“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” — Robert Collier, Bestselling New Thought Author
I recently was asked to “share my story” of recovery from addiction with a group of about a dozen people in a Zoom meeting. In the midst of my sharing, it occurred to me that for the past 23 years I’ve been “clean and sober,” free from the obsession and compulsion to drink or use drugs, largely because I’ve chosen to, one day at a time, keep doing what I did in the early days of my recovery.
In other words, I’ve stuck with the same recovery routine that helped me get clean and sober in the first place!
This may seem like no big insight or revelation, but the fact is, I’ve often heard (more times than I can count) the same refrain from people returning to recovery after having relapsed and been “out there” drinking and/or using drugs until they were “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” (In my opinion, they all were damn lucky to have made it back before winding up dead, incarcerated or in an institution.)
Here are some of the ‘reasons for relapse’ I’ve heard:
- “I got so busy with work, I stopped calling my sponsor and people in my recovery network.”
- “I thought I had things handled, so I quit going to meetings.”
- “My relationship with my wife/husband and kids (if any) was taking up all my free time, so I began cutting back more and more on my recovery activities.”
- “I stopped praying and meditating.”
- “I began isolating.”
- “I wasn’t putting in any time on my spiritual growth or the connection to my Higher Power.”
The common denominator here should be pretty obvious, but it bears acknowledging, loudly and clearly. What people learn in recovery—whether from treatment or 12 Steps programs (or both)—is how to live a new life, how to navigate forward using a totally different set of skills and attitudes than they’d previously had.
This new life we learn in recovery has some “basics” that help us get free of our addiction and replace “old thinking and behaviors” with new ones. Some of the keys to freedom I learned early in recovery included (in no particular order):
- Don’t drink or use, no matter what.
- Stay connected to your recovery network (and 12 Steps sponsor, where applicable) via daily phone calls or Zoom/Skype calls (yes, texts and e-mails can be part of one’s recovery, but there’s no substitute for sharing ‘where you’re at’ with someone “live”).
- Keep the development of your spiritual connection front and center using whatever means works for you (e.g., daily prayer, meditation, yoga, walking in nature, etc.).
- Keep growing your understanding of both addiction and recovery via daily reading of recovery-oriented literature.
- Maintain self-awareness of what’s working and what’s not working in your life via a daily inventory (for example, through writing in a journal, reflecting on the highs and lows of your day and envisioning what you can do differently to achieve better results, etc.)
- Being of service to others (which can take many forms—helping someone who’s new to recovery, volunteering in the community, participating in local recovery-related activities, etc.)
The bottom line is this: In active addiction, I was extremely self-centered, dishonest, and perpetually anxious or fearful. In order to break those patterns, the treatment staff and my predecessors in recovery shared with me what had worked for countless people who were seeking freedom from active addiction. What they presented to me—principles of recovery and powerful strategies for transforming my behavior and thinking (including those listed in the bullet-points directly above)—gave me a new life, in which I’ve continued to recover more and more of who I truly am, one day at a time.
By maintaining a commitment to the daily practice of these recovery activities and principles, I’ve had sanity and serenity restored to my life, as well as an ever-growing sense of well-being and purpose, and more harmonious relations with my family, friends and work associates.
If I want these same results to keep coming forward and grow even more so, I need to, at the very least, continue following the recovery routine that got me clean and sober in the first place, no matter what!