You may have heard the concept that recovery is a marathon, and not a sprint. While the initial phases of recovery may occur in a fast-paced setting, with changes and accomplishments arising every day, the business of living daily with your new routines eventually settles into the long haul. For most, there is a blessed relief in being able to tend to daily life, free from the chaos and cravings of addiction.
As rewarding as it is, this sense of relief can occasionally become precarious. Monotony can creep in, or circumstances can change for the worse, and the old temptations will attempt to rear their ugly heads. Bringing these negative thoughts and feelings back into submission, when they occur, is the task of maintaining long-term sobriety. The following are some tips and tricks to employ toward making sure that any temptations to revert to your former habits are as mild, and brief, as possible.
Hang On To Your Vision of the Future
One of the surest ways to get lost along the way is to not know where we are going, in the first place. Chances are, when you first set out on your journey of recovery, your mind was full of hope and visions of a happy, fruitful, future. It is important to not let the details of the daily grind crowd out your determination to reach that promised land.
Every journey of life had hills, and valleys. While we are in the valleys, the mountain top seems further away than ever. Doubt and self-defeating emotions can threaten to send us backwards. It is during these times that it is vital to keep ourselves on course through conscious decision.
One of the most popular ways to do this is to map out your life goals on paper. This technique is highly customizable to your particular interests and skills. For the visually-oriented folks, a picture board of the future can be created, using drawings or cutouts from magazines. Writers may enjoy writing themselves a letter, intended to be read by the future self. Logical minds may benefit from creating flowcharts or diagrams, complete with all of the antecedents necessary for making the conclusion a reality. The most important part is that we keep our vision of our desired future in front of us.
Remember Where You Came From
While focusing on what is in front of you is the best way to reach your mark, it sometimes pays to spend some time in consideration of what we have left behind. It is often the case that, as we progress in life, memories of the harder times begin to fade into the distance. We can begin to take our current comfort levels for granted, and can find ourselves grumbling over our – relatively pleasant – accommodations. When the urge to feel discontent strikes, it can be useful to recall the negative state of your life while you were in your addictions.
Perhaps you are able to recall the time when all you were able to think about was the next way that you were going to get high. Or, perhaps you can best remember the times that you were nasty to everyone around you, or the isolation that you felt while you were waking up with withdrawal symptoms. While these types of negative things are not good to dwell on, for long, taking a bit of time to remind ourselves of what we do not want in life can provide us with a boost back toward heading in the right direction.
Focus Your Extra Energy on the Needs of Others
The Dalai Lama once noted that, “If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” Another way to think of this is that helping others to feel good is the formula for helping ourselves to feel good. A major factor of temptation toward self-destruction through substance abuse is the tendency to solely focus on our selfish needs, and on our own discomforts. Turning our attention outward, toward meeting the needs of others, is a remedy against sinking into the mire of self pity.
Chances are good that, while you were being controlled by your addiction, other people were called upon to play a support role for you. You may have received food or shelter from concerned individuals. You may have had someone who was always willing to share encouragement or a kind word with you. You may have had someone in your life who was willing to tell you the harsh truths necessary for turning you toward a brighter path. Now that you are in the drivers seat of your own life, you are able to be the one to provide such support for others.
You may be familiar with the concept of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow’s model provides a concise, highly adaptable, map for successful human development. The premise behind the idea of our ability to continue growing, as human beings, is that we are not able to progress to our next stage of development until meeting the requirements of the previous stage. Our ultimate goal lie in reaching the pinnacle – or mountain top – of our existence. This peak of the developmental period is known as self-actualization. The stage, just before it, is that of having self-esteem.
Self-esteem is developed as a result of first having our own physical and emotional needs met, and then following that up with becoming useful, contributing, members of society. As someone who has been through the war zone of substance abuse addiction – and have survived to tell the tale – you have a unique set of skills, insights, and abilities through which you are able to contribute to the wellness of others. Utilizing our particular strengths for the purpose of helping others to climb their own mountains in life is intrinsically rewarding, and can provide us with a positive feedback loop. This change in our interpersonal dynamics works for both the receiver of our services and for ourselves, as the act of service to others propels us onward toward our own goal of self-actualization.