Imagine you’re coasting along in recovery, going to the occasional meeting, staying on top of your pledge to maintain your sobriety, and you find yourself getting lazy. It’s becoming a little too boring, perhaps, or you decide that you’ve put as much effort as you need into this whole being sober lifestyle and you want to cut loose a bit.
What may very well be happening is that you’re reneging on your commitment – you know, that promise you made to yourself that you’d do whatever it takes to embrace recovery.
It’s funny how those words seem a little shallow after a while, especially if you’ve begun to spin a litany of excuses for why you need to divert from your usual pattern. You might even be tempted to stray into dangerous territory, either in the form of fraternizing again with friends who are still using, or putting yourself at risk of relapse by running yourself down, taking on too much, and falling prey to deadly stress.
But you don’t have to fall apart right now. In fact, by taking hold of yourself and following a few simple tips, you can get right back in step with your recovery.
Take Time to Have Healthy Fun
Maybe what’s missing in your life at present is a good dose of healthy fun. Ask yourself how long it’s been since you had a few laughs with close friends or family members? When was the last time that you can remember having such a good time that the hours just flew by? And by that we mean an event or activity that didn’t involve becoming blind drunk or stoned out of your mind.
How about taking some time to have a little healthy fun? It doesn’t need to be anything protracted, or require you to take days off from work or school. You can and should be able to identify activities and people to do them with that will allow you a little down-time, an opportunity to recharge your batteries, so to speak, and feel refreshed and renewed as a result.
While what most excites you may be quite different than the next person in recovery, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get some ideas from talking with your sponsor and others in the 12-step rooms. Some of you may have already formed a social group to engage in sober pastimes on a somewhat regular basis.
If you’ve been in recovery for some period of time, you probably have also begun to branch out and seek new groups of individuals to interact with. Perhaps this is a group or club that’s dedicated to a particular recreational pursuit, such as downhill skiing or fly-fishing. Maybe you’ve found an interest in hobbyist groups such as woodworking, stamp collecting, needlepoint, or ceramics.
Getting out and having fun with others who enjoy the same types of activities is an easy and often inexpensive way to pass a few hours and come away refreshed.
Before you finish up this week, make a list of the types of things you’d like to do and the best way to go about either finding a group of people to do them with or get in touch with friends you know like the same things and arrange an outing. It’s an excellent way to lift your spirits, have a few laughs, and re-energize your recovery.
Review Your Accomplishments
Sometimes what happens when individuals in recovery feel like they’ve become stagnant or that they don’t have any motivation to go further is that they’ve allowed themselves to become overwhelmed by the magnitude of what’s yet remaining to be done. You could be prone to this kind of attitude if you dread tackling items on your recovery to-do list.
Here’s a tip that works for many in recovery. When you feel stuck, unmotivated, unchallenged or overcome by challenges, stop and review the list of accomplishments you’ve already achieved.
No matter where you are in recovery, you have some things that you’ve successfully completed. This could be your first week in sobriety, or your first month, six months, one year or 10. Those sobriety milestones are important reminders that you do, indeed, have what it takes. You’ve proven it, not once, but several times.
In fact, each day that you are sober is another accomplishment. It should make you feel more self-confident and better able to handle the challenges that occur. When you start to feel overwhelmed or disheartened, or just plain bored, pull out your list of accomplishments and thoroughly read them over. Remember that these are your achievements. They are the result of your hard work, not someone else’s.
Every person likes to feel rewarded. Think of your accomplishments as stepping stones to even greater achievements. They are also the building blocks that are helping to firm up your foundation in recovery.
Again, even if you’ve been in recovery for many months or years, it’s always good to take some time to review what you’ve been able to accomplish from the list of goals that you’ve set out for yourself.
Do Something Nice for Yourself
Having a focus and a concentration on recovery is all well and good – and you cannot continue to make progress unless you do – but there also comes a time when it’s a good idea to just do something nice for yourself.
This isn’t as selfish as it sounds. When you are doing something nice for yourself, you are taking a breather, pampering yourself a bit, doing what you can to bring a little joy and satisfaction into your life.
And we all need to feel good about ourselves, so if a bit of pampering will do the trick, we should be all over it.
Maybe that something nice is taking a half-day of vacation and spending the afternoon doing whatever we like. It might be taking in a movie on Friday afternoons once a month. It could be getting a massage or a facial or going out on a shopping excursion with some friends. Maybe getting a makeover is at the top of your list.
What’s in it for your recovery if you take some time out to do something nice for yourself? Just think about how great you feel when you’ve had your bit of me-time. Now you can get back to your focus on recovery with a clear mind and a renewed interest in doing the work of recovery.
Chart New Goals
Could it be that what’s got you down right now is that you’ve lost enthusiasm for some of the goals you’ve set for yourself? Maybe you haven’t taken the time to do an analysis of how your recovery goals are meeting your needs. It may be that you’ve discovered something new in the process of working through your action plan to achieve this or that goal and you find yourself in a quandary.
You might want to pursue something that’s more in line with this new area that you’ve happened upon, but feel guilty or stuck because you’ve set yourself on a different path. Maybe it’s time to weigh and balance what feels right to you and what you might be following just because you said that’s what was important to you.
This can easily happen if you fail to take into account how much you’ve changed. You aren’t a static individual. You are constantly changing, evolving, and growing. It stands to reason, then, that your long-term interests would also begin to take a slightly different turn. This doesn’t mean that you’re going to throw out all your long-term goals and do something radically different. You might decide to, but you may also decide that your stated goals are just fine. They just need a little revision here or there.
There’s also absolutely nothing wrong with having another area that you pursue at the same time. Think of it as a concurrent path, or having a minor in addition to your major. All that’s really happening is that you’re broadening yourself, expanding your horizons, and enriching your life.
And this is another excellent way to help get you back in step with recovery.
Talk it Over
Is feeling blue a part of why you’re reneging on your commitment? If depression descends on you like a tough-to-get-rid-of summer cold or hangs around longer than a couple of weeks, it could be something more than just general sadness. If this is the case, do yourself a favor and talk to a professional who can help you overcome this emotional turmoil and help you get back in step with recovery.
Maybe you don’t have depression or anxiety but you still aren’t feeling very good about yourself and your life right now. Another individual you can talk things over with is your 12-step sponsor. Believe it or not, your sponsor has had some experience in this area and likely has some thoughts on things you can do to lift yourself out of this temporary block.
Having a friend like your sponsor – and you may very well consider your sponsor your friend as many in recovery do – can prove invaluable as you encounter various challenges in your life in recovery. After all, you can’t be expected to know all there is to know about how best to navigate this or that hurdle, or even to have a clue why you’re avoiding doing any work on a particular step. Sometimes, just the ability to talk things over with your sponsor opens up a new avenue for you to pursue. You may finally be able to see how the process works or discover a solution that you can try.
Be like a Sponge – Soak up What’s Good in Recovery
Another thing we often don’t give ourselves credit for in recovery is just how much learning we’re soaking up. You may be able to relate to this one yourself, especially if you’ve been going along, doing what you’re supposed to do in your daily schedule, going to meetings, listening to what’s being said in the rooms, trying to get back in the groove at work or at school, figuring out how to re-establish yourself with your family and loved ones.
The truth is that each day that we exist, we have the opportunity to learn new things, to experience something that we’ve never before thought possible, and to grow as a result. While we seldom take the time to think about all the knowledge that we’re accumulating, we are actually increasing our knowledge base by the minute.
The more we learn, the more the sponge of knowledge is filled up. But don’t worry. There’s no danger of oversaturation of our sponge. This is like a little miracle. We’re never going to be too filled up that we can’t keep right on learning.
Just how great this can be is easily explained by the energy and excitement we feel when we learn something new, when we try a new approach to a particular problem or issue in recovery and it works. It’s like we have a whole new lease on life. The light gets turned on and suddenly, we’re eager to keep on going.
Since you never know when or where you’re going to learn something that may prove beneficial to you in your recovery, keep an open mind. Be willing to accept new ideas and turn them around in your mind. See what’s in them that you can use to your advantage in helping you on your recovery path.
Renew Your Spirit
Let’s not forget that we have a spiritual nature as well. Whether or not you believe in a Higher Power or a God as you know Him (or Her), you do have a spirit, one that is indomitable and extraordinarily powerful.
Maybe what’s happened in the long months of getting clean and sober and entering recovery is that you’ve been so focused on doing the work that you’ve neglected to nourish your spiritual side. Maybe now is the time to get back in touch with it.
Could it be that you’ve fallen away from your church or that you still believe, deep in your heart, but haven’t been inside the physical church, temple or synagogue for years? Don’t allow that to stand in the way of you getting back in touch with your spirit. No one will challenge you or forbid you from entering the religious edifice and just sitting or standing there to allow your thoughts to drift toward spirit and spirituality.
But you also don’t have to physically travel to a church to nourish your spirituality. You can pray silently in the midst of a forest or meadow, in your room, tending your garden, even in a roomful of people. It’s what’s in your heart that counts. If you are at a loss for words, just immerse yourself in the feeling.
Another way to help get in touch with your spiritual side is to engage in meditation or yoga or deep breathing exercises. Whatever works for you is what’s important, not the manner in which you do it. After all, this is your spiritual side we’re talking about. It isn’t your neighbor’s.
Taking Up the Challenge
What this all leads up to is perhaps a recommendation to take up the challenge. Instead of fretting about how difficult it is to go through a life of sobriety or allow yourself to remain stuck in a go-nowhere position, take action to reorient yourself, your attitude about life, and your direction in recovery.
By having healthy fun, reviewing and revising your accomplishments, doing something nice for yourself, charting new goals, talking over what’s bothering you and seeking direction when needed, soaking up knowledge and renewing your spirit, you’ll be well on your way to getting back in step with recovery.
Remember that each day is a new beginning, a fresh chance to pursue what’s good and healthy in recovery. Life is lived in the here and now, so make this time count. After all, if life is what we make of it, what better way to live it than to pursue it with a positive attitude and a willing spirit?