Long term recovery from addiction: 5 ways to fail at everything

How do people in recovery sabotage themselves? A review of our common mistakes (and how to avoid them). More here.

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How do we – the people in long term recovery from addiction – sabotage ourselves? A review of our common mistakes (and how to avoid them). More here, with a section at the end for you to share with us your experience, strength, and hope.

Living in the “real world”

After getting sober a few 24-hours ago, I realized that I had absolutely no idea how to live in the “real world”. Turning the tables, working the steps and staying out of trouble gave me a life better than I could have ever imagined. That’s still true today.

I did not start learning about how to manage other parts of my life – aside from staying sober – until I had several years in addiction recovery. Am I a late bloomer? Likely. The fact is that learning how to maximize our second chance at life takes work, much like staying clean.

Big results come from big efforts

I do not believe in luck. I do not believe in handouts. I don’t think anything worth doing happens overnight. To achieve big results, we must put forth big efforts.

Self-sabotage in addiction recovery

One thing many recovering people have in common is self-sabotage. We unknowingly attempt to fix that which cannot be fixed, plan what cannot be planned and worrying incessantly about everything that does not matter.

I know this certainly described me in early recovery. If I’m not careful to constantly make recovery and self-improvement my top priorities, I could easily fall back into a pit of self-pity.

Do you want to fail at everything you try? Here are 5 surefire ways to do just that.

5 Ways to Fail at Everything

1.  Always expect immediate results without putting in the work.

Sound familiar? I know it does to me. Remember that addiction is a disease of instant gratification. Why else did we use? We wanted to feel better, right now.

I’ve got news for you. Getting results with anything in life that will be worthwhile, results that will last, and results that you can be proud of will take time. Getting good results at anything in life will require a sacrifice of time, energy and commitment.

For example, a body builder may train for years before ever entering a competition. I go to the gym about 4 days per week. I’m not a body builder, nor do I possess super human strength. My only goal is to take care of my body and stay as healthy as I can. That’s it.

There are some people who are at the gym every day, sweating, muscles flexing and giving it 110% effort. Many of these people are friends of mine. I know how committed and driven they are: Counting every calorie, never missing a workout, taking supplements and staying away from junk food. These men and women are hitting the weights when most of us are still counting sheep.


They know that results ain’t cheap, results don’t come easy and results never come quickly.

I always see a new round of folks at the gym on January 2nd each year. They come in with the best of intentions, likely following a New Year’s Resolution to finally get into shape. Most of these folks stop showing up after a month or so. I always wonder why. My best guess is that they lack the desire and commitment to making a lasting change, so they take the easy way out.

REMEMBER THIS: Your success in life and in recovery is directly proportionate to your level of commitment. DO NOT GIVE UP! Just keep showing up.

2.  You focus only on problems and not solutions.

When I read about this concept in a certain recovery book, I was blown away. The first time I really considered what this simple statement meant was about 10 years ago, and my life has not been the same since.

As addicted people, we are wired to focus on what is not working. Drugs and alcohol took away the sting of our problems and allowed us to temporarily escape reality. Instead, have hope in addiction recovery!

I don’t know about you, but recovery helps me to face reality and look it in the eye. Not only is facing reality the purest form of living, it is the only form of living I want anything to do with.

REMEMBER THIS: Instead of complaining and worrying about what is wrong in your life, make the decision to look at is right and build on that. The answers will come when we become solution focused.

3.  Being obsessed with the future.

Pretty simple, and I know you have heard this before. How easy it is to forget!

Though we must plan for the future, it is important to remain focused on the here and now. What can you do right now to inch towards your goals? What could you do today to make tomorrow just a little bit better?

Think hard about this. One of the great lessons I’ve ever learned is that life is happening now. I can’t live tomorrow today, nor can I go back and erase yesterday. It’s done. Life is what happens when you’re planning for the future. The future will come, or it won’t. You are alive and reading this right now.

REMEMBER THIS: Do something today to improve yourself. You will go to bed satisfied, accomplished, and wanting to do it all over again.

4.  You are a walking, talking excuse.

I will start exercising on the first of the year. I’ll stop eating fast food after I go grocery shopping. I’ll stop smoking once I start exercising, but won’t start exercising until I go grocery shopping. I’d make some changes today, but…


Anything after the word “BUT” is B.S. Stop making excuses and get busy. Don’t wait until the time is perfect. It never will be (see item #3). Right now is the perfect time. Manage your time or it will manage you.

REMEMBER THIS: Eliminate the B.S. excuses you’ve been making and get busy! These addiction recovery ideas can help you stay on track.

5.  You are constantly comparing yourself to others.

This is a great way to fail at everything.

The reason why we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel    – Steven Furtick

We usually compare our worst attributes to the best attributes of others. If someone is thinner, richer, prettier, or seems to have it all together, I can assure you they do not. They struggle too, but you do not see it. All we get to see is the wrapper – the external – or what others present to the world. When we compare ourselves to others, we are usually doing so by comparing external variables: What kind of car they drive, how they look, where they live, etc.

REMEMBER THIS: Remember that everyone struggles with something. Don’t gauge your progress in life against anyone but yourself. Set goals to make yourself feel good.

What’s going on in your life?

Do you want to start succeeding in life? In recovery? I’d love to hear how you will put this posting to use.

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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