How to Find Balance in Sobriety and Addiction Recovery

An article on how you can transform and balance your sobriety… creating a system instead of an overwhelming to-do list. Intrigued? Read on for more.

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Balance Does Not Have to Be Stressful

It’s optimal to find a balance in all life areas when learning to live sober. And it doesn’t have to be overwhelming or stressful!

Are you interested in learning to balance your sobriety following a system instead of a “to-do list?” You’re in the right place. To-do lists can be the enemies of recovery; they can inevitably causes an overwhelming feeling whenever they comes to mind. Getting rid of them is a freeing experience.

Feeling disorganized or detached can cause unhappiness. When you were actively using you might have had just one goal for the day; to disconnect from life. Now in recovery, you’re likely struggling each day to complete your to-do list tasks. Of course, you have new responsibilities, thoughts, plans and ideas. New obligations to family, friends, work, and most importantly, your sobriety. But how can you best manage?

The To-Do List

Throughout life, parents, teachers, and bosses might’ve suggested that you write down your tasks for the day to help you stay focused and present at the moment. And the suggestion may have worked to aid in your productivity. In fact, the solution for some people is a to-do list. When you understand the process, to-do lists can be effective and efficient. The majority of the time, however, a to-do list a source of the overwhelming feelings and depression.

In The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Time Management, author Kirsten O’Donovan writers,

“Studies have shown that your brain can only handle 7-8 options at a time, your brain will immediately feel overwhelmed huts looking at a list.”

O’Donovan isn’t making the case against to-do lists. She feels a list can be effective when used efficiently. She continues to assert that “failing to plan is planning to fail.”
Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you effectively manage your day by writing a to-do list?
  2. How do you feel when you don’t manage to complete the task outlined for the day?
  3. How many times have felt overwhelmed just by writing a mind-numbing to-do list out?

I’m not saying taking out a piece of paper and creating a plan for your day is wrong. But if you do this, it’s best to follow a plan and design it thoughtfully for optimal balance of your day. When used properly to-do lists are effective, but using the list improperly is detrimental.

How To-Do Lists Set You Up For Failure

Do you have a junk drawer in your kitchen, bedroom, or office?

You know a place where everything goes when you don’t feel like taking the time to put it where it belongs. When you need to get something out of the drawer, it seems impossible to find an object once it’s in the junk drawer.

Am I right?

You might even be reluctant to look in the drawer when you need something because previous results ended in frustration, instead of satisfaction.

A disorganized to-do list and goals creates the same feelings:

  • Overwhelmed
  • Reluctance
  • Failure

When you don’t have a system to stay sober, and you just jot down your daily tasks with no rhyme or reason on a piece of paper, it’s just like you were throwing something in a junk drawer.

You can say the same thing about writing down goals without a plan. Focusing on your system helps you to maintain your to-do list and the goals without the stress and feeling overwhelmed.

Risks of Failure

In recovery, the feeling of failure is dangerous. Negative feelings open the doors to self-limiting beliefs and irrational thoughts. When you were in inpatient or outpatient treatment, clinicians should have introduce you to the concept of maintained personal care with a treatment plan. There are many modalities of substance abuse treatment, but they all have one commonality: maintaining personalized care with a treatment plan.

Indeed, learning to follow new, positive habits is key to creating the balance needed to maintain happiness in recovery. It doesn’t matter what you’re aiming to achieve in life the process always works best when you follow a system.

Follow a System!

Creating a system to maintain a proper balance in life is key to learning how to live sober.

NOTE HERE: A system to follow is different than a jam-packed to-do list which could cause causing you to become overwhelmed or earmarked for failure. But what is a system, exactly?

The definition of system in The Oxford English Dictionary is:

  1. A set of principles or procedures according to which something is done; an organized scheme or method.
  2. Organized planning or behaviour; orderliness.

In this context, I encourage you to start using a system such as Peter Drucker’s S.M.A.R.T. objectives for personalized goals. SMART is an acronym for:

Specific: Goals that have a clear meaning when written down.

Measurable: You can measure a goal when you assess whether you are seeing progress or no progress.

Attainable: Is the goal worth pursuing and probably to achieve?

Realistic: Can you actually achieve the goal?

Timely: Is the goal able to be achieved in a timely amount of time?

Have you ever heard the phrase, “You only have control over your actions”?  When you follow a system to maintain your sobriety, it is dependent on your actions. Because a system is a recurring process, you are training yourself to take definitive steps to achieve the desired result

Benefits of a System

Planning your day based on a system instead of a to-do list is beneficial because it helps you to add structure to your daily routine. Look at your system of recovery as a way to holistically maintain the new sober you. Here are some of the benefits of doing so:

1. Systems keep you focused on the process.

Of course, your morning rituals might be different from mine, but each of us has deliberately created a system that works for us each morning. More importantly, when we fail to follow our ritual, we might seem a little off.

2. Systems change expectations.

When you set goals or write a to-do list, you are working with a means to an end. For example, suppose you have the intention of 90 meetings in 90 days. Once you complete this goal what do you do next? This doesn’t meeting you’ve exhausted your expected sessions.  Instead, for a system of maintaining social support, the process you might follow is spending time with others in recovery daily.

I worked a program that didn’t provide successful compilations with a certificate of completion. The director felt giving a completion certificate triggered the end of a goal. We all know that this is not the case in recovery, and a piece of paper signaling completion can confuse the subconscious mind. Continued appraisal defining positive actions is better than praising an achievement.

3. Systems help create positive daily habits.

When you create a system to follow, which is intended to improve the quality of your sober life, you are taking the stress out of keeping a constant state of motivation. Doing something from each part of your system ensures you take the necessary steps to maintain your sobriety.

Building your system might take some to get the entire process refined in the way it works best for you. Unlike a to-do list that never gets completed or a goal never achieved,  a system can provide an immediate sense of fulfillment.  Following a specific set of processes, each day helps you look back on daily progress made every day.

How to Use a System to Maintain a Proper Balance in Life

Most likely you are already are using systems to get through your day. Start being mindful of how you spend your day.  It’s vital to keep taking positive steps to stay sober. If your feeling overwhelmed, not staying on track, feeling complacent, start creating a system to stay balanced and happy in your recovery.

Look out for next post where I’ll help you outline a personalized system to follow each day to maintain and reach new highs in recovery.

Are you already using a system in your recovery to stay sober?
How is it working out for you?

Over To You

Do you struggle or get overwhelmed looking at your to-do list? Maybe some days you’re able to get a couple of your obligations of the list, and other days your list lurches over you causing more anxiety than its worth.

Learning to live sober takes time. When you take a look at how you’ve been staying sober, you might notice routines or new habits you are using. These habits become part of a system. Building a system in recovery creates balance and progress in life.

When you work this process each day in recovery live becomes fulfilling. More importantly, you’ll never have to feel overwhelmed, disappointed, or depressed because of an unfinished monumental to-do list.


About the author
John Makohen is a clinician in New York State, CCAR certified recovery coach, as well as a life coach. John is also a freelance content writer assisting drug rehabs to ethically build rapport and nurture lasting relationships with digital marketing efforts. His personal blog is Year of the Johnny.
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