“When I was drinking and smoking weed everyday, I would sleep until noon and get high before I went to work at 3 p.m. After work I would meet my friends and party all night. When I first tried to quit, the only thing that I changed was that I no longer used drugs or alcohol. I stayed out late and slept late. I was bored and miserable and went back to partying within two weeks.”
—Taylor, age 28
The life of someone with an addiction centers around whatever they are addicted to. Things that used to be important become less so. The early weeks of recovery are very hard because lifestyle is a hard thing to change. Living a disciplined life is the key to early recovery.
Three things that will help
Non-negotiables are things absolutely needed for your recovery. Things you must do each day or each week. They reflect your values and build your character. They include duties and commitments to family, work, health, etc. They can include: 12-step meetings or other support groups, daily reading or prayer, family dinners, parenting or family duties, and going to church, synagogue, or other spiritual supports.
They should be written down and talked about with someone your sponsor and others you trust. They are called non-negotiables because they are not optional activities that you do, if you feel like it. Although mood changes are common in early recovery— resulting in days you feel great and days you will feel bored, lonely and sad. Having a tough day can no longer be an excuse to avoid your responsibilities in recovery.
Decide what time you will rise and go to bed each day. Make time for reading and quiet times as well as your daily 12-step or other recovery meetings. Your daily plan will include your non-negotiables. Less important activities are scheduled as well, but can never take the place of your priorities. Conflicts in life are a given, but caring for yourself must take priority. Being on a schedule does not mean you overload your life with activity. You must build in some down-time.
You will need an inner circle of two to three others who can support you in early recovery, especially when life gets chaotic and stressful. These should be people you can call day or night. They should know you well enough to hold you accountable, support you, or just be with you during your dark hours. A trusted friend, clergy person, and your 12-step sponsor are good examples for your inner circle. Tell them that you want to be accountable to them. Let them know how often you should talk with them. Tell them the specific situations that are unsafe for you. You must also let them ask you tough questions about your schedule, meetings, and relationships.
Creating order and accountability will help you stay on track when the emotions and stresses of early recovery run high. It is hard at first. And the good feelings resulting from responsible living are not instant. But unlike the passing highs of addiction, they can last a lifetime.
Please visit Dr. Drew Edwards’ website www.drdrewedwards.org
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