By: Marilyn L. Davis
Improving on Ourselves
We don’t recover by stopping our use. We heal by finding ways to cope with life that doesn’t include using. When we look at ourselves and realize that we have character defects, shortcomings, or self-defeating behaviors, thoughts, and feelings, we change them.
That one paragraph spells out the most straightforward way I know to describe recovery. But what if you want to improve on the basics? What are things you can start doing today to enhance or improve your recovery?
1. Avoid people, places, and things that trigger a desire to use.
I know it’s hard to think of giving up so many aspects of our addiction. There were some genuinely good people trapped in that world with me. However, until they decided to get clean, and some of them did, I had to let them go. I couldn’t attend concerts in my early recovery but found that if I went with a group of recovering people, the experience was safe and enjoyable.
This one is not easy to admit, but I couldn’t drink sodas from a can when I first got clean. The sound reminded me of beer on the beach. Now, it’s just noise.
2. Check out your feelings.
Our feelings pop up at unexpected times in our early recovery. I remember crying when the rest of the people sitting with me at a meeting were laughing. To this day, I can’t tell you what prompted my sadness, but that’s what I felt.
I still check-in and try to decide what is prompting a feeling. If it’s a negative one – and during COVID-19, there’s been more of them, I try to see if I can do something to change the way I’m feeling. Too many negative feelings or days of feeling down, mad, or irritated gives some people the justification they need to return to their use. Don’t let that happen to you.
3. Practice self-care.
Self-care for me was going to an in-person meeting. With COVID-19, I use Zoom meetings, Recovery Pages on Facebook, generate conversations on LinkedIn groups, and talk to people in recovery on the phone.
I also read for pleasure with a cup of excellent Chai tea. If that follows a bubble bath, I’m out sleepy in 30 minutes and can say a prayer of thanks and go to the land of nod.
4. Keep a daily journal.
When you take the time to write down your thoughts and feelings, it’s easy to see if you’ve felt resentment, gratitude, or need to make changes. If it’s making changes, chart your progress and give yourself credit when you make incremental progress toward your goal.
A daily journal can also help you with a 10th Step. Were you dishonest, jealous, or irresponsible? Do you need to make amends? Again, the phone, texts, and letters can help you connect and communicate with others.
5. Develop a support network.
Again, this used to be with people in meetings; now, it’s online or phone. Reach out to people when you’re having a bad day. Be supportive of others and encourage them in their recovery. You’ll feel better about yourself when you genuinely show care and concern for others.
6. Pray or meditate or do both.
Prayer is a daily routine. In the morning, it’s, “Help me to do the right things,” and in the evening it’s, “Thank you for guiding me today.” They are simple and straightforward, but they’ve worked for 32 years, so I don’t think I’ll abandon them now.
Meditation was hard for me in the beginning. I had so much noise in my head and negative feedback, mostly about myself, that I couldn’t get my mind to be quiet. Listening to meditation tapes helped. Jason Stevenson has some excellent ones on YouTube that deal with recovery, relaxation, sleep, and letting go. I’d encourage you to check out his meditation selections.
7. Give yourself credit for the small changes and improving.
When you make changes and improve on your recovery, pat yourself on the back. It’s okay to encourage yourself and feel proud, feelings we didn’t experience much in our use. It’s not okay to get cocky or arrogant about your improvements, but acknowledging your progress is OK.
How do you improve on your recovery? Let us know in the comments, and we can add them.
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Marilyn L. Davis is the Editor-in-Chief at From Addict 2 Advocate and Two Drops of Ink. She is the author of Finding North: A Journey from Addict to Advocate and Memories into Memoir: The Mindsets and Mechanics, available on Amazon.