I’ve been working One-On-One with a gentleman with full blown addictions to drugs and alcohol recently and after my recent post titled 10 Recommendations For A Healthy Future referencing how to beat an addictive compulsion when you've not crossed the line into addictive disease, he requested that I write a list for him.
So, this is written for people in early Addiction Recovery and for their families to read and gain a better insight into the life of a recovering addict / alcoholic.
Everyone who is seeking help for themselves or a loved one should understand that addiction (to alcohol, drugs, food, sex, gambling, etc) is a disease, and not some sort of moral failing or a weakness, or a lack of willpower, or even a simple inability to just say 'No'.
Addiction cannot be cured, but it can be managed. It can be halted. We can heal from it and we do recover! One day at a time it is very possible to be in remission and to go on to live happy and healthy lives.
Getting help either from a professional or another recovering addict / alcoholic (usually through the 12 Step Fellowships) that understands that addiction is a disease, is vital in the journey towards a successful recovery. By following the recommendations of people who've got personal experience and who help others either for altruistic reasons or in their professional capacity will allow for the very best chance at recovery with a bright and happy future.
Here are my 10 Tips for a successful recovery:
- Make Your Recovery Your Priority
It’s really very important, particularly during the early stages of your recovery, that you take it seriously and commit to whatever is being asked of you by whoever you empower to teach you – Sober Coach, Therapist, Counsellor, Treatment Peer Group, Sponsor, Other Recovering Addicts / Alcoholics, etc, Put yourself first but keep your Recovery your primary focus. You may not get a second chance at recovery. There are far too many people that never survive their addiction and the chances of an overdose after someone’s had a period of being drug and alcohol free rises so significantly that all relapses are major opportunities for death by misadventures (overdose). I don’t mean to scare you, but respect the recovery you’ve got and you’ll never have to play Russian Roulette again.
- Fellowship rather than Isolate
Addiction can be very lonely place to exist within, so Recovery has to be the opposite and be full of other people. You may find it tough at first to be around other people, but never forget just how tough it is to maintain an addiction, especially once the fun has left. If you’re struggling to be around people in early recovery, remind yourself of the consequences and the feelings you were experiencing at the end of your addiction. The Fellowship or support system you create around yourself will give you a massive boost and keep you accountable to a new group of friends. They will be there when you need them and they will help you stay motivated and focused.
- Join a 12 Step Fellowship & Choose Your Home Group
There are 12 Step Groups for all types of addictions and for many other disorders these days such as Anorexia / Bulimia, Depression, OCD, Rape / Incest Survivors, Veterans, etc. I have found my particular 12 Step Fellowship to be a wonderful source of companionship, unity and resourceful people. It will provide you such wonderful value, help and wisdom to your own recovery efforts that it goes without saying that this is one of the ‘musts’ to a successful long term recovery.
- One Day At A Time – ODAAT
This is a Recovery slogan and could be considered a bit of a cliché – but it really is an accurate assessment of the daily programme of recovery – we get to stay on track in recovery just one day at a time – at least until you've worked the full 12 step programme and seen how your recovery programme will be working on autopilot. Remember, Recovery is a journey and not a destination. You may well struggle with obsessive thoughts and yearn for some of your old pastimes, especially at the beginning, but these too shall pass. Don’t let these thoughts get the best of you. Keep an open mind, remain teachable and discover new techniques to overcome your negative thoughts and feelings, whilst remembering that sometimes the best we can do is not drink or drug one day, or one hour, or 5 minutes, or even 10 seconds at a time.
- Change Things. Change Everything. (Well, maybe not everything)
The most effective way to maintain a healthy recovery is to replace your bad habits with healthy, new ones. Surround yourself with positive people, and begin enjoying those things you used to enjoy before your addiction took over – family, books, music, comedy, theatre, DIY, gardening, exercise, etc. Search out cultural events and activities in your area that can stimulate your body and mind in a new, exciting and healthy way. These days there are a great many FaceBook Groups which serve local communities and geographical zones which can be a really useful way to connect with other similar minded people with whom you can share your hobbies and pastimes.
- Change your friends (at least temporarily)
When I wrote that you needed to change everything, this does include some of your friends. I don’t mean all your friends, but certainly those that have been part of drinking or using history and assisting you to engage in your addiction instead of helping you to remain safe and out of trouble. Many of these friends will be long term friends with whom you may struggle to let go off. Don't worry. This is temporary. Once you've got a reasonable amount of addiction free time behind you you'll find yourself strong enough to return to meet those friends again without the risk of relapse. But when we're new to recovery, relapse is very high and being amongst friends who are using or getting drunk is very dangerous. Those friends that may jeopardise your recovery need to be supplemented with new ones – at least for the time being. When you’ve got a good period of recovery time behind you then you can consider returning to see how they’re getting on. But until then, stay safe and keep yourself surrounded by healthy friends, not drinking or using ones. The right friends will help you to maintain a healthy recovery.
- Move Your Body And Feed Yourself Appropriately
It’s scientifically proven that movement helps shift our endorphins around and gives us a natural high. Spending just 30 minutes walking the dog or get active at the gym for an hour even just a few days a week will do wonders for your spirit and positivity. Exercise will not only boost your physical strength, it will boost your emotional and mental health as well. The subject of nutrition and diet is also really important; especially once you’re through the initial stages of detoxing. In addition to exercise, eating right is another key ingredient to a happy and healthy recovery. One counter point I will make is that when someone comes off alcohol their body will be craving the sugars contained in their booze and therefore it may be useful for someone who’s in a state of withdrawal to eat sugary snacks like chocolate and sweets. Taking care of what you eat and drink will make you healthier mentally and physically.
- Work, Volunteer, Contribute and Serve
Being a productive human being is one of the very cornerstones of our existence and the evolution of civilisation. Humans and indeed every creature with a developed brain (from what I can tell) lives on this planet actively attempting to achieve it’s daily goals – even if they’re just feeding and breeding. Humans need the stimulation of activity more than any other creature on the planet and therefore sitting at home doing nothing simply cannot contribute towards a happy or healthy recovery lifestyle. Get a your job (if you’ve not already got one) or go back into education (if you’re not already educated in the field you want to explore). Volunteer yourself in a sector you’d like to work in and see where the journey leads you. And possibly most importantly, find ways to be useful to other people. It’s said that “The Secret To Living Is Giving” and since addiction is linked so much to selfishness, it doesn’t take too much to understand that Recovery must be linked to selflessness, generosity, kindness and contribution. So if you see how you can bring something positive into other people’s lives, you’ll certainly feel much better about yourself whilst focusing on them and their challenges. Making a positive contribution at home, work or for others will give you a wonderful sense of accomplishment and pride. Discover how great it is to get out of your head, but focusing on others.
- Find a Power Greater Than Your Addiction And Discover Your Higher Purpose
There is no getting away from the fact that you’re going to need a big reason to stop and stay stopped permanently, especially once you’re in recovery. Just because you know it’s the right thing to do and it’s what everyone wants you to do may not be enough when the obsession hits you. You may need to dig deeper and have a bigger reason. Maybe you feel it’s your life’s calling to work with animals or invent something that solves a problem or you want to start a family or something that resonates with you and drives your passions or fuels your ambitions. The important thing here is to not get in to recovery just for the sake of beating your addiction, but more to beat it and to go on to live a fulfilling and nurturing life. Many people in recovery discover a source of inspiration or motivation or spiritual fulfillment within their recovery. The very things they may have been searching for within their addiction now reveals itself to people in their recovery. Some turn to religion, though this is by no means compulsory or even essential. But what is important is that you discover a source whether within you or outside of you that is more powerful than your addiction. This is a very useful metaphor for beating your addiction and most people in recovery have used it as a source of strength to overcome their obsessions or compulsive thinking.
- Never give up
The path to Recovery isn’t complicated, but there may well be times when it feels overwhelming or challenging. Whatever you do, regardless of the problems or obstacles life throws at you, don’t give up or give in to your addiction. No matter how many times it takes you to get your recovery flowing automatically as part of your new way of life, always pick yourself up and have another go – after all, the alternatives are not pretty – prison, hospitalisation or even an early grave. Permit your friends, family and colleagues continue to encourage you to keep you going, what you face in the way of temptations, challenging moments or difficult days.
The 12 Step Fellowships have a 12 Step Programme.
We strongly suggest you work the whole 12 Step Programme before you pass judgement on whether it works or not. Far too frequently people say to me that they've tried the 12 steps and they don't work, but yet they've never actually worked the 12 step programme. They may have been to some meetings but they've not actually engaged in the 12 step programme. It's like they've gone to a gym, stood there and gazed at other people exercising on the machines, but not actually got onto a machine themselves and then complained that they've not lost any weight and that exercise doesn't help. The whole point is that when you go to the gym you're expected to go on the equipment and work out - not just be a spectator. The same is true of the 12 Step Fellowships - so work the 12 steps as well as attending the meetings please.