In order to do well in long term sobriety you have to keep taking positive action in your life.
This becomes much easier if you simply establish healthy habits.
In our addiction we had some very unhealthy and destructive habits. Those habits were slowlyand sometimes quicklywhittling our lives down to chaos, misery, and isolation.
In recovery we trade out those bad habits and we hopefully replace them with good habits.
Now you might be under the impression that you can simply take positive action once and turn your life around. In other words, you might believe that recovery should be a one-off event in which you turn everything around and then simply go back to your life as usual. No need to make permanent or lasting habit changes if you can successfully walk away from your drug of choice, right?
But in reality, it turns out that recovery is more complicated and involved than this. If you try to cheat in recovery and not work a lifelong program of positive change then eventually you will find yourself sucked back into your old lifestyle, and referring back to your old solution, which was to self medicate.
In other words, the threat of relapse is always going to be there in your recovery journey, and therefore you are always going to have to be innovating and trying to improve yourself so that you do not fall victim to relapse.
The specific problems in your life are going to keep evolving. The drama that we go through is always changing a tiny bit from day to day. But it never goes away completely, and there will always be another excuse coming down the line that would allow us to self medicate again. There are always going to be reasons in the future that would allow us to justify a relapse if we desired.
Therefore we need to stay on a path of holistic growth in recovery, such that we do not succumb to relapse.
If you take positive action today and it helps you to remain sober then that is great. However, if you do that every single day without fail and it helps you every day then that is a positive habit.
Our habits are powerful because they allow us to lock in the gains that we make from personal growth in recovery. If we make a positive change but we fail to establish a new habit as a result of that change then we haven't really locked in any positive gains from it. The progress that we made will be fleeting and it will slip away.
The way to avoid this is to think in terms of positive habit changes. We don't just need to do one thing right today, we need to find a new positive habit to implement today, so that the progress that we make can be permanent.
This begs the question: What habits should we be focusing on in long term recovery? Are some habits better than others? Are some habits more likely to lead to success than others?
I would argue, first of all, that you need to test out various habits in recovery.
This requires a lot of work, and a lot of effort.
Because, for example, you cannot just try seated meditation for ten minutes this afternoon and declare it to be useless to you. If your sponsor tells you to give seated meditation a chance, and you try it for five minutes, have you really given that idea a fair chance?
What does it take to give something like that suggestion a fair chance?
In my opinion you need to give a new lifestyle change a 30 day trial period in order to be fair.
So in other words, you cannot judge a meditation session based on one 5 minute trial. You cannot judge a new habit like that based on one afternoon session.
Instead, if you commit to trying meditation every single day for the next 30 days, then you will have a really good idea of whether or not that lifestyle change has benefit for you or not.
The benefits of something like seated meditation can be cumulative. The same would be true if you were following the suggestion of exercise instead. If you exercise every day for a week you might still be miserable at the end of that week, and not seeing much benefit to the activity.
But if you stick with it for a full month then you are going to start seeing more and more benefits kick in. You will notice that you are sleeping better, that you have more energy during the day, and that you feel invigorated after you exercise. But again, this won't really happen after a single exercise session or even after a week of daily exercise. After a full 30 days though you will begin to notice lots of additional benefits that were far more subtle and hard to distinguish in the beginning.
And again, this takes a lot of effort, dedication, and hard work. Most people want to see instant results for very little effort. We don't want to put in a full 30 days of continuous effort at something only to maybe find out that it doesn't really help us at all.
And yet this is how you will discover the powerful habits that can shape your best life in recovery. This is how you find the path to real success in lifeby testing out various habits and seeing what works well for you.
Are there any shortcuts?
Sort of. The best shortcut is to use the idea of modeling. Find the person who has the life that you want in recovery, then model your life after theirs. Do what they tell you to do. If they make a suggestion to you, turn that suggestion into a 30 day trial and dedicate yourself to following through with it over the next month. Give that suggestion your full attention and dedication by following through with it religiously for 30 days. If, at the end of the 30 day trial, you are not seeing any results that get you excited, then you are free to walk away from the suggestion and disregard it. But in order to earn that freedom you need to give the idea a full and fair trial period to see if it truly helps you or not.
I adopted several new habits in my recovery that have had a huge impact as a result of doing one of these 30 day trials. The biggest one was exercise and distance running. Another big one was in writing about recovery every day and keeping a written journal. Those two habits have had a huge impact on the quality of my life, and the quality of my recovery.
I would think that the number one habit that people should investigate in early recovery is the often suggested 90 AA meetings in 90 days. That can be a huge game changer for someone who has struggled to find sobriety. A close second to this suggestion would be that of daily meditation or daily exercise.
But again, you are going to need to explore some options on your own in order to find the path that works best for you. If you are feeling stuck in your recovery journey then ask your sponsor, your therapist, or your peers in AA what habits they have adopted in order to live their best life. What habits make them into the better person that they are today? Then start using their answers as suggestions for your own life, and put their ideas to a 30 day trial. This is how to find the best habits for your own life journey.
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