Preserving the Best Parts of You – While Making a New Life in Recovery

Posted on December 24th, 2012

smiling_groupFeel like you’ve lost yourself somewhere between rehab and recovery? Maybe you feel like it’s been a long, slow drain of the person you once knew to the point where you don’t even recognize yourself anymore?

Fear not. There are some proactive steps that you can take to go about preserving the best parts of you at the same time you’re making a new life for yourself in recovery. While some may be right up your alley, others may take a bit of getting used to. But none of them are particularly difficult. Beyond that, you don’t need any special equipment or to buy anything in order to try them.

Engage in Some Me-Time

Where should you start? In order to get back to a familiarity with the best parts of you, the logical first step is to engage in a little me-time. That is, take some time to think about what it was about your former self that you felt really epitomized your best attributes, talents and characteristics.

This isn’t such a tough exercise. All it requires is that you set aside some period of time, maybe every few days or so or once a week, to do nothing but think about what you used to really like about yourself.

Or, if that is too much of a stretch right now, since you’re still feeling raw and vulnerable post-rehab, ask your family members and close friends what it was about you that they found most likeable, interesting, unique or admirable.

Of course, if you’ve been a real scalawag to everyone you know for quite some time, it may necessitate you going to other sources to dredge up what used to be the authentic you.

Some of these sources could be old family photo albums, letters, personal mementos from family trips and vacations, old school yearbooks, sports trophies, academic achievements or scholarships, business or other awards and recognition.

Everyone has something in their past that’s notable on a personal level. It’s up to you to dust off the cobwebs of your mind and figure out what that is. You may be surprised to recollect that you do, indeed, have some good traits, talents, and capabilities, things that you probably haven’t given much, if any, thought to recently. It’s time you should.

Examine the Good

Now that you’ve identified a few things about yourself from your past that you find potentially useful, the next step is to analyze what you’ve found with the intention of finding things that you can bring into the present and make use of now that you’re in recovery.

It could be, for example, that you were very good at organizing things once upon a time. While you were deep in the throes of addiction, however, you likely let that talent go by the wayside. But guess what? It’s still there, waiting to be resurrected, dusted off, and used again.

Did others always tell you that you had a particular talent, such as a nice singing voice, exceptional ability in creating delicious meals, creative ability in other areas? If someone paid you a compliment on more than one occasion, or several different people commented on the same thing, it stands to reason that others held you in high regard for this particular trait or ability. Again, if you once possessed such an ability or talent, you probably still have it. Granted, you may need to brush up on it or take a slight refresher course, maybe just start practicing it again, but it is still there, just like your other natural abilities.

How about your demeanor, your way of treating others with respect, your ability to find the positive even in the midst of the negative? These are other traits that you may have once possessed but let go while you struggled with your addiction. Now that you’re no longer chained to chasing your drug of choice, you’re free to get back to what you’re really good at. It’s at least a place to start.

Get Past Self-Pity

Making a new life for yourself in recovery encompasses a lot of different activities. On the one hand, there are some daily activities that you’re encouraged to do, such as taking proper care of your nutrition, getting physical exercise and plenty of sleep. You’re also encouraged to attend regular 12-step meetings.

On the other hand, this is a time of self-discovery, of trying something new and developing new skills and pursuing new goals.

Neither of these is mutually self-exclusive.

But one thing is certain. In order to begin to make any progress in preserving the best parts of you while making a new life in recovery, you have to let go of any lingering or smoldering thoughts of self-pity that you’ve been harboring. Maybe you never consciously thought along those lines, but when you hold yourself back from undertaking new tasks or doing things that you might enjoy because you feel, deep down inside, that you don’t deserve it or you’ve had too rough a life or it’s too difficult, that’s a form of self-pity.

And self-pity will hold you back from doing anything constructive – until you get over and get past the negative emotion.

How do you do that? What’s the secret to banishing self-pity from your everyday life? First, you need to catch yourself thinking that way. If any of the following statements come into your mind, it’s a sign that you might be engaging in self-pity:

  • I can’t.
  • It’s too hard.
  • I’m too old.
  • I’m too tired.
  • I’ve outgrown all that.
  • I don’t have the energy.
  • It’s too difficult to learn to do that again.
  • Nobody cares about me.
  • What’s the point? I’m not going to get anywhere with it.
  • People will laugh at me.
  • People will ridicule me.
  • People won’t take me seriously.
  • I hate my life.
  • Dreams are for other people, not me.

Actually, this list is just a beginning. The number and variety of statements that people think and believe about themselves that fall into the category of self-pity is fairly vast. But, bottom line, self-pity is self-destructive. It doesn’t net you anything other than a continuation of a negative self-outlook.

Now is the perfect time to acknowledge that yes, maybe you have been soaking in self-pity for some time. After you recognize that this is what you’ve been doing, you can take some proactive steps to move past it.

Need more convincing? Consider this. It’s hard to think about any of your positive attributes, traits, talents or abilities if you’re continually down in the dumps about how bad you’ve got it. So, get over self-pity and get on with your new life in recovery.

Make a List

There’s no getting around the fact that in order to become proactive about preserving your best attributes, traits and characteristics while making your new life in recovery requires that you get down to business and do something about it. You can’t simply sit back and expect that anything is going to materialize on its own.

People in recovery seem to love lists and there’s a good reason why. Lists help you to organize your tasks, to identify your goals and to categorize them according to action plans – either to do, to figure out, to revise, add to, eliminate, or to mark as completed.

If you’ve proceeded this far and identified some of your best characteristics, abilities, or talents or skills, things that you feel are the best parts of you, now is the time to make a list that will help you go about finding ways that you can capitalize on them and make them a part of your life in recovery.

Remember that just because you’ve gone through rehab and are in recovery doesn’t preclude you from enjoying your life. On the contrary, when you are in recovery you are strongly encouraged to take part in activities and pursuits, hobbies and other endeavors that you really like doing, that you think you would enjoy, or that you’d like to find out more about.

Maybe you’re not yet comfortable about the whole list-making exercise. Don’t worry. There’s no test included here. You’re not going to get a bad mark because you feel you’re not very practiced at it. The truth is that making a list of what you want to do to improve your life and help your best attributes, characteristics, talents and skills shine is one of the least troublesome and most rewarding activities you can involve yourself in. The reason is that it is so personal, so much a part of you, that there are no right or wrong answers. There’s only what works, what may work, and what interests or doesn’t interest you.

For this list, then, it’s all about maximizing your opportunities in areas where you believe you have some strengths or abilities. What’s so hard about that?

Prioritize

Of course, once you’ve done some work on your list, the next step is to prioritize the various items. One way to look at this is according to timing, how long it will take for you to complete the step. Another way is by the requirement for additional knowledge or skill level, which goes along with timing, especially if what you seek to capitalize on involves getting or completing a degree or a skills-building program.

Maybe you require certain resources in order to move forward on an item on your list. That may mean that this item, while important to you, may need to be moved a bit further down in order of priority. After you identify and secure the resources, you’ll be able to re-prioritize your list accordingly.

What if some of the items are ones that you’re not all that sure about? They’d likely be assigned a lower priority than others you feel really strongly about. Again, it may only be that you need to learn more about them or find out ways that you can incorporate them into your life. Knowledge is a great motivator. The more you learn, the more opportunities will open up for you.

Start Doing

Recall what was mentioned earlier about nothing just materializing by itself? Here is where the nitty-gritty of this subject comes in. In order to preserve the best parts of you while you are making a new life in recovery, you have do actually do something.

You’ve made your list. You’ve identified things that you believe will help you do just that. Now it’s time to put yourself to work, to get down to business and start taking action on what you believe is most important for you and your new, sober lifestyle.

It’s worthwhile to say here that you should always take the time to celebrate any successes you achieve along the way. Many times people in recovery fail to do this small but very important step of acknowledging and celebrating their accomplishments.

Here’s a little secret. It doesn’t matter whether what you’ve achieved is a big deal or an interim step toward a larger and more complicated or longer-term goal. The point is that when you do make some progress, you should feel good about it. Give yourself a pat on the back. Smile and feel a little bit more self-confidence, because you deserve it. You worked for it.

Naturally, the time for self-congratulation shouldn’t take up too much of your time. But you’re not likely to do that, are you? You’re probably eager to get back to work on doing the things that will help you showcase the best parts of you.

Bring Out The Best

There comes a point in your new life in recovery, and it will be different for each person, when you are no longer thinking about the past or what the best parts of you were, way back when. You will be firmly established in the present, living your new life today.

But that’s not the end of the journey, not by a long ways. What happens in recovery, if you approach it in the most proactive way, is that you are constantly learning and growing. Far from just trying to preserve something that you believe is one of your strong points, you will be making new discoveries about yourself and your abilities, identifying new skills and acquiring them, building upon your knowledge base and finding enjoyment in the results you’re able to achieve.

Bringing out the best in yourself is something that you do every day. Live each day as if it is a gift, for that is exactly what it is. Each day brings its own set of challenges and opportunities. You can either embrace them and see this as a growth opportunity or allow them to slip away unattended to. Which seems like the most proactive approach to take?

Since this is the easiest question to answer, the next move is purely up to you. Start bringing out the best by doing your best, beginning right now.

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