“The only constant in life is change.” – Heraclitus
In the past week, three separate people in my recovery network have told me they’re facing a variety of “significant challenges” in their lives:
- One says his teenaged daughter has recently begun talking about an out-of-state college she wants to attend (she’d never previously brought up going to college at all, let alone one far from home).
- Another recovering friend, having just sold his house (where he and his family have lived for 15 years), is now feeling anxious about finding a new place to live.
- An “old-timer” I know (with many years clean and sober) just found out from his doctor he has cancerous polyps in his colon.
What do all these people have in common? They’re each having to deal with big changes in their lives. And isn’t it true that people generally—and alcoholics/addicts in particular—don’t like change. Right? We resist it, we create strategies to avoid it, and we certainly complain about it.
But in recovery, we learn the importance of “facing life on life’s terms.”
Yes, if we want to deal most effectively with the major changes that sometimes arise, and if we want to do so clean and sober, we need to draw upon the strong foundation we’ve been building in recovery, as we’ve gone forward with replacing our old patterns of thinking and behaving—rampant with avoidance, denial, dishonesty and fear—with healthy, less self-centered, spiritual principles.
So with this in mind, what are some of the best tips for dealing with change-… or even better, for embracing and successfully navigating change?
The list below is a compilation of four valuable suggestions that countless people in recovery have used to help them favorably make their way through major life changes without drinking or using:
- Regardless of what you’re facing, maintain daily self-care. This includes, but is not limited to proper diet, sleep and exercise. Also, if you currently have any health problems, see a medical doctor and follow his or her guidance. Dealing well with the anxiety and stress that major life changes bring on requires sustaining your health and wellness, as much as possible.
- Talk with and stay connected to supportive people, especially your sponsor, treatment center counselor or therapist, and those in your recovery network. Share your thoughts and feelings with them about what you’re going through, and strive to be open-minded about their points of view. You do not have to “go it alone” through the changes you’re facing. Caring help is readily available, but it’s up to you to ask for it.
- Pick up a pen and paper and write about the change(s) you’re facing. Reflect on what options you have, and make a “pros & cons” list, identifying the likely advantages and disadvantages of each alternative path you can take. By getting an honest, clear-eyed look at your options, your decision-making will be more well-informed and presumably bring forward the best possible result.
- Pray to your Higher Power for guidance and strength. By invoking your Higher Power’s assistance, by asking in prayer that your Higher Power help you navigate the significant change(s) you’re facing, you’re more likely to step forward with greater clarity, reassurance and faith, since you won’t be relying solely on your limited mind and senses (or your ego’s demands).
We all must occasionally deal with major changes in our lives. However, we’ll be able to do so with greater clarity, courage and strength—and with less stress, drama and emotional upheaval—if we make use of some of the principles (listed above) passed along to us by our predecessors who’ve previously made their way through similar life changes, without relapsing or acting out.