If you’re not seeing any forward momentum from your recovery efforts and feel like you’re stuck in neutral, could it be that you’re not really giving it all you can? Maybe you’re phoning it in. You could just be taking up space in the room and not really doing anything more than paying lip-service to sobriety. If this sounds like you, here are some suggestions on learning to walk the talk in recovery.
Take Stock of Where You Are Right Now
What is it that you hoped to have gained by this point in your recovery? If you’re a newcomer, you may have either low or high expectations. You may have thought that you’d find it clear sailing from the time you finished rehab, but now you find that it’s tougher than you thought. On the other hand, you may be among those who couldn’t see how you’d possibly make 30 days sober, let alone the rest of your life. Discouraged, disheartened, confused, anxious – all of these may be feelings you experience when you look at your current recovery status. It’s time to take stock of what really is going on with you right now relative to your recovery efforts and where you want it to be. Don’t be alarmed if you have a string of negatives on your list. This will just give you more that you can actively work on. You should also put in the positive column all the time that you have remained sober – regardless of how difficult it has been to achieve this milestone. Every day sober is an achievement, and one that you should definitely be proud of.
When You’re in the Room, Be a Part of the Meeting
There’s no better way to learn how to walk the talk in recovery than to really be present when you’re in the 12-step room. Whether your self-help group is Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous or Gamblers Anonymous or any of the other 12-step fellowships, you don’t gain anything if you’re just sitting there with your mind elsewhere. You should consider how you can ratchet up your listening skills. How much of what you hear can you recall once you leave the meeting place? Do you remember anything that you can take a lesson from? Is there a memorable story of another group member’s experience in learning how to successfully cope with triggers or urges or fending off probing and malicious comments from co-workers? If not, then you need to train yourself how to listen and absorb. When you’re at a 12-step meeting, it’s also recommended that you forget about everything outside the room for the moment. That means no furtively trying to reply to text messages or check emails. Definitely cell phones must be turned off. This is your sanctuary, your place of support and encouragement. The outside world is not supposed to intrude. So don’t let it. But it also means that you need to pay attention to what’s going on in the room. Don’t just occupy a seat and allow your mind to wander, thinking about where you’re going afterward or what’s for dinner or the project at work that you’re behind on. Be here and now when you’re in the room and you’ll get a leg up on learning how to walk the talk in recovery. After all, others have made it through some of the same kind of rough patches that you may be experiencing or have experienced. Did you ever think that you just might learn something from listening – really listening – to what they have to say?
Stuck on a Step?
Many in recovery make it through a couple of steps and then come smack up against a wall when they face the next step in succession. There are some tricks to being able to work the steps that your sponsor can help you with. By tricks, this doesn’t mean anything that’s deceptive or wrong. It simply refers to a strategy to continuing to make progress – walking the talk in recovery – without giving up because you’re stuck on this or that step. How do you do this? One suggestion is to skip over that step and move on to another one. You can always come back to the step that’s giving you trouble later. There’s nothing that says you have to do each one in order. Remember that recovery isn’t a race. It’s an ongoing and lifelong journey. Surely you have adequate time to work all the steps. So give yourself the freedom to pick up your momentum by working on another step. Also consider that you may be avoiding a certain step and that there’s something about your reticence that you need to address. Talking with your sponsor about what you’re feeling can help you in this regard, as he or she is likely to have some suggestions for you. Since your sponsor’s responsibility is to help guide you through the 12-Steps, he or she is very familiar with the blocks that people run into when trying to navigate through them effectively. And, let’s face it. Some steps are harder than others. Some require a great deal of painful introspection and facing some truths that are difficult to admit. Then, there’s the step that requires making amends. Now that is a mountain that’s hard for almost everyone to climb. Again, your sponsor can help you every step of the way (literally and figuratively) by offering you encouragement and support, suggestions and, when necessary, prodding you into action.
Revisit Your Recovery Plan
Another reason why you may be having difficulty learning to walk the talk in recovery could be that your recovery plan needs to be updated. If you are still working according to a plan you put together during the final phase of your rehab, it’s more than likely outdated. Now is the time to make revisions. You have more than enough to fill it up. All you have to do is sit down and devote some time to thinking about what it is that you want for yourself in recovery. While this may or may not be true for you, maybe you haven’t stretched yourself enough in your goal-setting. Ask yourself if what you’ve listed as your recovery goals are too easy. It sounds counter-intuitive that anyone would be stuck in neutral with recovery goals that are too easy, but that’s not always the case. It could be that, with no aggressive goals or those that require a stretch to achieve, a person could be lulled into complacency or become bored because there’s nothing really motivating about his or her recovery goals. What is a goal, anyway? It’s something that we want to achieve. In recovery, our goals need to be focused on recovery, or have a recovery-oriented slant. Here’s another area where your 12-step sponsor can play an important role. While sponsors are not counselors, and 12-step group participation is not therapy, the whole concept of recovery goals is certainly part and parcel of what it means to walk the talk in recovery. Talk with your sponsor about goal-setting and how to jumpstart your recovery by adding new goals. Also look at the goals that you have already achieved. These are important successes that you have racked up for yourself. You may have glossed over them and not paid them much heed, but that would be a mistake. Everyone in recovery needs achievements in order to motivate them to keep going. In a way, it’s like the child learning how to ride a bicycle for the first time – not that you’re a child, but this is about tackling something new and retaining it. At first, it’s intimidating and scary. Maybe the child falls down a lot before finally mastering how to keep aright. When the child’s accomplishment is acknowledged, this cements the achievement. It’s onward from then on. Once learned, you never forget. Your family members and loved ones are another sounding board for revisiting your recovery goals. In fact, since these are the people that know you the best and care for you the most (in normal circumstances), they could well provide some ideas and suggestions that, if nothing else, spur you on to think of even more goals that you now find worthwhile. Call it family brainstorming, if you will. Just be sure that you keep your focus on recovery-oriented goals. This isn’t about how to put more money in the family bank accounts – unless you’re in recovery from gambling addiction or overspending.
Check Out Other Meetings
Some of the complacency you feel may be because you’re seeing some of the same people in the room every time you go. While there are regulars, and you may be one of them if this is your home meeting group, there are almost always people who come to check out different meetings. Why do they do this? For one thing, it helps to keep things fresh. You get to see and meet new people, hear some different stories, get a slightly different perspective on how certain recovery stumbling blocks are overcome. Going to check out other meetings also helps motivate you to keep attending meetings – especially if you’ve begun to feel that participation is getting stale. Adding a little variety to your meeting schedule may be just what you need to gain new insights into learning how to walk the talk in recovery. Who knows? You may just find that one of the other groups that you check out is a much better fit for you. In the recovery world, if it works, make it work for you. Changing meeting groups is not uncommon. Just be sure that if it results in you needing to change sponsors that you address this directly with your sponsor before you make the change. Examine your motivation for changing sponsors. Are you trying to make the change because it’s getting tough or your sponsor is being firm with you about something that you’re trying to avoid?
Take Time to Have Fun
Recovery isn’t all about hard work. An important part of recovery is the ability to have fun, to relax and enjoy life in sobriety. Maybe the reason you’re phoning it in right now is that you’ve drained your energy, are running on reserve, or are just too tired to see anything good and inspiring and motivating in recovery. You need to take time to have fun. It’s quite possibly as simple as that. If you have vacation time coming, plan a short trip that you can take with your loved ones. It doesn’t have to be a major expense or too many days away. Just a brief getaway can do wonders to lift your spirits and recharge your batteries so that you’re refreshed and renewed and better able to focus on walking the talk in recovery. Hobbies and recreational activities are another way to have some well-deserved fun. Whether you enjoy gardening or cooking or cross-country skiing or hiking nature preserves, carve out a bit of time several times a week so that you can do what it is that you love. If you can be involved with other people during these activities, that’s even better. You need to broaden your social circle to include healthy relationships – those who do not drink or do drugs or engage in other addictive behavior. Maybe your idea of fun is to curl up with an engrossing book, to paint landscapes, or to engage in a vigorous physical workout. Whatever it is, if it fits with your sobriety goals, go for it.
Find an Inspiration
While you will most often communicate with your sponsor, there are other people that you can find inspiration from in recovery. Maybe this is a speaker that you listen to regularly, or a guest from another 12-step group. Maybe it’s someone else’s sponsor or even your own. If you find something to admire in how that person has been able to overcome hardship, to tackle and successfully overcome various stumbling blocks in recovery, then you can learn a great deal from the individual. Read literature and books on how others have managed to achieve their recovery. This may prompt you to want to make some similar changes in your own lifestyle or add to your toolkit of coping skills. There is an expression that goes something like this: “Nothing succeeds like success.” We could add here that nothing motivates like success.
Bottom line, it’s all about continuous learning. When you’re in recovery, be like a sponge, constantly soaking up new ideas and techniques. The more you learn, the more you can do. The more you do (emphasis on action, because recovery is doing, not thinking about it), the more you grow. The more you grow, the more you’re able to walk the talk in recovery. When you look at recovery as continuous learning, it’s more like a solid progression, a building-block to your foundation of sobriety. With a focus on learning, you’ll find that you’re able to keep recovery exciting and positive. In the end, it’s a win-win for you and those you love.