How to Maintain Sobriety: Continue to Grow in Recovery
When you decided to begin the recovery process, you likely imagined drugs or alcohol as your most formidable foe to sobriety. However, completing detox and developing a successful road to recovery requires recognizing that your own most significant obstacle to recovery is actually yourself. After you fight through detox to remove these substances from your body, you may be tempted to believe that you have effectively extricated yourself from the firm grip that substances had on your life. In all reality detox simply put just stabilizes you medically. But as you undergo rehab, you learn that growing in sobriety is not simply about overcoming chemical dependency. It also involves identifying the root causes of your addiction and actively addressing them to set yourself up for long-term sobriety. Sobriety is a lifelong journey.
During my recovery, I realized that staying sober required continuing to grow and change in recovery, from the first stage of the process and for the rest of my life. I learned that personal growth in addiction recovery means establishing self-awareness as a priority and thoroughly reexamining my physical, mental, and emotional states and needs. By developing a new relationship with my sober self through education and a commitment to personal growth, I was able to create a complete overhaul of my lifestyle that continues to support my sobriety to this day. Below, I lay out some important thoughts on how to help you create a thriving new life for yourself that encourages your recovery now and years into the future.
Personal Growth in Addiction Recovery
Achieving sobriety encompasses three primary stages of the recovery process, meaning you must take time to focus on personal growth during each phase. From the moment you decided to take the first step in recovery, you demonstrated personal growth by admitting your problem, recognizing the harmful impact it has on your life and the lives of your loved ones, and choosing to take action to overcome this problem. In the first stage of the recovery process, detoxification, you fought against frightening, painful, and overwhelming withdrawal symptoms, knowing that temporary discomfort was necessary to begin the journey of long-term healing.
After these symptoms subside, the next stage is rehabilitation, in which personal growth becomes even more paramount. Behavioral therapy allows you to identify your habits, uncover any underlying issues that contributed to these habits, and transform your lifestyle through behavioral modification. You will work with a trained professional therapist to examine the thought processes that drove you to substance dependency, including recognizing and treating any underlying physical or mental conditions contributing to your addiction. Rehab helps you uncover your subconscious habits, like having a drink each day after work, determine where they come from (often the desire to escape unwanted thoughts or emotions), and then come up with strategies to substitute these habits for healthy ones.
The final stage of the recovery process is long-term recovery, in which you will implement the strategies you continue to learn along the way, along the journey to restructure your life and support your sobriety. For me it has always been that core group of guys, my “ board of directors” who I talk with and or meet with weekly. A few friends of mine have “Coffee” over the phone, just to keep each other in check. Completing rehab is an important milestone, but staying sober means continuing to grow and change in recovery so you can effectively rebuild your life, restore your relationships, and get back on track in your career. Instead of turning to substances to escape from your life and the parts of it that bring you anxiety or shame, you learn to face your emotions and discover what you need to live a happy, healthy life. Personal growth in addiction recovery means getting to know yourself better, developing a respectful relationship with yourself, gaining strength and confidence, practicing self-care, and continuing to improve one step at a time.
How You Can Continue to Grow in Recovery
You can increase your chances of achieving long-term sobriety by taking the following steps:
“Experience is not what happens to you; it is what you do with what happens to you.” — Aldous Huxley
An essential component of growing in sobriety is accepting the changes life throws your way and responding positively. A large portion of what you experience in life is beyond your control, so it is important to retrain your mind to accept and adapt to these changes instead of fighting against them. Life’s unexpected and dramatic changes can be one of the strongest triggers to relapse, so you need to develop the self-awareness to recognize emotions like anger and self-pity and move past them. Accepting change means learning to let go of the parts of life that you cannot control and instead choosing to focus on concrete strategies for navigating even the most difficult situations in a positive direction.
“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” — Nelson Mandela
Just as sobriety does not happen in one fell swoop, relapse does not occur due to the stressors of one particular moment or situation but results from actions you take to undermine your recovery behaviors. Rehab teaches you how to live a sober life, but you must commit to your program to prevent yourself from falling into bad habits. While relapse is a scary possibility, you must not allow fear of relapse to control you. You need to adjust your mindset to view challenges not as obstacles but as opportunities for further personal growth in addiction recovery. Some of life’s most valuable lessons are learned after being knocked off balance and building new skills to work through these challenges, so choose to embrace them rather than trying to eradicate them.
Create Healthy Habits
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” — Mark Twain
Now that you are faced with restructuring a new life for yourself without substances, you should focus on creating healthy habits to support your sobriety. Nutrition and exercise are vital components of a healthy, sober lifestyle, so take up a sport or exercise program you enjoyed in the past or experiment with a new one. From swimming to kickboxing to simply taking relaxing walks around your neighborhood, exercise gives you the chance to focus on something outside yourself and provides a variety of physical and mental health benefits. A healthy routine of clean, non-processed foods consumed in sensible portions regularly over the course of the day gives you the fuel you need to continue growing in sobriety. Healthy social habits are also crucial as fostering healthy relationships and maintaining a solid support system can help you get through the most challenging parts of your recovery.
Set Goals and Work to Achieve Them
“It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.” — Confucius
You learned from your substance dependency that focusing on the wrong thing, or nothing at all, can seriously stall or even completely derail your life. Setting reasonable goals and working diligently to achieve them creates much-needed structure, supports healthy behavior, and provides necessary momentum in your life. Choosing to learn a new skill or try a new hobby can serve as a creative outlet, reduce stress, and help you develop new friendships with others who share a common interest. Achieving your goals involves carefully crafting a plan, deciding on a specific timeframe, and creating measurable milestones for success throughout your progress. By breaking your overall goal down into smaller, more manageable steps that continuously build on one another, you can celebrate your achievements and experience the positive emotional impact of success. These benefits provide valuable encouragement as you are continuing to grow and change in recovery.
Cultivate an Enthusiasm for Life
“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Living through substance dependency imparts many recovering users with newfound personal strength, gratitude, and enthusiasm for life. Personal growth in addiction recovery is a complex, life-long process, so take the time to be proud of your accomplishments, acknowledge your growth, and demonstrate appreciation for what you are thankful for and what makes you happy. Remember that you are alive, you’re not using drugs or alcohol, and you have an entire lifetime of exciting opportunities ahead of you. Notice and appreciate even the little things in life, such as taking a walk with your dog during a beautiful sunset or receiving a compliment. Building your enthusiasm for small things enhances your mindset, so you become more aware of the good in your life, retrains you to expect good things, and ultimately propels you on a positive path into the future.
Overcoming Addiction Through Personal Growth
Of all the meaningful lessons I learned during my own battle with substance dependency, I found that continuing to grow and change in recovery is the absolute most important aspect of supporting recovery now and in the future. We tend to be our own biggest enemies in life, and this is especially true during the recovery process. Growing in sobriety means you must commit yourself to recognizing your challenges and developing healthy, creative solutions to prepare for anything life has in store. You can achieve personal growth in addiction recovery by accepting change, embracing challenges, creating healthy habits, setting goals, and cultivating an enthusiasm for life.
Allen Berger, PhD has some extremely good books on Emotional Sobriety. You can preorder his latest book, 12 Essential Insights for Emotional Sobriety, on his publishers site here. He is a well respected author and a good person. Check out his new book, I know I will be getting it when it comes out!!
Thank you for reading, and stay strong!