Searching for ways to help improve your recovery chances? This is a good sign that you’re on the right track. But recovery from substance abuse or process behavior addiction, as you know, isn’t always smooth sailing. It’s easy to get a little lost somewhere along the way. We’ve done some of the legwork for you and have come up with a few suggestions. Call them 10 secrets to do better in recovery.
1. Keep Your Plate Well-Balanced and Free of Too Much Obligations
What do we mean by keeping your plate well-balanced? We’re not talking about food, here. Instead, what we’re referring to is our natural tendency – especially those among us in recovery – to try to tackle too much at once. Whenever we veer away from our recovery-related path, we’re more likely to get in a bit over our heads. Better to stick to what we’ve started and focus solely on our recovery. At least, do this for the first year to give us a good opportunity to lay in a solid foundation of recovery.
2. Stay Up-to-Date on Recovery News
Think you know all there is to know about the field of recovery? You’d be surprised and amazed at all the research that’s going on these days on prevention, treatment and recovery from substance abuse and process addictions. If you see something of interest, pass it along to your interested allies in 12-step groups. When you stay abreast of what’s happening, you’re likely to be motivated to continue to do whatever it takes to maintain your sobriety.
3. Maintain a Positive Outlook
It’s not always easy to be cheerful and optimistic, but this is really at the heart of continuing to make progress in recovery. It’s actually a well-known strategy to doing better in virtually every phase of recovery, but it’s especially helpful to adopting a positive outlook early on, when you’re new to recovery. What if things are pretty bleak when you finish treatment and are attempting to put your life back in order? There’s no doubt that times can be rough. For that, you need outside assistance and continued support and encouragement. But if you persuade yourself that looking at life and your challenges in recovery as a glass half-full instead of a glass half-empty, you’re on the road to improvement already. Here’s a handy tip. Every time something happens, or you have a thought that tends toward the negative, turn it around and spin a positive out of it. Let’s say you wake up and think that today is going to be miserable and you won’t accomplish much. Stop that thought in its tracks and instead tell yourself that you’re alive and grateful to have this opportunity to make a difference in what you do for your recovery. Then, get up, take a shower, get yourself nourished, all the while thinking of what you’re going to do to work on your recovery. Then, do it. The more you do, the more you’ll begin to feel the self-satisfaction of accomplishment. And making your way toward your sobriety milestones will keep you feeling more upbeat about your new life in recovery.
4. Make Goals that Cause You to Stretch
What happens when you limit your horizons? If you’re like most people, you get bored. Doing the same thing day in and day out is enough to cause anyone to want to slack off. How do you keep things fresh? Chart out what you’ve accomplished so far in recovery. Then, take it to the next level and really push your horizons out a bit. Don’t just settle for what’s within grasp. Of course, definitely do include short-term goals that are easily achievable, but you need medium- and longer-term goals to keep you motivated to continuous improvement. As they say, nothing succeeds like success. And having goals on your recovery plan that you look forward to achieving just makes good sense – and it’s one of the secrets to do better in recovery.
5. Network Like It’s a Lifeline
You never know when someone you meet during the course of working your recovery will turn out to be the person with a valuable connection or tip to advancing to that next rung in your sobriety journey. It could be someone you meet during the course of attendance at regular 12-step meetings or it could be an acquaintance at work or a co-worker with whom you come into contact. The point is to keep an eye out for every opportunity that comes your way. Don’t just feel that a person has nothing to offer you. On the other hand, it isn’t that you’re looking for what you can get out of someone else. The idea is that people have connections. What you know and who you interact with could very well turn into a bona-fide opportunity for you down the line. If your networking helps you realize some small or large success that also helps in your recovery efforts, so much the better. After all, recovery isn’t a one-time thing. It’s an ongoing, lifelong journey. You might as well take advantage of the encounters you have along the way to help keep you motivated in recovery.
6. Mix it Up and Attend Different 12-Step Meetings
Tired of seeing the same faces at your regular 12-step meeting? Do you feel as if you’ve heard some variation of the same story over and over again? Do you find yourself tuning out or, worse yet, making excuses to not go to meetings as often as you have been? The solution to this, and it’s another of the secrets to do better in recovery, is to vary your meeting locations. When you mix it up and go to meetings on different days or different locations, you’re likely to see a different group of attendees than you normally do. That in itself may be enough to keep your interest going. At the very least, you’ll have done something proactive – going to meetings – and help yourself to become more grounded in the practice of working your recovery. Don’t forget to attend meetings when you travel or go beyond your normal daily route. This is another excellent opportunity to reap the benefit of group support. The idea is that you’re all in this together, even though each of us travels our own path of recovery. Just hearing one tip or strategy that worked for another and might be well-adapted to your own situation could make it worthwhile. Who knows? You might even find yourself attending a meeting where you feel more at home than you ever did. There’s nothing keeping you from switching your home group meeting location. Just be sure you’re not trying to escape your responsibilities if you do choose to change where you regularly go.
7. If You Outgrow Your Sponsor, Choose a New One
In a somewhat similar vein is the situation you might encounter where you feel that you’ve outgrown your sponsor. This isn’t all that uncommon, but it’s amazing the amount of distress or difficulty it causes the sponsee. It may help to remember that your sponsor is a human being just like you. He or she may well have reached a certain level in their recovery where they feel comfortable and aren’t all that motivated to move along further. If this sounds a bit harsh, it isn’t intended to be. What may be going on is that you, on the other hand, are interested in pursuing a new avenue that you’ve discovered, or feel that your sponsor just doesn’t “get” your goals and isn’t helping or encouraging you enough to get there. Sometimes, a sponsor has his or her own problems to deal with – and that includes the occasional slip or some other crisis that takes attention away from interaction with you. There are ways to deal with finding a new sponsor to replace the one you currently have. Before you jump ship and switch to someone else, however, it’s important to examine your motives. Is your sponsor on you for failing to live up to your responsibilities or after you because of your inability or lack of following through on some aspect of your recovery? Remember, one of the chief responsibilities of sponsors is to do everything they can to help you, the sponsee, understand the steps of recovery, encourage you to continue working the steps, and to always be there for you in times of crisis. If you honestly answer that your sponsor is doing all these things, maybe there’s something else going on with you that makes you want to get a different sponsor. Before you do jump up and change sponsors, be sure that you talk your feelings over with your current sponsor. It could very well be that your sponsor will encourage you to go ahead with your change, since if doing so will help with your recovery efforts, he or she is likely to be all for it. Just be cautious about your motivations. And, whatever you do, don’t go without a sponsor.
8. Make Fun a Part of Your Day
Every day in recovery is a blessing. But it doesn’t all have to be hard work and tedious. One of the secrets to doing better in recovery is allocating time in each day for having fun. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to be rolling in the aisled in laughter – although there’s certainly nothing wrong with that if it happens to occur while you’re watching a comedy or laughing with friends. Having fun each day can be as simple as doing something you really enjoy. It could be a walk along the trails near your house or engaging in recreational activity, reading a good book, cooking a gourmet meal, decorating the house for the holidays. Whatever makes you smile and feel good – that is in line with your recovery goals and plan – is something that you should incorporate into your daily life as often as you can. An old phrase goes something like this: “A smile is just a frown turned upside down.”
9. Become Physically Active
Allow your body’s natural endorphins to kick in – and make you feel great – by engaging in a little vigorous physical exercise as a part of your normal routine. What this does for you, aside from making you feel great in the short term, is help you get your attitude situated right. When you’re active in the physical sense, it gets more than just your blood pumping. It’s good for your heart and lungs and virtually every part of your body. This also affects your mind. When you are active, as opposed to being sedentary, you feel more on top of things. You’re able to think more clearly, to see your way around potential obstacles, and to make more well-informed decisions. All that oxygen going to your brain helps out, too. Not only that, but being physically active – not overdoing it, just keeping a balance in your exercise routine – winds up giving you more energy. And when you feel more energetic, your recovery efforts won’t seem like such hard work after all. What constitutes being physically active? Well, you don’t have to engage in any activity to the point of pain. After all, you’re not after becoming a marathon runner – unless that is part of your lifestyle and goal. The key is to do some form of regular exercise, enough to work up a good sweat, to get your blood pumping and give your lungs a good workout. That may take the form of a brisk walk, playing volleyball, swimming, going golfing or cross-country or downhill skiing. Maybe it’s working out at the gym or doing some hand weight exercises and jump roping at home. Whatever form it takes, be sure to do some form of physical exercise three to five times a week. If you have any doubts about your ability to engage in physical exercise, check with your doctor first. Then, incorporate physical exercise into your recovery lifestyle.
10. Pay Attention to Your Body, But Don’t Neglect Your Mind and Spirit
One final secret to do better in recovery has to do with balance. In this case, it’s the balance you should strive to achieve between your body, mind and spirit. You may recall that body-mind-spirit is the kind of balance you were taught in rehab. It’s more than just a philosophical concept, however. You need to pay attention to what your body is telling you on a daily basis. Don’t push yourself to exhaustion. Be sure to eat properly, drink sufficient water to stay hydrated – especially during and after vigorous physical exercise, get adequate sleep (8 to 9 hours is recommended), and see the doctor if you experience any medical conditions warranting attention. Keep your mind in balance by always learning something new. Activating your brain cells by engaging in challenging puzzles, reading, learning anything new, helps keep you fresh and alert. But your spirit also needs enriching and nourishment. Maybe you do this by going to church, synagogue, temple or mosque. Maybe you enrich and nourish your spirit by practicing meditation or yoga or doing deep breathing exercises. Sometimes people find they replenish their spirit and get in touch with the God as they know Him by experiencing nature. Whatever works for you, do it. Just keep in mind that a wholeness and unit – or balance – of body, mind and spirit is one of the best secrets to do better in recovery. Bottom line, none of this is rocket science. All of these are 10 practical suggestions – we call them 10 secrets – to do better in recovery. If they work for you — then that’s so much the better. You can probably even come up with a few secrets of your own. Be sure to pass them on in the rooms. What inspires and works for you may just be what someone else needs to hear to get them more involved in working their own recovery.