Addiction recovery ideas for staying on track

How can you align yourself for continued progress in recovery from addiction? Ideas and practices to help you stay on track in addiction recovery here.

minute read

Turbulence Ahead

It is often times hard to figure out how we have gotten to where we are today. In order to maintain life as is, we must stay on course. In order to change life into what we want it to be, we often must take the storms of life head on and trust we will make it through the other side.

A dear friend of mine is a pilot. He doesn’t fly a commercial airliner, but owns a small stunt plane in which he competes in acrobatic competitions all over Colorado.

Recalling a conversation I had with him some months ago, I can remember asking him several questions, amazed at his daring and adventurous spirit: “What’s that like to be upside down flying a tiny plane? What do you do if you get into a spin and can’t pull out of it? And how the heck did you learn all those maneuvers?”

His response was fairly simple, given my complete ignorance regarding airplanes and my dislike of flying in general. He basically told me that “Everything matters; every single little adjustment you make in the air does SOMETHING to the way the plane flies. I just make sure I don’t get too far off my flight path and I trust my equipment. I make small adjustments as I need to and don’t really worry about it; then I hold on and enjoy the ride.”

Getting off course doesn’t happen overnight

At the time I thought wow, that’s pretty cool, but definitely not for me. It wasn’t until just recently that I was thinking again about life and my own recovery and for some reason this conversation reemerged in my thoughts. I know that in my life, I’ve sometimes wondered how the heck I put on 15 pounds over the winter, let my spiritual life go astray, or how I’ve lost touch with my friends. If I’m honest with myself, getting “off course” in life did not happen overnight. Straying off course is almost always very gradual and sometimes happens without my permission, or does it?

If I am HONEST with myself (that’s important), I will almost always find that my transition into a full-on nosedive in my life is not happening on accident. It is happening because I’ve gotten comfortable and stopped making the little adjustments as I go. I might have gotten lax on meeting attendance. I may have gone too many days without adequate sleep. I may have missed workouts or just time with friends. If I’m able to make little adjustments to my day as I go (think the 10th step) then I’m less likely to find myself stuck in a storm. Good relapse prevention is about maintenance.

A practice for you: A journaling assessment

This next little exercise might sound like it is meant for a kindergartener, but trust me it works. If it will make you feel better, do this in the comfort of your own home so nobody will know!?

FIRST, I’d like you to draw a cockpit in an airplane, it could just as easily be the dashboard in a car, a motorcycle or whatever. Pick whichever you’d like.

NEXT, I want you to draw a fuel gauge, a compass gauge, a speedometer, radio, odometer, and so on. This will be something you will be referring to for days, weeks and months to come, so take your time and be creative.

NEXT, I want you to write out FUEL, DIRECTION (compass), SPEEDOMETER, RADIO, and ODOMETER.


I want you to journal about how much fuel is in your tank. How much sleep are you getting? How is your diet and exercise regimen? How does your 12-step or support meeting attendance look? Where is your spiritual life? The amount of FUEL in your tank directly corresponds to these areas. If your tank is getting close to “E”, then you know it is time to start making some adjustments in this area.


What direction are you headed in life? Do you wake up with a plan to attack the day, or for the day to attack you? Do you have some positive things planned to enhance your life and recovery? Remember that 24 hours is MANAGEABLE. You can do a lot with 24 hours but you must plan, plan, and plan. A plane takes off with a destination in mind. You should wake up and do the same.


As for the speedometer, how quickly are you moving through your day? Does Friday come the day after Monday and leave you wondering where the days in between went? If this is the case, it is an indication to SLOW DOWN, roll off the throttle and consult your control tower (Higher Power, who or whatever that is).


The radio represents your thoughts. What stations are playing in your mind? Worry? Regret? Fear? Just like a car or an airplane you are free to change the channel whenever you’d like. REMEMBER: Our thoughts produce our emotions and our emotions drive our actions. If you’d like to learn more about this concept, feel free to check out my other articles here on the Addiction Blog.


Lastly, the odometer tells you how far you’ve traveled. This is time for reflection, meditation and prayer. It is necessary to reflect and inventory our lives so that the miles ahead of us can be productive.

There is no perfect flight

Remember that there is no such thing as a perfect flight. All of the times I’ve flown I’ve always encountered something:  A delay, lost luggage, bad airport food or my least favorite of all the pilot getting over the loudspeaker announcing BUCKLE UP! TURBULENCE AHEAD!

If you would like to receive my newsletter full of tips and tools to keep your recovery on course, you can visit my website at addictionindustries [dot] com and sign up for the free newsletter. Thanks and have a good flight!


About the author
Paul J. Wolanin is a professional addictions therapist living and working in Northern Michigan. He is author of Chopping Wood and Carrying Water: One Day at a Time , a 30-day recovery devotional available on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble. He also runs a website where he offers tools and tips to keep your recovery on track. Sign up for his newsletter by visiting him at Paul Wolanin's Author Site.
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