I am proud of my recovery thus far and I will continue to put in the work that is needed to keep my feet, head and heart moving in the right direction.
If you were to tell the drug and alcohol riddled me in the late spring of 2003 that I would be 12 years sober (and counting) and that I would still be slanging the bass in a rock and roll band and making my living writing for an addiction recovery website…forget it…no way.
It’s funny and awesome how things can work out.
As I keep my focus on learning and growing in my recovery and embracing both the good and bad in my journey, there have been a fair share of people who will ask me “how I do it.” I am honored that people ask, and I will admit that I get kinda freaked out by it. Don’t get me wrong, I relish those moments where I can share what works in my recovery, but yet I don’t feel that I am doing anything really super special.
I think the reason I get a little weird about it is the fact that I actually have to stop and think about what makes my recovery work. My recovery is like breathing or shooting a layup or ripping out the bass line to a Guns N’ Roses song; it has become second nature and fused within my being. When I take the time and really think about how my sobriety has grown through the years, the answer is simple: hard fucking work.
I think there are times where some people may get a little disappointed in my answers. Maybe they may expected me to rip off some super mystical meta-transformative cosmic riff on how I was delivered from evil and now am this super actualized being that is totally aware of myself and the world around me.
Truth is the secret to my recovery is I work hard at it. I put into play the basic coping skills and tools that I learned in drug treatment and have added things along the way that allowed me to grow stronger in my resolve. Is it willpower? No. Am I floating on pink clouds? No. I roll up my sleeves and get myself dirty. I make mistakes and use them as tools for learning. I am not afraid to admit when I am weak and ain’t too proud to ask for help when I need it.
You want to know the truth? The following are my foolproof ways to stay in recovery and rock it.
Have a Plan, Stan
One of the most important ways to stay in recovery is to have a solid plan in place when you leave treatment and make the transition back home. Are you going to pursue aftercare? You going to continue to go to meetings? How often are you going to work with your sponsor? What are your work plans and where are you planning on laying your head each night? What are you going to do to fill your day in a healthy and constructive manner?
You need to have some sort of recovery masterplan locked down because the first few months of recovery can be a bitch. You may have felt confident and secure in your sobriety within the protective womb of drug treatment, but it is a whole ‘nother ballgame when you’re deep in the nitty gritty of your home environment. Dealing with the stresses and temptations of your daily life without the familiar crutches of drugs and alcohol can be an interesting white knuckle ride.
The ability to create a healthy daily schedule is an essential life skill that you need to put into play. Your daily schedule is your masterplan and is balanced with daily activities that focus on strengthening your recovery. Don’t leave home without it.
Don’t Be Bored
An idle mind is the devil’s plaything.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with a little downtime and having nothing on your plate, but having extended time just sitting on your hands can be a recipe for disaster. If I have too much time on my hands, some really interesting things can enter my mind and yes, sometimes those thoughts can revolve around drinking and using drugs.
I don’t know about you, but my thoughts can get very vivid–especially when it comes to rehashing those high times of drinking and drug taking. There have been those times where the scenes that played out in my mind where so glorious and epic and man, what I would do right now for an ice cold…
Your shadow self loves to play the Jedi mind trick when it comes to thoughts of using, and the best defense is to keep you mind occupied. Journal, doodle in a sketchpad, go for a walk, jam out to some tunes, go to the gym, call your sponsor. Anything you can do to keep the brainwaves creating friction is all good.
Understand That The Biggest Enemy in Your Life is You
Maybe this should have been up higher on the list, but another one of the most important ways to stay in recovery is to fully understand that you are your biggest obstacle to reaching your goals and dreams. We as humans have a gift of getting in our own way, and we engage in some form of self-sabotage.
If you think about it, addiction is form of self-sabotage because drugs and alcohol provide this big delusional blanket that we can crawl into instead of facing those things that pain us and prevent us from healing ourselves. Once I overcome my addiction, I found there were a slew of other things that wanted to rush in to take its’ place such as procrastination, overeating and dodging my emotions. Self-sabotage is like hitting yourself square in the face with a brick.Don’t do it.
For you to sustain your recovery, you must recognize those feelings that are tripping you up, and you need to take whatever measures necessary to address those issues head-on and with no filters.
To fully be in recovery, you must be honest with yourself and others. There is no way around it and it isn’t up for debate.
Honesty is the first step in sobriety and it is truly the foundation on what recovery is built upon. What is honesty? For me, it is about being upfront, candid and transparent about the things that I have said and done right or wrong. Honesty is being accountable for my actions and making the effort to fix what I have broken.
Being honest is difficult and it can suck; believe me I know. The way I think about honesty is this… I would rather be upfront and open and deal with potential disappointment and anger and have the chance to work through it and have people respect me than to hold shit inside and live one big charade and have it blow up in my face and have people REALLY hate me.
Honesty can be bitter medicine to take and to administer, but in the long run it will be for the best.
Protect Your Sobriety With Everything You Have
The biggest piece of advice that I can give to anyone who is in recovery is to protect your sobriety with every fiber of your being. You have worked your ass off to face your demons and embrace a life of recovery. Do what you need to in order to keep on the path–and create your own path. For me, I know I will face my share of peaks and valleys in my recovery and danger is always lurking around the corner. Instead of being fearful, I am confident in the tools and resources I have amassed in my journey and I will use those tools.
The bottom line is that I love my life right now with its warts and all. I want to have the ability of facing the molehills and mountains that recovery can bring, and I want to be able to savor the little things that go right. Everyday, I make a promise to myself that I will do everything I need to do to stay sober from the time I rise in the morning to the time I lay my head down at night. It’s simple but effective.