There’s a certain comfort in knowing how each day is going to unravel, even if that means dragging yourself out of bed and smoking, drinking, snorting or shooting your drug of choice before hitting repeat. The dark cloud that exists without the drug evaporates like magic. For an addict, no longer having that familiar routine can be frightening and disorienting. Looking for ways to fill time is what compels many recovering addicts to relapse.
Drug and Alcohol Treatment: The First Act
Seeking treatment is the first step of many difficult ones for an addict. Yet it often isn’t the only one to get people clean. Whether you’ve been down the road to sobriety one time or 21, you’ve inevitably faced the challenging task of answering “What now?”
When using drugs, the question is easy to answer. Even when you’re in addiction treatment centers, the question is relatively easy to answer; Between meetings and chores, you tend to keep fairly busy. The problems stem from that in-between time, the lull when you aren’t sure how to fill time and each minute passes by with agonizingly slow speed.
Learning to Live Without Drugs: Act II
Many people who use drugs tend to embody some similar traits, namely restlessness and a tendency toward being a doer. Sitting idle doesn’t seem to be in the genes of most addicts. Instead, if you’re like so many others, you’ll need a sense of accomplishment. The reason for this is twofold: Being bored is a great excuse for doing drugs and being productive is a great way to begin the lengthy process of forgiving yourself.
Forgiveness? Ah, yes, that infamous ‘F’ word that is much easier said than done. Self-loathing is likely as familiar as a childhood teddy bear. If you’re an addict, you’ve probably spent years seriously jeopardizing your relationships, your health, your job and your links to the community. Consequently, you probably feel awful for the terrible things you’ve said and done in the past. Yet how are you going to learn how to live without drugs if you don’t learn to forgive yourself? It’s quite a paradox. See, if you don’t forgive yourself, you won’t recognize that you’re deserving of a do-over. If you don’t recognize yourself worthy of a do-over, it’ll be awfully hard to resist those old friends drugs and alcohol.
Here’s the trick: You must get out of that bubble and begin doing things that benefit others if you want to gain the full rewards that a do-over affords. How?
Discover New Passions
Chained for years to the brutal cycle of addiction, many people new to recovery latch on to a negative attitude, and with that, it’s difficult to find new passions and discover new talents.
For many people in recovery, this is where the story ends. For them, being sober is enough. There isn’t a desire to explore new parts of the world, learn a new skill, make new friends or pick up a new hobby. While this view isn’t wrong, it is quite limiting.
On the other hand, what could be the harm in stepping out of that comfort zone a bit? Learn a new language. Go volcano surfing in Costa Rico or dive in the beautiful seas of Malaysia. Read a classic book you slept through in high school or pick up the guitar that’s been collecting dust for years. Whatever you choose, do it knowing that you’re helping redefine who you are without the substances. The only barrier to a better life is in your head.
Find Your Carrot
Though you’ve spent years on an obsessive hunt for drugs or alcohol, now that you’re clean and sober, it’s time to find a new carrot. What makes you climb out of bed each day? Unsure? That’s fine — temporarily. In the long run, you’ll need things that keep you plugging along. That’s one of the changes you committed to making when you went through rehab and started recovery.
Consider some of the joys you gave up when you started using. Did you lose custody of your children? Become fired from a job you loved? Maybe you didn’t have the energy or self-esteem to maintain a romantic relationship. Whatever it is that you lost, it may be the biggest motivator in early recovery. There will be days when it feels like you’ve made three steps back for every one step forward. On these days, close your eyes and fully imagine your motivating “carrot” coming to be. Make the experience as real as possible as you envision the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of this dream becoming reality.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed in early recovery, so it’s advisable that you start small and try to focus your attention on giving to others. Again, focusing outwardly allows you to gain confidence and have a distraction. Some inexpensive and easy ways to accomplish this include:
- If you are artistically gifted, paint a mural on a wall that is either blank or often subject to vandalism;
- Volunteer at an animal shelter;
- Bring your pet to a senior center or another place where people would benefit from visits;
- Bake a dessert for two — and deliver the second one to a local police station, soup kitchen, or senior center.
In a nutshell, the most effective way to stay motivated in recovery is to find healthy alternatives to drugs or alcohol. Find your passion and pursue it with vigor. And if at first, you don’t succeed, try and try again.