A Life Free From Addiction: 3 Questions to Help You Move from Addiction to Recovery

Innovation requires the introduction of something new; it is a part of creating a new self and a new life in recovery from addiction. Here is what you need to know about the process.

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When’s the Last Time You Did Something for the First Time?

When thinking about traveling a new path in life, we often fear the unknown. It’s part of the human experience, and it’s normal. We cannot know what is going to happen in the future when we try something new.

It’s like being a kid and experiencing a roller coaster for the first time. You waited in line—maybe a little anxious—got in the ride car and slowly climbed to the top of the first hill. You were nervous, not knowing what to expect as the car ascended to the top of the hill. And then, the ride took place.

When you got off the ride, whether you liked it or not, you had a different perspective. You might even have gone again for another ride. Your thought about the roller coaster ride had shifted a bit. Maybe it wasn’t really that scary after all.

Getting Comfortable with the Unknown

If you’re considering a life free from addiction, you’re not alone.

I’m an addictions counselor. So, let me describe to you I had an unusual experience several weekends ago when I was put into a group of entrepreneurs for a retreat. The event served two purposes:

  1. I tried something I never tried before.
  2. I had fun.

When all was said, and done, I had tried 20 new things during that weekend. From ax and knife throwing to being part of a six-man row crew; from shooting a gun to fencing; from making my own pen to hip hop dancing.

I awoke on Monday and wondered, “What the hell just happened?” It was so invigorating and fun, yet scary. I was uncertain of myself throughout the entire weekend, unsure if I could do some of these things. But being surrounded by 24 other guys who were positive and adventuresome made it easier.

I thought of my “other life.” The life I had lived surrounded by people who see life as more limiting than limitless.

Freedom = The Power of Something New

Now, as I write this blog, I have seen the power of trying something new. Some qualities within me have shifted toward living a more exciting and invigorating life. How did this happen?

The answer is found in the words “innovation” and “self”. I had accidently innovated myself by taking more chances and learning new things. Some were easy, some were scary, but all of it was jammed into a 3-day period. The result is that I find myself taking more chances to try new things and taking the lead on learning new things. And it’s become habitual.

So Why Should Recovery from Addiction be Any Different?

Sure, moving from addiction to recovery is not the same as a mere roller coaster ride or doing a bunch of super cool things in one weekend. But could the basic premise of innovation apply when moving from addiction to recovery?

Innovation Defined

The word innovate has been defined by Merriam-Webster as “the introduction of something new.” What is even more interesting to me are the synonyms listed: change, alteration, revolution, upheaval, transformation, metamorphosis, breakthrough.

Innovation could be symbolic of an upheaval from old behaviors to a transformation or breakthrough into new behaviors. Could moving from addiction to recovery also be a personal innovation? Is an upheaval inevitable when moving from addiction into recovery? Or does it always have to be a shame-based paradigm that says we will always fall back to using and ultimately fail ourselves as well as those around us?

3 Steps to Innovate from Addiction to Recovery

1. Observe the Problem

  • What do you notice about your struggle with substances?
  • Is it time for an innovation effort?
  • Is it time to move from using to abstaining or staying sober?
  • Is it time to try to cut down?

2. Create/Brainstorm New Solutions

  • What could I try to innovate myself or try something new to create a change toward sobriety or reduced use?
  • Is it attending a meeting, listening to an addiction podcast, engaging in health activity, dieting, exercising, meditating, getting an AA or NA sponsor or attending a recovery event?
  • Maybe it might be to try to cut down on your drinking or drugging to see what that experience is like.
  • Figure out if you might have an addiction with evidenced based tools.

3. Take Action – Build your Prototype and Learn

  • What worked?
  • What didn’t?
  • Take what you learn works, and continue doing it. Don’t be a perfectionist. Leave behind the rest that do not work. It might be that only three out of ten pan out for you. For instance, talking to a friend about remaining sober, attending an AA/NA meetings and building in family support for sobriety may have worked, but attending other AA/NA meetings across town or talking to that person has not worked. Try not to be discouraged and put on your scientist hat and analyze the data to guide you to use more of what worked.
  • Remember that this is a learning process, and we do not expect for you to get it right the first time. But through effort and innovation you too might find the path you need to walk.

BONUS – DIVE DEEPER: Implement the Best Ideas and Revise: How can you improve upon what seems to be working? Continue to use the actions that work and continue to evaluate them for effectiveness and good results. You might want to do this weekly or monthly.

Stop the Bleeding: Innovation Blockages

Even the greatest of people have encountered innovation blockages:

  • In 1880 Thomas Edison said that the phonograph was of no commercial value.
  • In 1920 Robert Milliken, Nobel Prize winner in physics said, “There is no likelihood man can ever tap into the power of the atom.”

You may be familiar with these common blockages:

  • I can’t do that.
  • That’s stupid.
  • That won’t work for me.
  • I don’t have the time.
  • I can figure this out on my own.

When people are transitioning from addiction to recovery, these blockages are common. They are part of the innovation process with product development in the business world. And so are they the same when moving from addiction to recovery.

Got Any Questions?

Are you on the path of innovating yourself and your life in addiction recovery? If you have questions to ask or experiences to share, please post them in the comments section at the bottom of the page. We do our best to respond personally and promptly to all of our reader’s legitimate inquiries.

About the author
Ted Izydor, LPC, CSAC, ICS, MBA, MINT. is a licensed mental health and addiction counselor who specializes in working with people struggling with substance use/addiction and people active in recovery looking to enhance their recovery and life. Ted's positivity and real life approach helps people leverage their unique strengths and motivations into positive life changes. Ted is currently a lecturer at UW-Whitewater, a consultant for health care organizations and host of the Full Potential Now Addiction Podcast. Ted is a member of the National Board of Counselors and the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers and is a true believer of unlimited possibilities.
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