This is a guest post from Patrick Meninga of the Spiritual River website.
Since I first got clean and sober over 8 years ago, I have been creating a new life for myself. Talking about creation makes sense when I frame my recovery and how I have grown through the years, because it was always through deliberate change and deliberate action that I can look back and see how I have progressed in my personal growth.
Creation is a mindset in recovery….it is the attitude that is adopted by the winners in recovery. It doesn’t matter what exact program of recovery someone is working, be it the 12 step program or something else entirely. The winners in recovery, the people who are staying sober over the long run and really making growth in their recovery, they are the ones who are actively creating.
Creation goes beyond spiritual growth and takes more of an holistic approach. Essentially you have to treat the entire person for addiction, not just the spiritual malady. This is an important distinction because if you do not think in holistic terms then you might shut yourself off to possible avenues of growth in other areas of your life.
The creative mindset can help you to have a stronger recovery, by pushing you to grow in new ways. What then, are the critical steps to creating this new life for yourself? Let’s take a look:
1) Start with abstinence. Make this your number one priority and then start building on it. Early recovery is an awesome thing, because simple abstinence from drugs and alcohol can start opening up so many doors, so quickly. (This is why it’s called recovery, because you start recovering things you had previously lost: relationships, self esteem, perhaps a job, and so on). Make abstinence from drugs and alcohol the foundation of your recovery. Create a zero tolerance policy with yourself–that you will not use drugs or alcohol no matter what.
2) Use overwhelming force. I highly recommend that newcomers in recovery use this concept in order to make it through early recovery. The idea is to take whatever you think it is going to take in order for you to stay clean and sober and multiply it by ten. Examples:
* Don’t just go to treatment, go to long term treatment.
* Don’t just go to a meeting, go to a meeting every day (or several meetings a day).
* Don’t just go to a therapist, go to a therapist and actually act on the direction they give you.
You have to go above and beyond what you think is necessary in order to get through early recovery. So many people underestimate what it will take to stay clean, so you have to overcompensate in the other direction. Go big.
3) Focus on networking in early recovery. In early recovery, networking with others is of critical importance. We need help and support in order to recover. We also need to gain new knowledge.
4) Shift your focus as you progress to one of personal growth. Networking becomes less important at 5 years sober and even less so at 10 years. This does not mean that it is no longer a factor, it just becomes less important for you to network in order to stay clean and sober. As you progress, your own growth and personal development becomes a bigger part of how and why you stay clean. Therefore, you should motivate yourself to start growing holistically as you progress in your recovery. In other words, seek to grow in different areas of your life.
5) Focus on health. You should start treating yourself better in recovery as your self esteem repairs itself over the years. We abused ourselves for so long in addiction and that takes time to heal. Again, use a holistic approach. Seek to grow spiritually, but also start exercising, improve your diet, quit smoking, and so on. Look at your overall health and take care of your emotional well being as well.
This is important because one of your biggest insurances against relapse becomes your self esteem. If you feel good about yourself and value your life highly then it becomes less likely that you will relapse. Therefore, make it a point to take care of yourself in as many ways as possible. Live healthy in recovery and this help you in the fight against relapse.
6) There is only one hurdle in long term recovery: to overcome complacency. This is your only real hurdle as you move into long term recovery. You have to somehow be actively on guard against the subtle threat of relapse through becoming complacent. So how can you do that?
Push yourself to grow. Push yourself to learn new things. And here is one of the big shortcuts that will really help in overcoming complacency: continue to work with other recovering addicts and alcoholics on a regular basis. If you do this consistently and make a habit of it, then your recovery will be a lot stronger because of it.
If you start using some of these ideas and follow these strategies in your recovery, then you will notice after a while that you really have been creating a new life for yourself. It is not enough for us to simply get sober and sit around being passive all day….we need to get active, get involved, have a vision of some sort (a vision of helping others is particularly powerful). Take the idea of creative recovery and try to work it into your life, and you will start noticing the benefits right away.
Patrick Meninga is a recovering addict who writes at the Spiritual River about addiction recovery. Check him out if you are interested in learning more!