By: C. W. Stratton, MS, CASAC
“Your life does not get better by chance; it gets better by change.” -Jim Rohn
Out with the Old – In with the New
The process of recovery consists of making significant adjustments in our lives. Upon entering the process, we come with plenty of baggage that has weighed us down for years. This baggage has dictated how we move about in this world, and since it’s been so heavy, it’s restricted us from entering places in the world that many of us have yearned to be a part of.
Due to this heavy load and the room it has taken up in our lives, we felt we would never fit. As a result of this we decided to maintain our position and associations with those who didn’t believe our baggage was too much to bear.
With this said, we must begin looking at the baggage, our associations and behaviors that have brought us to this place in order to begin rifling through to see what has been a hindrance to our growth as a person in recovery. It’s time to go through some of the baggage and rid ourselves of what has had a negative impact on our recovery.
We have formed connections with some very interesting people during active addiction; we were loyal to these individuals to a fault. Even after we made a decision to turn our lives around and enter recovery, we continued being loyal to them. Despite all the suggestions we’ve heard in counseling and in meetings, we continued to hold on, even when people cautioned us that our continued association with them could be devastating to our recovery. We made excuses for these individuals and we made excuses for the reasons why we continued associating with them. Through trial and error and in some cases, a relapse, we realized that changing our associations and connections is key to our growth and development in the recovery process. So, how can you start breaking away from those old associations?
- Begin reaching out to those in recovery
- Get involved in recovery based functions
- Inquire about making a commitment in a given meeting (being a coffee maker or greeter)
- Obtain a sponsor
- Talk to those who you wouldn’t normally speak to that are in self-help meetings
- Don’t focus on individual differences, look at similarities when trying to make a new connection
As adults, it seems that many of us have a difficult time making new friends. Some of us think we don’t need more friends, but when we look at the friends we had there is a distinct connection with those people and active addiction. In other words, the only thing we really had in common was the act of using substances together. In many instances, it can be determined that many of us do not know how to make friends. When that’s the case, I would jokingly, suggest those with children follow their children around and they’ll teach you how to make friends. Think about how easy it was to talk to a stranger to get your drug of choice or just talking to the liquor store man whom you’ve never met; but you talked to them with ease. This is true in making new associations as well. “A simple hello, my name is…” We are now beginning conversations to enhance our lives not to destroy our lives anymore.
Places: Finding Something New
We maintained rituals and routines during our use of substances. There were places that we would go to like clockwork. If someone was observing our daily movements during this time, they would know where we were and where we were going on a consistent basis. Some of us went to the local bar or liquor store right after work (or before) and even the merchants could predict when we would arrive. Today, we must begin with new routines and rituals that are healthy and conducive to our recovery. Changes that can be made:
- Attend a meeting before or after work
- Instead of going to the bar on the weekend, gather a few people from your support network and go to dinner.
- There are recovery events that local 12-step meeting groups organize (dances, hiking, camping, etc.)
- Locate social events that will not have a negative impact on your recovery
Things: Look for the Triggers
This area may seem a little difficult to avoid. Mentioned in a previous writing were things like sounds and smell of things that may remind us of our active addiction. Considering this we may want to work further on the cognitive aspect of the recovery process. For example, we know that the sound of a soda can opening may actually be a soda can and not a beer. Given this, we must acknowledge that we have worked diligently on our recovery and we have made the needed changes to stay away from high risk situations. Over time, certain sounds are just the sounds of the environment around us. This is an adjustment that doesn’t happen overnight, but with time we overcome those recalls. Also identified was a song(s) that may remind us of using substances. We, by all means, have the ability to change this. Making changes to the things in our lives that have impacted our life’s negativity is crucial:
- When it comes to a certain song that reminded us of using, we have a wide variety of choices and genre’s of music that we can now enjoy without that recall.
- Certain smells that bring us back to that time requires us to modify thinking and realize that we are no longer in those places where we used substances; we are in a safer place in our lives.
- Things like lighters and maybe spoons will take time to adjust to. Lighters are used in everyday society for different uses other that substances. Spoons are utensils used for eating. It may sound easier said than done, but as the quality of our recovery increases we begin to have changed thinking around these things.
Getting Back to Basics
Additionally, many of may be a lost for occupying time and finding enjoyable things to do in the recovery process. What I have found to be helping and inspiring is to look back at our lives before we began using substances and begin identifying things we used to enjoying doing. I’m sure we can identify quite a few. However, once we introduced introduces substances we discontinued to those enjoyable things. Some of us may say, “I don’t do that anymore” or “I’m too old to do that now.” Those are excuses used to not revisit those things. Here are some things many recovering people have identified as enjoyable that they discontinued doing once substances were introduced:
- Being creative with their hands
- Just taking a walk in the park observing the natural environment
- Reading or Writing
- Sports (actually playing the sport for leisure activity)
Change Doesn’t Have to be Dreary
Recovery is a process of absolute change. We must change the way we think about ourselves and the things around us. Recovering people must have increased awareness of the high risk situation that can lead to relapse. Change is uncomfortable, but being uncomfortable to better ourselves is less painful than continuing to use substances and creating havoc on yourself with only having three options available; jails, institutions and death.
This isn’t a definitive list of things to replace old People, Places and Things but this will give a basic premise and a starting point for change. We must dig deep within ourselves and decide what is most important. If we can say “WE” are more important than we must begin that uncomfortable journey of resolve and healing. We don’t always have to wait until the pain is too much to bear to make life changes. Please make the needed changes; your recovery and life depend on it.
Writing, and recovery heals the heart