To stay free from drugs, alcohol or addictive processes, your life in recovery has to be better than it was in addiction. Obvious, yes – but how do you keep getting better in your recovery? Here are 10 ideas for an enjoyable and satisfying life in long-term sobriety.
First thing’s first – human connection is key. Some people in long-term addiction recovery stay involved in addiction recovery networks. They attend support groups for years or decades, building long-lasting friendships with other recovering addicts. Other people step away from recovery circles, once they have firmly established their new life without drink, drugs or harmful process addictions. They find healthy ways to enhance their connections with friends and family, which fit well with their values and interests in recovery.
There’s no right or wrong way to stay free from addiction permanently – but it’s vital to maintain strong connections with supportive people. Allow good friends and family to know you and care about you. Take interest in other people too – what they are doing in life and when they might need a little help. This can be through ongoing recovery meetings as well as regular activities with people you like – such as a weekly walking group or practising your faith, Sunday football or coffee with friends. It’s about allowing other people to see you – in good times and in bad.
It’s good to stay close to the right people in addiction recovery but it’s also important to let go of damaging relationships. It can be one of the hardest decisions people make in early recovery – to move away from the people who bring them down. Perhaps you need to step away from your best friend because she uses cocaine every time you meet up. Maybe you need to accept that your marriage is over. You might be working in a demanding job and your boss doesn’t understand why you need to cut down your hours.
There might also be relationships where you know you’re harming someone else. Be willing to admit your mistakes because everyone makes them in their relationships. Seek help to change your behaviours, particularly where you repeat destructive patterns that cause problems for others. Where people say they don’t want you in their life, try to accept it and focus on getting support for yourself. As painful as it can be to let go, causing more harm is never the answer.
When many people come into recovery from drug or alcohol addiction, they question if they will ever be able to dance or socialise, laugh or go on a date again. They can’t remember a time when they did these things sober – or if they can, they were challenging, awkward or painful experiences.
Facing fears in recovery from addiction can be fun – we promise! Take a friend with you who feels equally awkward – if nothing else, you can have a good laugh at each other.
Every human being is born creative. Babies and young children naturally love to explore their world and discover new experiences. They invent words and games without fear of judgment. They play without needing to achieve or be noticed.
In active addiction, true creativity is dulled or destroyed because of the obsession to use or act out gets in the way of genuine inspirations. When people put down their addiction, the mental and physical healing can bring about powerful creative sparks. People uncover long-forgotten passions or feel very excited to try new activities.
Follow those sparks! If you fancy picking up a paintbrush, do it – enjoy the process and don’t judge your work. It’s not about being the next Rembrandt or Picasso; it’s about doing something you really want to do. Remember that creativity isn’t just about the Arts – it can be just as creative to fly kites or fix an engine or go bird-watching, as it is to write or dance or sing.
Not only are young kids naturally creative but they also follow their instincts. Give yourself regular time each week to be completely spontaneous. You might be surprised by how you choose to enjoy your time. Pay particular attention to the thoughts that keep coming. Have some quiet time if that’s what you need most – or get up and move! Don’t censor yourself – whatever comes to mind, go with it.
This is all about building a regular habit of tuning into your needs and wants. The more you listen and respond to yourself, the more you will enjoy your recovery.
Active addiction can do a lot of damage to mental and physical health. After years of drinking or taking drugs, vital organs and systems in the body can be damaged. Intravenous drug users may have picked up HIV or hepatitis in active addiction, for example. Gaming addicts might suffer from social anxiety after spending a lot of time in isolation. Gamblers are vulnerable to depression. Sex addicts may suffer from emotional trauma or physical health problems connected to sexually transmitted diseases.
In addiction recovery, you’ll rebuild your self-esteem – and part of that is about taking good care of yourself. So book a GP appointment for that niggling health worry. Go away for the weekend with your best mate to revive your spirit. Relax as much as possible – it’s never a waste of time.
Don’t buy into the culture that says you have to be positive all the time. Sadness, pain and fear are part of life – the problems start when you try to escape those feelings at all costs. If you’re diagnosed with cancer in your recovery, for example, it’s completely natural to fear the future, feel sad or experience physical and emotional pain. If you lose a beloved pet, there is likely to be a grieving process.
Finding ways to express your feelings is essential in long-term addiction recovery, ideally with people who have direct experience of what you’re going through.
In active addiction, people often hide their greatest light. Perhaps you grew up believing it wasn’t okay to dance or travel overseas. Maybe you have a bad memory of trying something you love, then being criticised or mocked.
In addiction recovery, do the thing you’ve always wanted to do – it’s one of the best ways to ensure your recovery keeps getting better.
A sure way to feel unhappy is to pick someone you think is more successful, healthier, better looking, luckier, richer or funnier than you – then regret that your life isn’t more like theirs.
Instead, focus on what you have – gratitude and awareness for the good in your life will enhance your recovery.
Getting better in addiction recovery is all about finding greater levels of peace with yourself. Punishing yourself for making mistakes won’t do you or anyone else any favours. Let yourself fail and learn and try again in life – without making up a story about why you’re at fault. Let go of your inner critic and look for the lighter side of life.
It can be helpful to talk to people you look up to or respect – to find out what really goes on for them. Most people, when asked about their lives, will talk about experiencing difficulties and hard times, as well as the successes they’ve had along the way. You can discover you have much more in common with people than you realised.
Did we miss anything off our list? Let us know if you have any inspired ideas to keep getting better in addiction recovery. We love to hear what works for you.