Becoming sober can be like an experience of being reborn. Your brain and body need to relearn how to operate without the influence of the substances. You will need to learn new ways of seeing the world; new ways of communicating with others; and new ways of handling emotions. You will need to retrain your behaviors, so that your former, more primitive, instincts are not driving your addictive actions.
The biggest difference between this type of development, and the comparison to being born, is that the person in recovery is responsible for his or her own self. While it is extremely useful to have others around to coach and assist during the early stages, the recovering adult is the one calling all of the shots.
For recovery to begin, there are two important factors at play. You have to really want it, and you have to be able to envision that there is a viable way out of the addiction. The first aspect is something highly personal to the person who is seeking recovery. The following tips are designed to assist with the second aspect.
Have a Plan
You may have heard the quote, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” These words ring true for most aspects of life, and recovery is no exception. While the initial desire to cease with substance abuse is the spark of life needed for making a change, it isn’t enough to sustain a person for the long term. Long term success requires looking ahead, and marking out specific goals and milestones for your recovery. It involves knowing where you are, and knowing where you want to go. It involves plotting out the road trip for how to arrive at your eventual destination of full recovery.
If you are part of a sobriety team, these professionals can help you to outline your plan. Otherwise, your map of success will need to include a basic structure of your daily activities; a system of how you will spend your newly gained, sober, energy; and how you will address the underlying issues which prompted you toward the addiction, in the first place. You will need to discern potential triggers and pitfalls, and devise preemptive strategies for how to avoid temptations to go back to the substance abuse.
Concentrate on Small Steps
While keeping the long term goals of your sobriety in mind is vital for sustaining the initiative, it is also important that you take the time to appreciate the smaller goals which are reached. Reaching these smaller milestones will provide you with a sense of accomplishment, which will, in turn, embolden you toward reaching the next. Past success is the best predictor of future success, and the small steps made in the beginning of recovery will form the basis of your new past.
Depending on the extremity of your addiction, these baby steps can be as simple as making it through a day without using. They can consist of sitting down to make a list of action steps, or writing a letter to loved ones. They can consist of scheduling an appointment with a therapist, and then attending it. Whatever your daily plan consists of, count each day that you are sober as a success. Remember the ancient proverb which explains that, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Take the time to pat yourself on the back for each of these steps which are made.
Build Healthy Relationships
Humans need other humans. Whether we are social butterflies, or prefer to spend more of our time alone, having a few people whom we know we can depend on is vital for success. While in addiction, the social circle we surround ourselves with is most often not comprised of those who are desiring our best outcomes. Like tends to attract like, and our new self of sobriety often calls for a new set of relationships.
There is an old adage which admonishes that, “The only way to have a friend is to be one.” While therapists and substance abuse disorder specialists might become your initial support group, it is important to focus on the eventual obtainment of more natural friendships. Work on becoming the type of person whom you would want to be friends with, yourself, and then seek those same traits out in others. Your own positive vibes, as you progress in your new life of sobriety, will likewise attract them to you.
Focus on Self-Care
As much as your family and loved ones may have insisted that you needed to get sober, this journey is really all about you. We aren’t able to truly find happiness until we learn to properly love ourselves, and finding happiness is a key to sustaining recovery. When happiness fills our hearts, the temptation to use substances becomes much less powerful.
Initially, implementing self care practices can seem foreign. It can even seem a little selfish. Proper self care involves defining boundaries, and learning to say no to some of the requests of others. In order to sustain the energy you need to apply toward retraining your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, you will need to learn to keep enough back for yourself.
In addition to not giving too much of your energy out, you will also need to learn ways to refill your tank. In addiction, the substance is used as a substitute for genuine peace of mind and emotion. In sobriety, you will need to become more creative in your approach toward obtaining the same – or better – levels of contentment. Identify what activities provide you with the biggest boost of natural high, and be purposeful toward including those activities in your daily or weekly schedule. Treat your self-care time as a requirement, and don’t allow it to be sacrificed in the name of things which are declared as being more important. Most obligations can afford to wait while you tend to your own self-care needs, and you will be better equipped to face your challenges, because of it.