How To Get Your Life Back In Recovery from Addiction

How To Get Your Life Back In Recovery from Addiction

One of the most worrisome aspects of completing addiction treatment and going into recovery is the thought that you may not be able to get your life back. With all the coping mechanisms and knowledge about your addiction fresh in your head, you wonder if your life will be anything other than a dreary and monotonous routine of attending meetings, avoiding people, places and things that trigger using, and leading a nondescript and boring existence. It is true that your new life of sobriety requires careful structure and maintenance. The good news, however, is that you can get your life back in recovery. Here are some tips to help you get there.

Set Your Resolve

You know all about making a decision that may be the toughest one you’ve ever made in your life. You went through that process before you went into treatment. It took a lot of courage – some would say guts – to admit you had a problem and accept treatment. Your genuine commitment to achieving sobriety is a testament to your ability to set your resolve.

Now that you’re in early recovery, you need to set your resolve again. This time, however, you’re resolving to do something positive with your life. To begin with, you only need to instill this thought in your mind. You resolve that you will put forth your best effort to achieve the kind of future that you decide is the path you want to follow. Included and inherent in this resolve is the type of lifestyle that embodies clean and sober living.

Resolve too that you will seek to find the answers to questions that may appear too difficult. Resolve that you will not cave at the first sign of difficulty, or when your emotions threaten to do you in and cause you to relapse. Resolve that you will seek help and support when you need it, instead of being too proud or afraid to ask.

Define Your Goals

Now that you’ve resolved that you will do something positive with your life, you need to define your goals. Having a future that you chart for yourself is probably something that you gave up on long ago, believing that you were somehow unworthy or that anything you really wanted was impossible. Now that you’ve overcome your addiction and are in early recovery is the perfect time to re-examine long-buried hopes and dreams. Resurrect those childhood scenarios of the future when you imagined yourself trekking off to the Himalayas or discovering a cure for cancer or becoming a dancer or having your own business or… You get the idea. Dust off the cobwebs from your childhood dreams and see if there’s something there that you can or want to build on now.

While you’re looking at the kaleidoscope of possibilities running through your mind, jot down on paper anything that jumps out at you as something really exciting or that has promise. It doesn’t matter at this point if it’s only a passing thought. If it intrigues you, that’s something to look closer at later on. Right now, you’re just capturing the essence of what interests you.

For some, defining goals is all about making statements about what they want to achieve in a certain time period. Goals can be short-term or long-term or anywhere in between. In fact, it’s always good to have a mix of both. Short-term goals can be interim steps in pursuit of long-term goals. If your goal is to obtain a college degree, for example, short-term goals would include successful completion of individual classes, semesters and years. Goals can be tangible, such as the purchase of a home, or intangible, such as the satisfaction and love of having children and caring for your family.

Getting your life back in recovery necessitates defining your goals. You can’t move forward with any sense of resolve or purpose if you don’t have goals. So, set your mind to it now and write down your goals.

Make a Plan

Now that you have a few goals written on paper (or in a computerized document), you need to do some more work to help you jumpstart your journey to achieving them. This entails making a plan.

You will need a plan for each of your goals and some plans will be more involved and detailed than others. If your goal is to buy a house, your plan would include accumulating sufficient savings for a down payment, applying for and obtaining a home loan, making an offer to purchase a home, going through the mortgage process all the way through closing, and finally moving into your home. Each step along the way toward achievement of your goal involves following a plan. Much research and hard work will likely be required. Again, some goals will involve more work and take longer to achieve than others.

It isn’t necessary when you begin making your plan that you have all the answers. No one ever does. But when you do think of points that pertain to your plan, jot them down.

Take Action on the Plan

If you make your plan but never take any action, it’s a little like the greatest story never told. But more than that, if you fail to act on your plan, you’ll fall into the trap of never getting your life back in recovery.

Having a plan implies that you do something with the plan. You need to act on it. Your plan to get a college degree (undergraduate or graduate) means you need to enroll in college, obtain financial aid, if necessary, sign up for classes, buy textbooks and other required course materials, attend classes, do homework assignments, take exams, and keep going for each semester.

It’s important to note here that follow-through is critical to the success of any plan. Being in recovery, you know that staying on top of your schedule is something you need to pay attention to.

Along with taking action on your plan, be sure to factor in your recovery needs as well. You don’t want to get so involved in plans and goals that you neglect the important steps in your recovery. In fact, your recovery needs very much to be a part of your action plan, since your overarching goal is sustained recovery. A recovery plan is probably something you worked on in the final phase of your active treatment. Most recovery plans include regular attendance at 12-step group meetings. Make sure you adequately parcel out your time so that you always have room in your schedule for your 12-step meetings. This is one of the most effective ways to help you get your life back in recovery.

Network Like Crazy

With your accumulated knowledge about your addiction and knowing that you have to steer clear of people, places and things that prompt you to use, you’ve no doubt already moved away from problematic relationships. Loneliness in early recovery can be a particularly troublesome emotion. The only way to guard against loneliness – which can easily sabotage recovery – is to make new friends. How you make new friends is to network like crazy.

Start with your 12-step group meetings. There are many different group meetings that you can attend, and there’s nothing that says you can’t attend as many as you like. In fact, until you find a particular group where you feel most comfortable, you’ll probably switch around your meeting attendance quite a bit. Eventually, you’ll settle on one meeting group and this one will become your “home” location, the one you return to weekly – no matter how many other meetings you attend elsewhere. In your home group or the other groups, there are countless people with whom you may find you share things in common.
Acquaintances may become friends. Even if you just listen to the stories of other group members, you may find that you learn something that can help you – in your sobriety, to overcome emotional difficulties, something that pertains to your plan or goals.
Your 12-step sponsor can really prove useful to you throughout your early recovery when you are in the process of getting your life back. Bounce ideas off your sponsor. Ask for feedback. Your sponsor will provide the kind of support and encouragement that you can’t get anywhere else.

Other areas to network include school, work, and recreational and sports venues. As you pursue your goals and carry out your plan, you will come into contact with dozens of people. This offers you endless opportunities to widen your circle of friends. Your expanding network may even lead to additional avenues with respect to your long-term goals.

Get Out and Socialize

Beyond networking, it’s important that you take time to socialize. This is being with friends for the pure sake of enjoyment. It’s not about finding someone who can help you get a promotion, or secure a better interest rate on a loan. You need to exchange conversation and laughter in the normal course of human interaction.

Some individuals in early recovery retreat into a self-imposed isolation, thinking that they need to punish themselves for their past misdeeds. They may also feel that they need to hide themselves away for fear that they may not be able to withstand the temptations of being out in society. Both are ineffective. While residual guilt, shame and remorse may still be prevalent, it’s important that you work through these negative emotions. Do so with your counselor and 12-step sponsor. But do get out and be with friends. Don’t let the fact that you’re a bit rusty hanging out with others who aren’t drinking or using keep you from making the attempt. It will get easier the more often you do it. And who says you have to be the most scintillating conversationalist? Just be yourself. Put your best foot forward. Be open and honest (but don’t spill your guts about your past to every person you meet) and the rest will fall into place naturally.

Pay Attention to Family

Your most important allies – next to your 12-step sponsor and fellow group attendees – are your family members. Perhaps your addiction led to strained relationships with one or more family members, or you may feel saddled with guilt over the pain you’ve caused a partner, children, or others in your close family. Part of your plan to get your life back in recovery has to involve rebuilding these critical relationships.

Even if your family stuck by you through your darkest days of addiction and through treatment, they still need – and deserve – your love and presence in your recovery. Now, in fact, is the most appropriate time to begin to share with them how much their support and encouragement has meant to you. You’d be surprised at how important this kind of acknowledgement can be when expressed to those who love you and whom you love.

After your own needs in recovery, your family should come first. Always pay attention to family. It is another essential part of getting your life back in recovery.

Analyze Achievements

As you move along with your plan, coincident with working your 12-steps in recovery, take some time periodically to analyze how far you’ve come. Look at the achievements you’ve made in the past 3, 6, and 9 months. In terms of your sobriety, attaining your 30-day, 3-month, and 6-month chips, and one-year medallion are terrific achievements that should be high on your list.

Refine Your Plan as Necessary

You may find that you’ve discovered a niche area where you’ve excelled, despite having no prior realization that this was something that really interested you. Being tops in your class in foreign languages or math or science, for example, may lead you to want to pursue other classes in this area. You may even wish to change your major, or add this new field of study as a minor.

Things happen in the pursuit of goals that require alteration of plans. Some goals open up new avenues that may prove more desirable.

Be flexible enough to modify and refine your plan as necessary. Remember that recovery is a lifelong journey. How you get there is very much a matter of being true to yourself and following your dreams. If that means altering your course to include discovery of new things, then that’s all the better. It means you are in charge of your life and firmly rooted in recovery.

Make Room for Love

Thinking about getting your life back in recovery wouldn’t be complete without including love. It takes a wholeness of mind-body-spirit to allow for the possibility of love, and that is definitely something to look forward to. Of course, you can’t go looking for love. If you try to do so, you’ll usually chase it away.

In the purest sense, love comes naturally, when two souls meet and the chemistry – gradually or suddenly – brings them together out of an innate desire to give to each other without thought for themselves. There’s physical love, consummated by two partners, and platonic love, which has no sexual union. There’s also fraternal, paternal, maternal, sibling, and familial love. You can love nature, love God or your higher power, love life.

Whatever your definition and concept of love, make room for it in your life. Love enriches the spirit and makes life brighter and full of promise. In your quest to get your life back in recovery, therefore, make room for love and allow love into your life. You do deserve it. We all do.

Find relief in recovery. Life gets better with addiction treatment.

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