a variety of other recovery programs. By taking the time to connect with people who have been exactly where you are, you’re starting to strengthen the foundation upon which you can stand and live free of addiction.
2. Since no one can read your mind, reaching out and asking for help is required.
None of us have found it easy to ask for help when we’re new to recovery and don’t know where to turn. But the fact is, all of us—including you—need to start somewhere. So we all learn to stop making excuses, drop the resistance and simply “do it” — turn to someone and acknowledge you’re struggling with how to get and stay clean/sober. Heck, the first step in the 12 Steps doesn’t start with “We admitted” for nothing! Sure, admitting you need help can be one of the hardest things for any of us to do… but it’s also essential for getting the support, understanding, guidance and encouragement we all need to recover from the disease of addiction. And by the way, most of us are surprised, if not astonished, to find a welcoming kindness—not judgment and ridicule—from those we turn to with our request for assistance (if it’s from the resources mentioned above, that is).
3. It’s best not to place too many expectations upon yourself in the early days of recovery.
When any of us finally hit the point (our “bottom”) at which we’ve decided to quit drinking/using and begin our way forward along the path of recovery, it may be like a bright light entering a dark room to hear someone tell us things like, “Hey! Take it easy on yourself… Just for today, don’t drink or use… Keep putting one foot in front of the other… Do the next right thing and give yourself a break (from drinking/using).” The point is, the normal thought process for someone trying to get and stay clean/sober is to feel frustrated, if not hopeless, as though nothing is ever going to change and you’re always going to feel miserable, even if you’re not drinking or using. But the countless numbers of us who have recovered from addiction and live lives free of its enslaving, demoralizing, destructive grip have learned the profound importance of treating ourselves with kindness, compassion and love. This can come in many forms: one day at a time, eating healthier food; bathing and grooming ourselves; getting in at least a little exercise; as best as we’re able, following through on our stated commitments; and—quite importantly—forgiving ourselves when we make mistakes or temporarily don’t achieve the intentions we set for each day. We do our best and accept that when we fall down, we always have a choice to stand up again and go forward from where we are. We consciously acknowledge we’re striving to live new lives, and no longer need to carry around the guilt and shame we’ve burdened ourselves with in the past.
These three tips will hopefully give you some direction and encouragement on your new road to recovery. May you find the freedom you long for and the support you need along the way.