I have had the privilege to get to know a lot of people who have been able to pull themselves out of the pit that is addiction and gain long periods of abstinence. Reaching this place of long-term recovery is impressive and can seem impossible when just starting the recovery journey. When talking with those who have achieved long-periods of recovery it became clear that everyone of had their own individual and unique path, but there were a few themes that popped up:
- Immersing oneself in a recovery community – everyone I spoke with talked about surrounding themselves with like-minded people who are dedicated to the same healthy lifestyle. If you want to be expert in something, hang out people who are good at what you want to do. Everyone does this, not just substance abusers: if you are an attorney, you most likely benefit from fellowshipping with other attorneys and being a member of a law group of some sort. Equestrians take lessons, train and hang out with horse people, etc. There’s that humorous saying, “If you hang out in a barbershop long enough, you’re bound to get your hair cut.” If you hang out with people who are still using, it’s just a matter of time before you use too.
- It Starts on the Inside – The importance of being able to self-reflect with honesty cannot be minimized. It is what separates living like a human being from dwelling like an animal. Looking inward with thoroughness at regular intervals clears away the cobwebs of self-doubt and ego.
- Be able to be Honest – this is the second part of #1. When we start keeping secrets we’re in trouble and it becomes a domino effect. It helps to tell someone you trust what you’re keeping inside so it doesn’t morph into something you cannot control.
- Having fun –People with long-term sobriety have discovered what makes them happy and they do it. There are all the sober activities and events – but even more than that – they’ve taken their foundation in recovery out into the world and participated in things that make them happy – just for the sheer joy of doing it.
- Maintaining an attitude of gratitude – Keeping in touch with everything we have to be grateful for is humbling and a reminder of just how lucky we are. Somewhere there is someone who wants what you have – literally – you have an apartment and they don’t…you have a job and they don’t. Imagine that when you are stuck thinking about what’s not going your way.
- Seeking outside help if it is needed – no one gains anything from sitting in pain for a long time. Seeking outside help has aided many people in sobriety. Sometimes mental health issues do not surface immediately, so it’s important to talk with a professional.