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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.