The Importance of a Plan in Addiction Recovery
Plug In and Reconnect To Life With A System For Recovery
Have you ever heard that old recovery quote, “My worst day sober is better than my best day high?”
No? Well, now you have.
I’ve never given much thought to it, until this morning.
It brought back some old memories, especially seeing that there are many crappy days sober, especially in early recovery.
Days when nothing seems to go right with the kids, the car, the job, the spouse, the commute, weight gain, stress. You name it. These days when you’d think, “Argh I wish I had a drink, or ten!”
And before you began your recovery, you DID have those drinks.
How Recovery Changes Us
Recovery is a process of changing patterns of behavior and thoughts. Something changes, and you feel it; just like Neo when he stop and faced the ‘squidies” in “The Matrix-Reloaded.” Now, when life crashes down, you roll with it, work through it, and thrive.
In recovery, you have an idea of what is helping you abstain from picking up (insert your addiction here) as a way to handle life on life’s terms. You can call it God, higher power, AA, sober support, children, spouse, family, work, I choose to call it a system.
After all, living in recovery isn’t just one life-saving throw of the dice, and it shouldn’t be. It’s a way of creating a new plan to live life to its fullest.
Dr. Terry Gorski said, “Recovery is a complex and multifaceted process that develops and strengthens over time. Recovery is not the event of stopping.”
How to Build a System of Recovery
In a previous post, I define a system in recovery as the process you follow to live in recovery. Recovery is life after the drink or drug. It’s much bigger than abstinence, and it’s what I want for all of you reading this post.
How to build a system, to create a life of fulfillment in recovery.
Your system for recovery should focus on learning new positive habits in several areas of your life.
Here is a breakdown of the areas in your life that you need to nurture:
1. PHYSICAL RECOVERY: Healing and repairing the physical system.
Face it: when you were using you neglected your physical health. Not using drugs or alcohol gives your body time to heal the damages caused by your use. So what can you do to begin t balance and repair?
First, get a full assessment of where you’re at. Now is the time to have a complete physical. Start eating well, change your diet, cut out the sugar, coffee, and processed foods. Weight gain is typical, try to eat healthier – because you WILL start eating again. It’s easy to forget to eat when you’re using day in and out.
Then, consider trying new physical activities, such as yoga, jogging, taking long walks. Set a schedule to get proper sleep, rest, and relaxation. You owe it to yourself to learn to slow down the pace. Most importantly, learn how to handle physical cravings when they appear in early recovery.
2. SPIRITUAL RECOVERY: Mindfulness is a way to enhance mental and psychological recovery.
Spirituality includes the codes in which you live your life, attitudes, and beliefs you hold in regards to how you operate your life. A Taoist would call it “The Way.” Don’t confuse spirituality with religion because these words are not synonymous. Spirituality is how you communicate with a higher greater than yourself, the positive qualities and strengths you find inside of you to light your way towards happiness.
Your body has this part covered, too. Your brain’s ability to learn to function without craving for drugs happens with time. Take daily inventories to see if your attitudes, beliefs, the process for making decisions, and ways to handle the mental cravings are aligned with what you want to gain in recovery.
It is safe to say that recovery is, in fact, finding your way back to living life in unison with your spiritual nature. Spiritual recovery combines a part of each aspect recently discussed.
3. SOCIAL RECOVERY: Stay and feel connected.
Johann Hari in his TED Talk in London, England illustrates that our view addiction is misguided, especially from the criminal framework. Recovery is about connections, such as work, school, meetings, family, and community. He illustrates the fact as we engage further into addiction we disconnect from the associations that bring, joy, love, and security to our lives.
Humans are social beings, whom long to feel connected. Therefore when we engage in recovery, we start creating new connections. It’s valid because in 1935 Dr. Bob and Bill sat down together and founded a fellowship of alcoholics. They created a place for alcoholics to feel a connection and talk about what their lives had become-the drink.
A significant concern while in treatment for addiction is social support. Social support helps you to have a safe place to go, call, or be with others who’ve experienced these same feelings before you.
- Establish connections with social support communities like 12-step meetings SMART Recovery, recovery coach, clinician, mentor, spiritual advisor, life or wellness coach.
- Repair broken connections when possible with your family (parents, spouse, children, siblings, or other loved ones), friends, classmates, colleagues, employers, organizations, religious affiliations, or other activities you belong to.
Our connections are more profound than external institutions. Reconnecting with yourself and the pursuit of a better quality of life starts us along the path to recovery.
Learn to avoid people places and things connected to your old addiction, have a plan to cope with the stress of dangerous situations which could harm your recovery, and devote time to plugging into your sober support network.
4. EMOTIONAL RECOVERY: Let yourself feel.
Substance use and abuse allowed you to dull your feelings. You sedated them. You covered up your emotions. Certain emotions cause pain, so it’s easier not to experience them. In recovery, you’ll have to be ready to cope with how you feel. You must let yourself work through your feelings to learn to understand what causes you to experience them and why.
Depression, anxiety, and melancholy are common in early recovery. Its best, to be honest with yourself, and open and willing to deal with each new feeling as it arises. Seek support from your network and professional guidance when needed. It might take some time to reduce the sense of depression or loss. It’s okay to grieve the loss of your old destructive lifestyle. Let yourself mourn the loss of the past you, who was actively using, so you can harness the power and beauty of emotional recovery.
5. LIFESTYLE RECOVERY: New creative input can change your life.
Boredom is a trigger. Not having something to focus on creates windows of opportunity for your addiction to climb through. Find new hobbies, or connect with old creative pastimes, neglected because of your addiction.
The lifestyle section of your system can also be the pace where you’ll handle your finances, legal, and other professional obligations. Spending time performing activities that inspire you to give more of your time creates self-worth and happiness. So, take time to find new activities to perform and connect you with new networks.
Tips for Moving Forward
Quick Tips for Spirituality: In your journal start having a conversation with your spiritual side. Use the stream of consciousness or use a prompt such as this one to help you begin the discussion. Also, if you notice you’re working too hard or too fast… take a step back. Enjoy some quiet meditation on gratitude. Reflect on what you have in your life.
Quick Tips for Lifestyle:
- Take out your journal and brainstorm new activities, goals, dreams you’d like to accomplish in your life.
- Next list your obligations to courts, financial institutions, employers and other clubs or associations.
- Look at your list, estimate time to complete each task, choose one activity from each list and begin.
- Read: An interview with Dr. Ralph E. Carson, LD, RD, Ph.D
How to Check-In With Yourself Daily
Stay focused on how you’re feeling throughout your day. Set up key times during your day to a check. What works for me is to stay mindful of how I’m feeling and responding to coworkers, family, or friends when I feel a bit off during the day.
REMEMBER: Recovery is a process that happens in all aspects of life.
In fact, you can create daily habits to help you stay connected to yourself and those who support you. Be mindful of how you feel. Create a plan to use HALT regularly during your day to grow. Stay focused on how you feel mentally and physically by quickly running through a HALT systems check, as outlined below.
Hungry doesn’t always refer to food. I used to confuse hunger with dehydration. You need to stay hydrated throughout the day. Our bodies are 60% water and when we start to dehydrate dangerous situations can get the better of us. Nonetheless, hunger and dehydration can cause you to get imbalanced. And we know being imbalance can lead us down a dark path.
Quick Tip: Drink at least 8-8-12 ounce glasses of water per day.
Be mindful of how you respond to situations which cause you to become frustrated. Ask yourself why you become frustrated or angry especially when it’s apparent that you cannot control the outcome of a situation. Pay attention if you are easily agitated, argumentative or frustrated because this is a sign of relapse.
Quick Tip: Engage in meditation, prayer, deep breathing, or pick up the phone and call your network. Aim to hone in on the actual source of your anger. Practice forgiveness, smiling, and common courtesy.
REMEMBER: Addiction is disconnecting. Once you begin to reconnect with yourself, family and associates you’ll feel a stronger sense of belonging. But addiction is cunning, powerful, and baffling so that you might think to isolate. It’s in isolation where you’ll slip back into old routines. If you notice loneliness is the cause of your peculiar feeling, stop and reach out to your network.
Quick Tip: Feeling lonely, plug back in and engage with sober support, phone a friend, take a break and get outside for a walk in nature. Caring for and nurturing the life of a pet helps battle feelings of loneliness.
Recovery is amazing. It’s a time of discovery, new friends, hobbies, and second chances. A common problem is trying to make up for lost time. You think if you work harder, faster, and longer you can get the time back. Stop. Don’t try to work yourself until you’re miserable. Enjoy the time you have now. Create blocks of time to enjoy creative activities with yourself or family. Take a break and relax in the warmth of family and friends.
Quick Tip: Notice your working too hard too fast take a step back. Enjoy some quiet meditation on gratitude. Reflect on what you have in your life.
Frequently Check Your System
Your system in recovery should be about creating new connections. Each day upon waking up you try to plug in and do a proper systems check.
- Take the time to wake up a few minutes earlier.
- Evaluate how you feel.
- Practice a ritual of gratitude.
- Stretch and relieve tensions with a series of simple yoga postures.
- Focus on your breathing with some light meditation.
- Maybe some stream of consciousness journaling.
You could take several of the ideas above to create a decent recovery morning routine. Doing this each day would give you a solid start to your day. Create recovery so it’s more holistic in nature with balance, stress management, and deliberate action.
The point is to do something to get your body, mind, and soul aligned primed for another wondrous day in recovery. Take time to assure yourself you are getting your needs met daily. Create new habits to help you promote balance and wellbeing, in all areas of your life.
Over to You
Creating positive daily habits becomes more routine with a system in recovery. It takes at least 66 days to start a new positive habit. Start making new habits and create a system for recovery. Deliberately do something each day from an area of recovery to keep your new life moving forward.
As you move into later stages of recovery you’ll become mindful to take moments to stop and listen to what your body is telling you. When you feel you might be a bit off, stop, HALT and listen to what your body feels it needs.
If you’ve been following a long with this series about creating a system in recovery, please comment below and let me know what you think.
If you just joined in you can find the first two posts here.
Now go and create a system to live life to its fullest because you deserve to have many great days in recovery, but you will have to do the work.