When you hear about a path to healing from addiction, the tendency is to think that there’s only one way to heal. Nothing could be further from the truth, for there are many paths to healing and no single one is the be-all and end-all. In addition, what works for me may not be appropriate for you. By the same token, just because you have a program you’ve put together that’s effective and seems to produce beneficial results, while you can recommend your strategies and tips to another, that doesn’t mean that they’ll have the same outcomes.
While there are many different paths to healing from addiction, all of them count. The point isn’t the path you take — but that you embark on it and work your recovery with everything you’ve got. There should be no half-measures here.
That said, here are some of the ways that people find help them navigate their way in early recovery. Note that the approaches are quite different, but the common thread is persistence, determination, hope and willingness to take educated risks.
Plunging in With a Plan and Serious Determination
You wouldn’t begin constructing a house without a blueprint, so why would you believe that entering recovery without some sort of plan would be in any way helpful? A great number of people complete drug rehab and enter recovery full of enthusiasm and determination, bolstered by the knowledge that they’ve put together a recovery plan and what to do in the event of relapse. They have a guide that will help them when times get rough — and they’re not under the mistaken belief that they’re somehow immune to relapse. They know because they’ve learned during treatment that relapse is common, but it is not failure and it is not final. Along with the plan, these newly sober individuals are armed with serious determination. They know it won’t be easy, but they’re absolutely focused on their recovery and will do whatever it takes to maintain their hard-earned sobriety.
Ticking All the Boxes Each and Every Day
Many recovery plans have elements in them that are recommended to do every day, although there are some that can be incorporated on a less frequent basis. In early recovery, going to as many self-help or support group meetings as possible is the best thing for some newly sober individuals. This is especially true for those who harbor doubts about their ability to withstand temptation, have co-occurring mental health and substance use issues they’re healing from, feel themselves about to slip, have experienced a recent trauma or loss, or feel ill-equipped to deal with life’s everyday stresses.
Taking good physical care of your body is another daily to-do item, one that is among the boxes to tick without fail. Getting in a good workout or taking a brisk walk could be something you do every other day, as long as you do it regularly. Some who have reservations about early sobriety are convinced that the only way to remain clean and sober is by ticking all of the boxes each and every day. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. If it works, do it.
Focus on a Meaningful Goal
What motivates someone to tackle seemingly impossible challenges or pursue dreams that may appear unachievable? Think about recovery as an opportunity to remake your life into what you truly want. No longer shackled by the endlessly negative burden of addiction, you’re now free to rekindle your interests, to go after goals that have meaning for you. Granted, it won’t be easy and you’ll likely encounter many obstacles along the way, but in recovery you want to feel fulfilled, productive and have a chance at happiness. For some, the path to healing from addiction means embracing meaningful goals and working hard to achieve them — or at least make substantive progress. It’s always good to have goals. The more lofty and challenging, the sweeter the feeling of satisfaction may be once you achieve them. If this gets you going and motivates you to work your recovery diligently, go for it.
Paring Down Activities to Focus Solely on Recovery
One thing that newly sober individuals quickly face is the need to do something about their busy lives. There’s often just too much going on that gets in the way of working their recovery. Something has to give. For many, this means paring down activities so that their focus and attention is solely on recovery. This doesn’t mean that everything they used to do, all the friends they enjoyed hanging out with and striving for that promotion at work is forever off the table, but for now, it needs to be slimmed down so that the basic work of recovery can take precedence. Of course, there will be some friends that you used to party with or associate with your addiction that you will have to distance yourself from, but you will make new sober friends to take their place.
The strategy that seems to work is to give yourself six solid months or so where you are concentrating almost exclusively on your recovery. This means no getting entangled in new romantic relationships, although you will need to work on repairing existing ones, especially if you’re married or living with someone, have children or have to take care of others.
Getting a Sponsor and Working the Steps
Self-help groups can be a lifesaver in the early months of recovery. The most critical time in early sobriety is the first 90 days, but a slip can occur at anytime, even after being sober for years. The path that many people take when they complete drug rehab and return home is to not only step up participation in self-help or 12-step groups, but also to get a sponsor and begin actively working the steps.
At first it’s all new and a bit scary. You may not even like these people in the rooms of recovery and want to desperately be somewhere else. Stick with it, though, and you’ll eventually start hearing things that resonate with you. You’ll learn that others have gone through what you may be feeling right now and hearing their stories about how they managed to deal with the stresses and problems may inspire you. At least you’ll have allies. That’s the strength and the power of this invaluable network. Make the most of it as you begin your healing journey.
Realize That You Have a Do-Over
This is a time of second chances for many who are in recovery from addiction. While the past still haunts them in many instances and there will be much in the way of making amends for wrongdoings, this is an opportunity to reshape lives, to change behaviors, to strive to live a different way, one that is healthier and positive and focused on achieving realistic and worthwhile goals, enjoying happiness, love and a feeling of purpose. Whether this is a first time getting clean and sober or the 12th or more, it is still a do-over, a chance to make important decisions and take concrete steps to fashion a better life in sobriety.
Bottom line: No matter which path you choose to take in recovery, the goal is the same: healing. All paths, no matter how different they may seem, count.