Addiction recovery tips

We can easily become complacent in recovery if we are not careful. You can revitalize your recovery by adding some ingredients, a little seasoning and turning up the heat to getting things cooking again. This is how.

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Change the recovery recipe

Getting clean and sober for me was a terrifying prospect. Actually making the decision to take the necessary steps in order to get sober was much more terrifying than sobriety itself. Once I had a few weeks, months and years of continuous recovery under my belt, I found the process of recovery from drug and alcohol addiction exciting, rewarding, and the best thing I had ever done in life.

Up until finding recovery, “excitement” meant scoring my next fix, seeing how much dope my body could handle and basically living life like I was indestructible. I knew no limits and was not afraid of anything. During my active addiction I never worried about tomorrow, never cared where my life was going and could have cared less whether I lived or died.

How I define “excitement” has changed

“Excitement” for me during my formative years of recovery looked much different. For the first time in my life, my mind was not clouded by drugs and alcohol. I found that I was capable of doing just about anything I put my mind to. Life was now filled with thrilling adventures: a real purpose in life, real friends, jobs I enjoyed, improved health and finances, hobbies, social activities and educational opportunities. I was doing things I never dreamed of, exploring new and uncharted territories in life and the possibilities seemed endless. I woke up each morning and fell to my knees thanking my Higher Power for sparing me from the demons of addiction. I had a zest for life that was unlimited and unmatched. I was grateful to be alive and felt that God as I understood Him was leading me right where he wanted me. I figured that my ascent into serenity, peace of mind and happiness would never end.

Then, I hit a brick wall

Then I hit a brick wall that must have been ten feet thick. I think I was five or six years sober at that point. I had made some great friends, put myself through school, and was working at a chemical dependency center helping other addicts. My life looked good on paper, but inside my head a war was raging. I was doing all the right things I was told to do early on: I attended meetings, did service work, helped others, kept myself physically fit, practiced expressing gratitude in recovery, and worked the program to the best of my ability. I had all the ingredients that were supposed to make a satisfying pot of recovery stew , but I despised the taste of it. My recovery had gotten bland. I was bored eating the same stew day in and day out.

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Your tastes change over time

What I have found – both as a person in long term recovery and as an addictions professional – is that people’s tastes change over time. Mine certainly do. What was once satisfying and stimulating to my recovery taste buds sometimes needs some pepper, salt or a little hot sauce to keep things interesting. No matter what we eat and no matter how much we like it, we eventually get bored.  And there are different tools in addiction recovery.

Tips for shaking up your recovery

Here is what I do both personally and professionally to add new life to the staple ingredients (meetings, prayer, service work, working the steps) of my own recovery stew. I am a die hard 12-stepper, but these tips work for all people from all walks of life, in all sorts programs who believe all sorts of things. The law of change is universal: What is not changing is dying. If you are tired of eating out of the same pot of recovery stew day in and day out, try these recipes:

1. Step outside your box

Get out of your comfort zone and do something you are afraid to do. Sounds simple enough, does it not? Please remember that thinking about doing something uncomfortable and actually doing it are two different concepts entirely. I would encourage you to consider that last time you ever felt like a true “newbie.” Just what do I mean? When was the last time that you were the newcomer in a class, an organization, doing an activity or in a relationship? Pick something you have always wanted to do but have found excuses not to do. Do that thing now. The more uncomfortable you are the better.

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2. Build in change

Change your routine. While this is hardly a new concept and has been written about extensively, it is a proven strategy that works. The addicted mind fights complacency like the plague. Are you tired of eating the same turkey sandwich on rye every day? What if you changed things up and had Chinese or Indian food for a change? The simplest of menu changes does volumes to keep my life as a recovering person stimulating. I recently began going to the gym over my lunch hour. I also began going to 6 a.m. AA meetings and started going into work an hour early (this way, I can leave an hour early.) This allows me to get home in time to go walk our dogs with my wife every day, rain or shine. Little tweaks to my daily recovery recipe have kept my life interesting (and as we all know, recovery is a lifestyle, not an event.)

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3. De-clutter your life

I am a complicated person that likes things simple (an oxymoron, I know.) Too much stuff in my life (think a recovery inventory) that I do not need weighs me down and makes me feel overwhelmed. For me, good recovery (or good food) is simple. A good quality cut of steak does not need a butter sauce, steak sauce or sauted onions and mushrooms. A good cut of meat is ruined by excessive sides of bread, potato and salad. The steak speaks for itself. Everything else on the plate is just taking up room and is taking the focus off of the main dish. There is great power in getting rid of what you do not use and do not need. Try it and find out for yourself. Although sometimes we do need to add some flavor to our recoveries, sometimes the best recipes for recovery success are simple ones.

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4. Get moving

If you do not know the benefits of exercise, here they are. Some are quite obvious, some not as much: Exercise controls weight, helps to fight disease, increases energy and possibly most importantly – stimulates the production of dopamine, the brain’s pleasure chemical. A vast majority of recovering individuals will experience depression or depressive symptoms sometime during abstinence and exercise is an excellent way to feel good, naturally. Science proves it. I can personally attest to it. You should try it, if you have not already. If you are new to exercise, it is okay to start small and build from there. Start by committing to going for a 20 minute walk every day. Stir the proverbial pot of recovery stew and get the ingredients moving. The results will surprise you.

5. Do for others

Again, nothing new, but something that warrants considerable time and attention. If you are bored and your recovery stew has gotten cold, bland and boring, try helping someone else. You have been stirring your stew day in and day out and it is your stew you have been stirring, so of course it is getting boring. Get out of yourself and give to someone that truly needs your help. This action will be mutually beneficial, but do not go into the business of helping others for recognition. Do not tell others what you are doing. In fact, if other people find out what you are doing to help someone, it does not count. Stay anonymous. Try this today.

More addiction recovery tips?

Do you like these suggestions? Let us know in the comments section below.

And be sure to add these recipes to your recovery cookbook. If you do not like how your recovery (or your life, for that matter) is going, do something different. Rewrite your recipe. Add or subtract the ingredients as you see fit and season to taste. All you must do is begin, so get cooking.

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About the author
Paul J. Wolanin is a professional addictions therapist living and working in Northern Michigan. He is author of Chopping Wood and Carrying Water: One Day at a Time , a 30-day recovery devotional available on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble. He also runs a website where he offers tools and tips to keep your recovery on track. Sign up for his newsletter by visiting him at Paul Wolanin's Author Site.


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  1. This is some really good information about addiction recovery. It does seem like a good idea to do what you suggested and get out of your comfort zone. My little sister is having some issues lately and this is some good information for us to know. Hopefully knowing that we should try things that she might not like to get her to recover from her addiction.

  2. I love love love this article. I’m 2 years sober, happy and greatful to Him for all my success. I do need to shake up my recovery. I am very invoved with giving back to people. I need to give back to me. I’m working like a dog but climbing the coorporate later. Its very forfilling. I plan on taking you up on the hour early to work idea so I can join a gym and get healthy. Since I stopped drinking I am now a carb junkie and gained 10 lbs. i’m also diabetic. As for social settings, i need to find a circle of sober friends. Im not in olved in any recovery program except for on line distant sites. Need some F2F meetings for continued sobriety. Went to a wedding last night after a horrible week at work. It felt good to stay sober, have fun and wake up clear headed and happy. I was happy when my husband said he was proud of me as he really thought I would have drank last night ! I was with a heavy drinking crowd. God bless and thanks again.

  3. Wes Copp
    Recovery is a way of life. Once afflicted with addiction recovery is the only way to move forward in a positive, healthy and productive life. While still in active addiction we will always be less than what we could be. We hurt ourselves and others, often without even intending to.
    The only way to make a change is to stop doing one thing and consciously decide to do another. It is not easy at first but in time you develop healthy habits, routines and relationships. If you are using and are not happy make a decision to make a change. Only you can make the change. But always remember there are so many others out there who will help and support you along the way in your journey. Just go to a meeting and you will be inspired to see so many kind, understanding people who have made the change and are all too willing to help you in any way that they can!
    Wes Copp

  4. Thank you Cathy! The 12-step program REALLY works if you WORK IT. It works for me and will work for you, too. Recovery has been the most exciting adventure I have ever been on, but I too need to keep things fresh by challenging myself every day to get out of my comfort zone. Have a great day! ~ Paul Wolanin

  5. Love love love this blog. I am sober 2 years and it’s getting stale. I never attended a F2F meeting and have not worked any steps. Therefore I have no sober friends or activities. I plan on attending a meeting real soon. I already de clutter my life. I find I need order around me since I am sober. My next step will be to take that 20 minute walk a day. A nice simple start. Also, I am now a work a holic and need to set some boundaries for myself. Thanks for sharing. I found it very helpful.

  6. Read anything on the internet or in the news about the mayor of Toronto Rob Ford and it won’t take long to figure out how cocaine can not only ruin your health but also your reputation, career, family and the image of a city and even a country. No good comes of saying ‘I feel like 1000 pounds have been lifted off my shoulders’ like Mayor Ford said when he finally admitted to using cocaine. I don’t imagine he feels like the load has been lifted after being ridiculed and shamed in every newspaper and news program in North America and even around the world. Stay away from cocaine…it will ruin you one way or another. And from the photos of Rob Ford, it is clearly not an effective way to lose weight!
    James Wesley Copp

  7. Here are some tips that i suggest : (based on drugs, cocaine etc)
    Keep track of your drug use, including when and how much you use. This will give you a better sense of the role the addiction is playing in your life.
    List the pros and cons of quitting, as well as the costs and benefits of continuing your drug abuse.
    Consider the things that are important to you, such as your partner, your kids, your career, or your health. How does your drug use affect those things?
    Talk it over with someone you trust. Ask the person how he or she feels about your drug use.
    Ask yourself if there’s anything preventing you from changing. What are some things that could help you make the change?

    sincerely James Wesley Copp

  8. Wesley Copp has been a peer mentor and group facilitator at Pathways Addiction Resource Center in Penticton. The above tips and strategies to help one overcome addiction are Exellent. In my perspective one of the most important things required to overcome addiction is ones will to live a Goodlife, be good to oneself and treat others with kindness and respect. I fully believe if you are taking the time to read these tips, comments and techniques then you have made that decision and you will become sober…because you Want too.
    James Wesley Copp

  9. I have always battled depression, and your recipes will be added to my cookbook for “Hope in Life, get over yourself”. So, thank you for the extra spices of the day!

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