Some Suggestions to Support Your Recovery Journey
I love this definition of “recovery” from Merriam-Webster: “the act or process of becoming healthy after an illness or injury.” I love that it includes the term process. Recovery from addiction is not just a single act nor outcome–you are not the moment you stop drinking or using. You will always have opportunities to return to drinking and using. There are no guarantees. But if you engage in the process of recovery, aspiring regularly toward a life of abstinence, you are less likely to relapse and more likely to have fulfillment and serenity. To help with this process, I recommend that you assemble a recovery toolkit with a variety of tools to support your recovery journey.
Make sure you have a go-to resource list in your recovery toolkit. What got you clean and sober to begin with? A treatment facility? A recovery program like Smart Recovery or a Twelve Step program? Whatever it was, even if you became clean and sober on your own, think of what was instrumental in getting you there to begin with. Make the list specific. For example, instead of writing “outpatient treatment” or “NA,” you can list: “someone who called me on my BS; information and education about my disease; handouts; readings; prayer; meetings; a sponsor; fellowship; advice on how to avoid triggers, etc.”
In addition to recovery-specific tools, add social supports to your toolbox. Isolation can lead to loneliness, depression, and thoughts of using or drinking that go unchecked. Who will help you get outside of yourself? List specific friends, family members, groups, clubs, and social activities that have benefitted your recovery, helped you to feel good about yourself, or kept you connected to something outside of yourself.
Similarly, it is important to tend to your physical health. Get enough sleep, preferably on a regular schedule. Balance your diet to regulate your blood sugar. Engage in physical exercise to keep your body in shape, release endorphins, and have an emotional outlet. Consider not just independent activities, but also group exercise through a gym, yoga studio, or martial arts school. Keep in mind the dual benefits of exercising and connecting to something outside of yourself at the same time. Write down your basic physical needs and what you currently do (or can start to do) to address them.
There are many tools that can support your emotional and spiritual health. Think about what already helps you in this area and write down some specific activities. If they are not already on your list, consider the following: meditation; yoga; church, temple, or other spiritual disciplines; self-compassion; prayer; journaling; or things that make you laugh such as memes, jokes, or favorite comedies.
Professional Help and/or Medications
If you have any medical and/or mental health conditions, it is particularly important to list your medical and professional supports. Be sure to include any appropriate medications on your list. Accessing outside help when needed can be critical to a successful and sustained recovery journey. Additionally, professional help in the form of A&D treatment programs/counselors–for booster sessions, relapse prevention, or relapse treatment–should go on the list for future reference. Quick accessibility is important if and when this information becomes necessary.
Now you have a list of a variety of resources, addressing different areas of your life that will support you in your recovery journey. Now how about creating a toolkit? This toolkit can be as simple as a single piece of paper or file on your computer or phone that you review regularly or maybe only when you find yourself struggling. I recommend having contact information for specific friends, agencies, doctors, etc. on the list. Review your list periodically to determine what tools you are using, what you may have forgotten about, and what may be helpful in your current situation.
You also can create an actual, physical toolkit. Use a box, a file or files, an altar, or whatever creative idea you decide on. You can organize your tools/lists based on frequency of use: for example, you might group the tools into regular maintenance tools that you want to use repeatedly, tune up tools for occasional use, and emergency tools. In this toolbox, you can have various lists, or even write out each tool on a card to draw out as needed.
Would you like to go beyond paper? Add different symbols to your toolbox that help you stay connected to your recovery–recovery milestone chips/coins/keychains, pictures of the loved ones you rely on for social support, bubble bath packets for comfort, aromatherapy oils or candles, a stress ball, important readings, a ball representing your favorite sport, etc.
You can get really creative. Or not. All that matters is that this toolkit works for you.
Think of maintaining your recovery just as you would maintaining a house: use the tools in your kit to quickly address issues as they arise and continually check to make sure you are keeping in good condition over time. May you be (and keep) well throughout your recovery journey.