Recovery is a time for recognition. Acknowledge that you have achieved a significant milestone. Remind yourself of the hard work and determination that it took for you to reach this stage. But recovery can quickly become derailed if you fall back into your old ways, hang out with your old drinking/using friends, or have too much time on your hands with nothing to do. Once you’ve quit drinking and/or using, those big blocks of time that used to be taken up with self-destructive behavior now need to be filled with positive pursuits. But where and how do you figure out what those more constructive actions and behaviors are? You need to make plans for your future. Not only do you need to, but planning for your future is a critical step in your ongoing recovery. Here are some ways that you can identify what’s important to you and how you can crystallize your vision of the future.
How to Address Managing Personal Time
During the early stages of your recovery, it may be very difficult to figure out what to do and when. Often your personal time suffers as you struggle to overcompensate for the time you spent in treatment. Bills may have piled up and you’re working longer hours or trying to find a job and this consumes your time. It also adds to your frustration and keeps you from setting aside time for you. It’s important that, no matter what your situation, you set aside time for constructive pursuits that will assist in your future, particularly ongoing aftercare work to maintain your sobriety such as meetings, therapy (cognitive behavioral therapy is highly recommended), and building a strong support network.
Plan to Manage Time
You need to work out a plan to manage your time so that there aren’t long, empty gaps where you have nothing constructive to do. This doesn’t mean that every waking moment of your life has to be structured. But it does mean that, in the broad sense, you allocate blocks of time to devote to certain tasks or hobbies, work, recreation, physical exercise, educational pursuits, socializing, meditation and the like. Time management, as it applies to planning your future in recovery, is much like time management for everyone else. Busy homemakers have to factor in time for household chores as well as family time and personal time. Students need to allocate sufficient time to do homework, participate in school, family and social activities. Doctors, lawyers, stockbrokers, sales personnel, repair specialists – everyone has the same 24 hour block of time each day to account for. Time management helps keep things from piling up and becoming unmanageable. For you in recovery, it’s even more important. Start with a simple calendar or day planner, or even an Excel spreadsheet. If you work 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., put that in as work. Account for transportation time both ways, as well as lunch. Do you bring lunch from home? Do you go out with co-workers? What about when you arrive home? Do you have a set schedule for meal preparation? Do you go to bed at a certain time every night? Strive for consistency in your daily regimen, but do allocate free time to pursue other parts of your plans for the future. Over time, you may find that your development time, your plans-for-the-future time, require more of your daily allotment. That’s a very positive sign. Make adjustments accordingly.
Keep a Daily Diary
Another useful technique is to write down your thoughts and dreams in a diary. Daily is best, but jot down ideas or things that come to you any time, even if it’s several times a day. During your months or years of alcohol or drug abuse, your conscious mind either buried or lost track of what it was that initially held promise for you. Somewhere deep inside, those hopes and dreams still reside. By making entries in your diary – or journal – of what keeps recurring will help you to focus your plans for the future. Remember that achieving long-term goals doesn’t happen overnight. The secret to designing and realizing your successful future lies in a series of incremental small steps. Every step you achieve is yet another positive experience that adds to your self-esteem, your self-confidence and your life purpose.
Crystallize Your Vision for the Future
Perhaps you once dreamed or intended to attain or finish getting a degree (high school, college, graduate). You may have put it off during years of raising a family, or it got derailed during years of drinking and/or alcohol dependence. Put this down as a goal: resume/achieve your degree. Finding a better job could be on your list for the future. Envision what kind of job that would be and note any special training or education you need to qualify. Put the goal of the new job down on your list of goals for the future. Being a more loving spouse/partner/friend or repairing strained familial relationships may be high on your list. Add it. It’s important to have both short-term and long-range goals in your vision for the future. At this point, it isn’t necessary to rank the goals. But it is critical that you do begin to identify what is or may be important in your vision for the future.
Create a Strategy to Achieve Your Vision or Plan
It is impossible to achieve a plan without a strategy. Another way to think of this is that every plan needs a strategy. The strategy must be simple, clearly defined and focused in order to be a tool for planning your future. It’s important to set personal goals on an ongoing basis, as these will change over time. Update your plan to include them as they do change. For example, you may discover that you require more time for personal self-development classes or to attend to spiritual needs. You may become involved in a recreational or leisure activity with your new-found sober friends that requires more time – perhaps for a fishing, camping or hiking trip, or a Caribbean vacation to snorkel and scuba, or mountain biking. Factor these new personal goals into where/how they fit in your long-term plans. Maybe they are just personal time, and maybe they will become more intricately woven into your future plans.
Find Additional Help
Work with a therapist or counselor to help you modify and adjust your plan for the future in order to help keep you on track and motivated. Finding the right therapist may take some doing, but you want to have a professional that utilizes the type of therapy/counseling that focuses on cognitive thinking – dealing with current issues, not what happened in the past. If financial considerations make this seem impossible, there are resources available through United Way organizations in many areas. Look for Family and Children’s Services. They may be able to assist you with treatment based on a reimbursable scale according to your ability to pay.