Sobriety is a lifestyle change NOT a diet from your addiction.
We’ve all done it. Swim suit season is upon us so we try on last year’s suit and notice a budge or a roll. We decide right then and there to cut out the sweets, carbs, etc… We deny ourselves those treats hoping for a dramatic change. We are excited about the future us and charge into our week full of confidence that, with a little will power, we are going to rock the poolside this year. Then we get to work and someone brought donuts, someone else offers pizza for lunch. And you just sit there starving, longing for the things you can’t have. Every commercial that evening is about food, happy people eating delectable food with nary an once of fat on them. You cry out at the injustice of it all, why can they have all the food they want and I can’t have any! For a week this goes on and then you hop on the scale only to see this seemingly herculean effort has resulted in negligible results. At that moment your will power evaporates and you decide to cheat. Just a little decadent desert, something to reward all your efforts you say. Two tubs of Ben and Jerry’s and a supreme pizza later you’ve lost everything you’ve done so far. So you just give in and accept the fat.
Unfortunately people try the diet approach in sobriety all the time. “No need to change anything else, I’ll just quit____”. They start off with such high hopes only to fail because, while their heart was in the right place, their mind wasn’t. Sustainable weight loss and sustainable recovery require a life style change, not the mere avoidance of certain things. To be sure the new life style will involve the absence of things but the key is the introduction of healthy, equally satisfying things. The mindset should be not to give up things but to replace them with things that will lead me closer to my goal. People often feel overwhelmed with the loss of their substance. It was literally an integral part of their everyday life. It is similar to losing a loved one in a sense. That loss is so complete. There are two paths forward; think of nothing but the loss or forge a new life without them. You’ve probably seen both in those around you. The man who loses his spouse and remains broken hearted the remainder of his days. The lady that loses her spouse and goes forward to volunteer or devote her time in other worthwhile endeavors. Addicts have the same paths; look at the loss or look forward. Finding healthy, beneficial activities does not have to be a big obstacle. Simply find a recovery community in your area and participate in some of their activities. Phoenix Multisport is a fun, sober, physically active community that may be in your area. Step Seven is a faith based community and there are hundreds of others made up of recovering addicts that are banding together to celebrate life. If you are stuck on where to begin a search for a community near you give me a call.
Thought for the day: When my mindset is not “look at what all I can’t have or have lost” but “I am working toward a better me where I will be able to ____”. That mindset will produce results because it is set on a better future state. Look forward, seek new activities, broaden your reach!
Let’s face it; we have all failed at something. That is a “common to all” kind of experience as is the universal dislike of that feeling of having failed. How we deal with those failures will either set us up for future success or continued failure. All too often I see folks who take the more destructive path by not gleaning lessons from their failure and thus dooming themselves to future repeats. I believe all life experiences (good and bad) can be life lessons if we will seek them out and apply them.
I was taught the value of the “after action report” while serving in the Army. It is a critical look at every person’s actions during the preceding exercise. No detail was too small to overlook. We all took turns telling the good and bad; what worked, what didn’t. Some could be brutal as you had to take ownership for your decisions and actions. What kept being repeated was that we were not performing this exercise till we got it right. We are going through this exercise until we can’t get it wrong! Failures always gave us more to learn from as did the time(s) we got it right.
I use the term “autopsy” with my clients today but the spirit is the same. We dissect the failure to glean lessons. It is always frank, sometimes brutal, but incredibly necessary so as to not have a future repeat. Here are three simple steps to take the next time you encounter a failure:
Choose your higher power wisely.
The second most common mistake people make in recovery is to not choose a higher power. They do this despite its prominence in the steps and at recovery meetings of all flavors. It’s as if that first lie we ever told ourselves, “I got this” or “I’m in control,” just won’t die. Folks try and fail because if you truly had this, you wouldn’t need to recover in the first place. All that wreckage and disarray in your life when you first sober up is a direct result of the “I got this” mentality. “I’m in control” got you to rock bottom. To think that you and you alone can lead yourself out of that mess is only setting you up for failure. If you are struggling with finding and relying on a higher power then please consider these two steps:
Step 1: Get specific! Your higher power cannot be vague or undefined. Rarely do I meet someone with long-term sobriety whose higher power is “nature” or “God”. The vast majority of those who are in long-term recovery have a well-defined higher power. They know exactly who it is they are leaning on and into. They have done their due diligence in researching them and have become intimately familiar with how they can aid them in recovery. It’s not enough to say that “God” is your higher power if you have no concept of who/what He is or how He operates in your life. Dig in and read up on who/what it is because your success in recovery depends on it. Interview those in long-term recovery to get a starting point, but don’t just appropriate their thoughts. You must study it out for yourself, and personalize the relationship. Failure to do so will only mean that in your weakest moment, when you need it most, your higher power won’t be there for you. Not because it can’t, but because you didn’t take the time to develop the relationship.
Step 2: Incorporate your higher power into your lifestyle. You shouldn’t have to tell someone who is familiar with you who/what your higher power is. They should know based on your lifestyle. You can’t tell me your higher power is God and then not have a church you regularly attend or a Bible you regularly read. Your higher power must have time to regularly provide input into your life. Relapses start long before the first use. They invariably involve a series of steps where lifestyle changes made early in recovery are tossed aside. Any higher power worth their salt will call you to task when these changes start being discarded. The void will get filled by something and left to our own devices, that something will be a substance. If you have a higher power that isn’t present in your daily life, you don’t have a higher power. If I say my higher power is ____ and yet there is no evidence on it in my lifestyle, then I don’t really have a higher power. You can’t fake a higher power any more than you can fake long-term sobriety. The two are intricately entwined meaning you either have both or you have neither.
If you have a history of relapses, especially if 90 days, is about as long a term of sobriety as you can make then you need a higher power. You must have something greater than you to call upon in order to get over the hump. True and lasting sobriety is possible but unobtainable without a higher power at work in your life. Failure to spend the time and effort to learn and incorporate it into your life will result in relapse. At the same time, a well-defined higher power that is present in your lifestyle will result in lasting sobriety. The great news is that it’s not too late to start. If you could consider Jesus as your higher power then please contact either me or my friends at Step Seven. If you can’t, then find a similar recovery community and become involved with them. Either way get started today!
Thom Straley - Thom is a certified life coach specializing in addiction recovery and small business growth as Aim Point Coaching. To learn more about Aim Point Coaching, visit Thom's website by clicking the link above!