Considering recovery with a list of rules may not sound like much fun.
The concept of rules tends to imply that there are constraints, some of which may not align with our personal desires for freedom. If we approach our life journey as a sort of adventure – as Joseph Campbell alludes to – it can become much more palatable to accept the idea that there are rules that we are wise to follow.
The idea Campbell presents is that our human journey is a quest toward heroism. Our life journey is that of discovery. We battle demons and ogres; find powerful weapons; and return triumphantly with the holy grail of our choosing.
From this perspective, life can be considered as a game to win. And, as with any game, there are rules which guide us toward victory.
On the playing board of recovery, the following are some rules that can serve to keep you out of the dangerous swamps of fear, temptation, and relapse.
Rule #1: Be Kind To Yourself
People on the outside often mistake those in addiction as being selfish, hateful, people.
To the contrary, many of those who find themselves lost in addiction are some of the most loving, kind, people on the planet. Without the slavery of addiction, they are the kind of people who will give the shirt off of their own back to help another person.
The downside of being such a kind and loving person is that we can often give too much to others. When we fail to take good care of our own self, we eventually end up drained of energy. When we are drained, we are prime targets for the demons of addiction to launch an attack. Their only goal is too drag us off, and to stick us back into that mire of hopelessness.
The rule for not getting to this weakened point of vulnerability is to be kind to yourself.
While it may seem counterintuitive, we need to set boundaries around how much we are willing to give of ourselves. If we don’t keep back enough energy to meet our own needs, we will eventually end up being of no use to others.
It is the same concept which is applied during airline flights. Secure your own mask before assisting others to do the same.
When having those mental conversations that we all have, pay attention to how you are speaking to yourself. Are the things that you are telling yourself the same things which you would tell a friend or loved one in your situation?
If not, there is a chance you are being too harsh.
The golden rule is to “do unto others as you would have done to you.” It isn’t, “do unto others better than you would have done to you.” Love yourself, first.
Rule #2: Hold On To Your Vision of the Future
There is an ancient scripture which reads, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
Having a vision of what our desired future looks like is imperative to maintaining hope and purpose. As you have made it this far in your journey of recovery, it is likely that you have already envisioned this joyful future. Your task is to not let that vision fade.
The mundanity of life can have a way of creeping in on us.
As we journey out of addiction, our practical responsibilities toward daily living tend to increase. We become more engaged in our work; our home life; and our contributions to society. While all of these aspects are the most rewarding part of staying sober, they can also become overwhelming.
Feeling overwhelmed with the short-term responsibilities that we face is yet another danger zone for relapse.
As part of your self-care and maintenance, take some daily time to refocus on the bigger picture. Utilizing imaginative or meditation techniques can work for this purpose. In your mind, or even on paper, sketch for yourself the details of your own, personal, promised land.
This is the place where your hopes and dreams which led you to recovery are manifested. This is the place that you are heading.
Rule #3: Plan For Success
Having the image of your desired future in front of you is very important, but it also needs some substance in order for it to be maintained.
The old adage of, “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail” rings true. Sketching out some solid, attainable, goals to reach along your ultimate journey toward peace and prosperity can serve to keep you on track.
A popular mnemonic device for setting goals is the SMART method. When using this technique, you will want to set goals for yourself that are:
The experience of achieving smaller goals creates a positive feedback, which works to encourage us toward obtaining even loftier goals as we go along.
Rule #4: Confer With Successful People
Sticking with the theme of ancient wisdom, there is the proverbial idea that, “water seeks its own level.” While this is certainly true in physics, the saying is most often applied in a social context.
As life is an upward climb, it is all too easy to let ourselves slide back downward into a puddle of despair. When we are in a low place, we will naturally be drawn toward others who are not doing well in life. Once surrounded by others in a lower state, it is all too easy to get comfortable there.
A secret for staying our course toward success is to find pools of people who are at a higher level on this mountain climb. After making a short journey up your mountain, using your SMART goals, camp for awhile with the folks you find there. Utilize their knowledge and experiences as a stepping stone for your continued quest.
If these fellow travelers are worth their salt, they will joyfully provide you with the encouragement and information that you need to carry on. “Onward and upward!” is the mantra of this hero journey.