“If I knew I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.” – Mickey Mantle, U.S. pro baseball player
Addiction recovery, in my experience, isn’t an easy journey. I’m pretty sure, too, I’m not the only one who feels that way about it either. It’s a hard road, a steep road, full of dangers and pitfalls, full of emotions, good and bad, and full, certainly at its beginning, of the fear of relapse. If it’s a road you intend to travel along, you’d best be prepared.
In its earliest days, those first few miles, it seemed all I did was repeat a mantra I learnt in rehab, “Think this road is a tough one? You’re right, it is. But the other road will kill you.” Over and over, repeating it to myself, again and again.
My journey has taken 8 years of my life, so far, and I know there is no end in sight. If I’m honest, I’ll never get to my destination. But that’s not the point of my journey. Traveling this road means one thing, and one thing only. My life, as it is now, is far, far better than the one I was finally able to walk away from (actually, I was more carried away, in the arms of friends and the medical team at the rehab center who cared for me). The longer I walk this road, the further away I will get from its beginning. It’s all about the journey.
During these years spent focusing on my addiction recovery, I have learned many things about myself, about others, and about the circumstances that led to my downward spiral into a hole I could never have gotten out of on my own. The self-education is one of the main reasons those early fears of relapse have lessened for me now.
I’ve also learnt about two lists that exist now, two columns in my own personal handwriting. One says, “What Works.” The other says, “What Don’t Work.” Yes, I know the second one is grammatically incorrect, but I kind of like it that way. Anyway, forget the second one. The important list is the first, “What Works.”
This article is based on the top 5 items on that list – my top 5 healthy practices to help you through recovery. Yes, in other words, what works. It’s a personal ist, but I’m also pretty sure most of them can be found on the lists of others who are going through addiction recovery, who are walking their own roads, similar to mine, yet different. So here goes:
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, recovering addicts have spent their active years of substance abuse being grateful for absolutely nothing. Addicts are probably the most selfish people you’ll ever meet, because everything is centered around, and dependent upon, that next “fix.” Tell an addict to be grateful, and the answer would be predictable, colorful, and certainly not printable.
However, meet an addict who’s spent some time on good ol’ recovery road, and you’ll meet a different person, one who is grateful they’re still alive, in fact, grateful for another chance at life, grateful for each and every day, and grateful just to be clean and sober.
Recovering from an addiction is all about getting back all of those good parts of yourself that seemed lost forever under the weight of this chronic disease. For me, one essential part of that was my health, both physical and mental, which had suffered so badly by those years of abuse. I couldn’t tell you if I was clinically depressed before my alcohol and drug abuse took their grip on me, but I sure can tell you, once they had, depression took me over, if it hadn’t already been living inside me first.
Rehab is about getting clean, and recovery is all about staying that way. To do so, to stay clean and sober, takes energy, energy that, at the beginning, you don’t have. That’s why you need the help and support of others. Soon enough, you’ll be standing on your own two feet, and you must be prepared mentally and physically for what is to come.
Exercise well. Eat well and eat natural products. Sleep well (even if that means you exercise until you drop, just to simply get tired enough to sleep, do it). Live well by looking after your body and your mind. Then you’ll have the energy you need.
Not sure if this should be higher on the list or not. meditation has been a cornerstone (not too strong a word) of my addiction recovery, and its journey. Meditation has taught me the way to find the peace, and the calm and, yes, the happiness that addiction completely obliterated from all aspects of my life as it was. Part of the treatment program I received in rehab, it is as important now as all the other things I need to sustain myself, like food and exercise.
The practice of living in the present moment, the art of mindfulness, as it is known, has given me the ability to control thoughts and emotions that, before, I simply couldn’t. This self-awareness, this mindfulness, has brought untold changes for the better.
That aside, there is scientific study, research, and evidence that confirms the practice of meditation in addiction recovery is proven to increase the chance of its success. Need I say more?
Live within Your Support Group
The most important people in your life, during your ongoing addiction recovery, are the support group you need to be able to turn to if the threat of relapse is real. Even now, 8 years along this journey, there are days…
My advice and my next top healthy practice? Live within them. No, I don’t mean take residence in their guest bedroom, or accompany them daily to their place of work, pulling up a chair every morning for yourself next to their desk. I mean surround yourself with them, and stay in touch; in essence, keep them close.
Respect & Forgive Your Past
This is vitally important, and no easy task either in itself. Rehab gave me the tools I needed to be able to respect what had gone before in my life (addiction, as much as it has damaged us, needs our respect), and to forgive myself for what I had become. If you remember that an addict is another person, not the true you, this becomes easier for you to accept, and, ultimately, forgive. It’s the mindfulness practice at its most rewarding – being able to acknowledge what’s around, to experience it all, and to accept it for what it is.
All About The Journey
So, there you have them, straight from my “What Works” list. My top 5 healthy practices to help you through recovery – be grateful, be healthy, learn and practice meditation, live within your support group, and respect and forgive your past (if you are able), and, I hope, to keep your feet firmly engaged with the road onwards and upwards. As I said in my introduction, it’s not an easy journey, to a destination you’ll never truly reach, but, remember, it’s not about where you can end up, it’s all about the journey.
What healthy practices or activities have help you through a difficult time? Did they take your mind off the situation or allow you to give it a kind of focus that helped you? Please feel free to share in the comments below, all of which are gratefully received. Lastly, take care of yourself.