Getting up and facing the new day may seem like a struggle at times. This is even truer for those of us in early recovery, especially since we haven’t yet become familiar or comfortable with a routine that helps keep us grounded in the principles of sobriety. While this can be a particularly unsettling time, it needn’t persist for long. There are some things that can be done to not only help you make it through the day, but start you on the road to thriving in recovery. We’ll call them secrets, but they’re really common-sense guidelines that have proven effective for many others who’ve traveled down this path before you.
1. Today Is A New Day
Everyone welcomes a fresh start. That’s the beauty and the simplicity of today, for it does represent exactly that, a new opportunity to learn and do and grow in recovery. It shouldn’t trouble you that you made a mistake yesterday, or that you think you have too much on your to-do list and lack the time or energy to get it all done. All you really should be focusing on is today, and what you can get done right here and now. When you greet the new day, make it a celebration of sorts. By that we mean making a conscious effort to acknowledge that this is a new day and to express gratitude for being here to experience it. This isn’t something that many in recovery take lightly, having overcome some rather horrific times while they were lost in addiction. But even those who haven’t gone through severe trauma or suffered many years of addiction in their past have a lot to be grateful for. You’re here. You’re alive. You’re able to contribute and make a difference in your life in sobriety today. Today is all you really need to think about and concentrate on. There will be plenty of time to strategize and plan for the future, but what’s most important is to get into the practice of living life in the present. Don’t fall into the trap of worrying about what you cannot control and focus obsessively on the future. Take the time you need today to begin work on the plans you’ve laid out for your recovery. The sooner you begin, the more ground you will be able to cover.
2. Let Bygones Be Bygones
Speaking of worrying about what you cannot control includes constantly revisiting what’s happened in the past. The simple truth is that those days are long gone and cannot either hurt or help you now. Sure, there will be things in your past, just as there are in everyone’s past, for which you feel a sense of responsibility, regret, even shame. These are things you will need to work through as you tackle that particular step in the Twelve Steps. But, for now, just know that constantly reflecting upon and obsessing over what you’ve done that has caused harm to yourself and others will not do you any good. It’s time to let bygones be bygones. For many individuals entering recovery, the tendency is to bring with them a satchel full of old grudges, bitter memories and aching wounds. These negative thoughts, when pried open and examined over and over again, simply prolong suffering and stall further healing. If you keep living in the past, you’ll just keep reliving those painful experiences again and again. That’s certainly not conducive to growth and healing in recovery, is it? Make it a point to dismiss such nagging thoughts about the past. This is, of course, after you acknowledge any responsibility you had for what happened and pledge to make it right when the time is appropriate – meaning, you are ready and strategize a plan to make amends.
3. Embrace Your New Life
Are you sitting on the sidelines of life, stewing over your current circumstances, convinced that you’ll never achieve success? If so, you’re sabotaging your recovery and jeopardizing your chances of happiness. What may be at work here, buried deep in your subconscious, is a belief that you are somehow not worth it, that you don’t deserve happiness. That’s utter nonsense. The problem becomes how to rid yourself of such negative beliefs and move on. For one thing, it sometimes helps to revisit your goals regularly. Of course, to do this, you first have to have some goals. So, if you don’t have any or you have decided that what you have isn’t where you want to go, make some changes. We’ll talk more about goals in another section. What does it mean to embrace your new life? You’re living it, so how can you embrace it? If this seems somehow impossible, take a minute to reflect on what happiness is. If you feel joy bursting from your heart, perhaps at the sight of your newborn child or spending private moments with your loved one, that’s what happiness is. If you derive satisfaction from doing a job well, from helping another in a time of need, from just being a good friend, that’s also what happiness is. And it doesn’t matter that you are in recovery. People in recovery are just as capable and deserving of happiness as anyone else. Looking out at your new life in sobriety today, it’s appropriate to be glad that you are here. Be thankful that you have the opportunity to create your life as you wish it to be, to craft new goals, to strike out in pursuit of new interests and explore new places, to meet new people.
4. Dare – Finally – To Dream
One of the things that newcomers to the rooms of recovery find it so hard to grasp is that they’ll one day arrive at the place where they finally feel the freedom to dream. Listening to the stories of others in the 12-step rooms, it is possible to see the transformation and growth of individuals happening seemingly right before your eyes. Others will also be able to witness your own growth and transformation. It does take time, however. You won’t realize this transformation overnight. Maybe something you hear at this meeting or the next will spark an idea about something you’d like to do, some project or activity that interests you and that you’d like to pursue. This, in turn, may lead you to learn as much as you can about the project/activity and perhaps get involved yourself. It’s from this that dreams begin to take shape. They need some seed, some kernel to begin with. They need time to sprout and make their way up from your subconscious into your conscious mind. As you find yourself developing more ideas springing from the original one, you’re making it your own. This is dreaming at work, and it’s a very healthy sign. Don’t worry right now if you don’t think you have the ability to dream. You will. Just give yourself a chance and allow yourself the permission to do so when the time is ready. Then, yes, dare finally to dream – and then work on making those dreams a reality.
5. Make Good on Your Promises
We all know we can’t go through life just using others and taking up space. No matter how terrible a background we’ve come from or what we’ve had to overcome to get here, now that we’re in recovery it’s important to do what we say we’re going to. Making good on your promises is another secret to thrive in recovery and, just like others already mentioned, is a lot easier to achieve than you probably think. Perhaps you’re saying to yourself that you’ve never been much good at keeping your word. You may have meant well, or maybe not, but when it came time to acting on your stated intentions, that action was often few and far between, if at all. Many in recovery have a string of broken promises that they regret – and, unfortunately, keep beating themselves up about into recovery. Remember that what’s past is past. Today is a new day. It’s time to resolve to keep your promises – or don’t open your mouth and offer to do something unless you intend to fulfill your commitment. What happens when you make a promise and then follow through on it? You accomplish what you said you’d do. This is an achievement for which you can be proud. You went out of your way to make good on your offer, and this means that you were able to step outside of your current problems or difficulties to do so. This is progress. This is a sign that you’re making strides in becoming grounded in the principles of effective recovery. Not only that, but you’re helping yourself gain self-esteem in the process.
6. Develop New Interests
While we’re at it, discussing secrets to thrive in recovery, it’s important to point out that there are countless opportunities to discover new people, places, things and activities. Anywhere you go you’ll likely encounter someone who can offer a glimpse into a new pastime or hobby or has knowledge to impart to you about a career direction or educational pursuit or travel opportunity. As you go to work or school or tend to children or loved ones, keep your eyes and ears – as well as your mind – open for the possibility of finding something that interests you and that you’d like to pursue. Don’t worry that you lack money or time. Many pursuits cost nothing, and you can always find the time to do something you enjoy. Think about the process of developing new interests as something extremely positive in your life, and one that benefits your recovery immensely. Looking at it this way, it shouldn’t take any time at all before you find yourself wanting to branch out and discover more about some pursuit or activity that has captured your attention and interest. When you do, go beyond just desire to find out more and actually take the steps to learn all you can about it. Get involved and see if it’s what you want. If not, there are other interests you can pursue. After all, this is your life. And life should be enjoyed in recovery, along with doing the work of recovery.
7. Extend Yourself – Meet New People
There’s another tendency among the newly sober individuals and that is to stick to the people and groups they know. While it’s recommended not to make any major life changes during the first year in sobriety, this doesn’t mean that you’re forbidden to meet new people. On the contrary, when you first step foot in the 12-step rooms, all you’re doing is meeting new people. Any one of these people is likely someone you didn’t know before. Some of them may even become friends, or at least, fond acquaintances. But as you go on in recovery, you will find that you are strong enough and grounded in recovery so that you feel confident to be able to find opportunities to meet new people in groups outside of the rooms of recovery. This is as it should be. You want and need to get to the point where you are resuming your place in society and becoming a full participant in life. The only difference is that you’re committed to a sober life. Where to get started? If you’re an outdoorsman, get involved in groups that go skiing or camping or hunting or fishing. There are also many opportunities to meet new people in crafts and hobby groups. Consider going back to school or taking a class to learn how to cook or garden or some other activity that has a learning curve. Wherever you find people with like interests is a good place to begin. You will need to extend yourself to meet new people. This means being receptive to communicating with and interacting with people you don’t yet know. It may seem a little alien at first, but you’ll soon find that you’ve got more in common with, or that you just like being with, these new acquaintances – who just may turn out to become friends.
8. Focus on the Positive
Surely you have plenty of negative experience in your past. It would be extremely unlikely that anyone in recovery from addiction hasn’t undergone a good number of pretty terrible ones. But now that you’re in recovery, looking on the bright side and training yourself to see past the negative is a skill that you really need to develop. Yes, it’s always easier to talk about being positive than to actually be positive. And, let’s be frank, no one is positive all the time. Everyone has their ups and downs. That’s just being human. Still, you can do yourself a solid and strive to focus on what’s good and right and beneficial to your life in recovery. If there’s a situation, there is always more than one way to look at it. You can choose to see it in a negative light or you can opt to find the good in it – even if you have to push yourself to get there. Over time, it will get easier. The good news about focusing on the positive is that you always have something to look forward to. Being positive about your new life in recovery also makes opportunities easier to recognize when they come your way.
9. Complete Goals Each Day
Having an action plan and a daily to-do list are two things important to your overall recovery, especially in early recovery. But you need to do more than just have the plan and the to-do list. While they are both good reminders, that’s all they are – until you take action and work on them one by one. Action plans and to-do lists are words on paper (or in the computer). To make a difference, you need to act. Getting into the practice of completing goals each day is another secret to thrive in recovery. You can start with the smaller goals to make it easier to get some items in your completed column. But also be sure to do some work, maybe research or reading, toward longer-term or more complicated goals that take some time to achieve. These goals are not static, however. They can and should change as you make your way through them. In fact, your list of goals should be one that you regularly revise. This is especially important as you meet new people, develop new interests and decide that there are some new avenues or pursuits that you’d like to explore further. Just as regular contributions to a savings account will help increase wealth and ensure financial stability, so, too does the practice of completing goals each day, revising goals and adding new ones.
10. Realize That You Deserve to be Happy
An earlier secret talked about embracing your new life and somehow being able to get past the mistaken belief that you don’t deserve to be happy. If you’re going to really take off and thrive in recovery, you need to realize that you absolutely deserve to be happy. This is more than just a concept. It’s a vivid truth, one that should be etched forever in your mind. There is no other life than the one you are living right now. Whatever you have done in the past, you have the opportunity now to make a difference in the life you live today. In other words, you can become the person you want to be. You can live the life that you have always wanted to live or one that you now see is possible for you. Reach out and go for that dream. Establish stretch goals. Strive to keep learning and growing and healing. Above all, make room in your heart for happiness to inhabit. Welcome it into your life in recovery – and thrive.