If you’re anything like me, you know your early days in recovery and the time you spent learning about addiction and recovery (whether in treatment or 12 Steps fellowships or both) were priceless, offering you an entire toolbox full of perspectives and practices for establishing a foundation for a new way of life, free from active addiction.
Our new understandings about the nature of the disease of addiction and how we can best treat it through practicing the principles of recovery in our lives – these “tools” actually amount to our daily lifeline for growing in sanity and serenity, deepening our connection with a higher power, and enabling us to have healthy relationships and fulfilling personal and professional lives.
But for us to stay “clean and sober” outside of treatment or 12 Steps recovery meeting rooms, it’s essential we make such tools a part of our daily “recovery maintenance” plan.
Ask any “old-timer” whose recovery you respect or who “shows up” each day of their life in ways you admire. I’m certain you’ll hear, in so many words, the “bottom line” is consistent practice of the same principles that got them clean/sober in the first place!
Although there are many recovery tools to choose from, here are 3 of the “daily basics” to help you along in your recovery journey:
- Be vigilant about “old habits” creeping back into your thinking or behavior. If you catch yourself romanticizing about your past drinking or using days, make use of the coping skills or adaptive strategies you learned in treatment or the 12 Steps rooms, which may include “playing out the tape” to envision the kind of result that behavior or action would lead to. Another approach would be to call up your 12 Steps sponsor, a counselor from treatment or a friend in recovery and “tell on yourself,” letting them know what you’ve been thinking and feeling. Oftentimes, simply opening up to a trusted person in your recovery circle can be like shining a light on any dark place that may have arisen in your mind or heart, dispelling it and robbing it of its ability to hold your attention.
- Avoid the “people, places and things” you identify with substance use. When you’re tempted to go to an event at which you’d formerly be drinking or using, where you can assume there’ll be potential relapse triggers, fill up that date and time by getting together with someone in your recovery network. Similarly, if you get a call from or run into an old “playmate”—someone with whom you drank or used—set a healthy boundary for yourself to deal with any peer pressure, by letting them know you’re in recovery, are clean/sober and are committed to a new way of life free from drugs and alcohol. (Then, get yourself moving in the direction of your previous destination or thank them for calling and end the call.)
- Be of service to others. The disease of addiction has been characterized as a disease of “self-centeredness.” In order to heal and transform that severely ingrained habit, we’ve learned in recovery to continually keep our eyes, minds and hearts open to how we can be helpful to others, showing care for them in our actions and our words. The fact is, whether we ourselves have very little or a great amount, there are always opportunities to show someone kindness or assist them in some meaningful way. Whether it be family members in need, a friend who could use a hand with something, a coworker who would benefit from some assistance, your time spent helping another person brings something they didn’t have to their lives, enhances your own sense of usefulness and self-worth, and strengthens the power of your recovery within you.
By consciously and daily making use of these and the many other tools of recovery we’ve learned, we find we’re able to maintain our ongoing development of a foundation upon which we can stand and live truly free and fulfilling lives, one day at a time.