The Betty Ford Institute defines recovery as “a voluntarily maintained lifestyle composed characterized by sobriety, personal health, and citizenship.” Sobriety refers to the act of refraining from using substances which are not prescribed to you by a doctor. Personal health refers to taking care of your mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. Citizenship refers to the position of holding a meaningful and respectable role within your community.
For a person who is just beginning the journey of recovery, these milestones of success may seem lofty and unobtainable. The key to reaching this mountaintop lies in the small steps which are taken on a daily basis. You may end up completing these small steps in a different order than other people approach them. Life is a puzzle, and we each have our own way of putting our puzzle together. The important thing is that there are no missing pieces when we are done.
Stabilize Your Environment
It is very hard to make good decisions about our future while we are in the middle of chaos. It is in our human nature to react to a stressful situation on instincts, and to leave the deep thinking for later. In order to reach your fullest potential in recovery, you need some space for your introspective thoughts and rational planning skills to develop. For many, this means leaving old environments behind through entering a sober living facility. For others, the environment will be stabilized by refusing to allow certain individuals to come into your space. Do what you need to do to clear out the clutter of your mental, emotional, and physical life, just like you would clear off a table before bringing out a box of puzzle pieces to work on.
Develop New Relationships
When we are living a life of addiction, we tend to attract others who are of a similar mindset. They may not be using the same drugs, or abusing the same alcohol, but they will tend to support the fact that we do so. During recovery, you are likely to find that these types of relationships no longer fit into your big picture. While working on putting together your own life, it is important to surround yourself others who are on a similar journey of self-improvement. These healthier relationships will operate through encouragement, sharing, teaching, and providing accountability during times that you are tempted to give up. As you interact and learn more about your new friends, you will be learning more about yourself.
Define Your Goals
When we aim for nothing, nothing is what we will likely hit. Once the instant gratification of substance abuse is removed, you will be able to consider where it is that you really want to go in life. Once you know where you want to go, it will help to find people who can provide insight into how to get there. Teachers, mentors, life coaches, therapists, and successful friends are all great sources to consult when sketching out your game plan for the future. Try using a template for SMART goals to make sure that you are covering all of your bases.
Institute Healthy Habits
A vital aspect of reaching our goals is to develop healthy habits. Things in life that are worth having rarely arise from lack of action. Those who are successful have learned that there are often periods of time that we are called upon to stick to our plan, even when it appears too boring, hard, or long. Sticking to the plan is able to be accomplished through deciding upon a schedule which balances self-discipline , and self-care. The discipline will help you to press on when your energy levels are low, and the self-care will give you some much needed recharge.
Develop Good Character
It is generally considered that there are six aspects which comprise good character. Those aspects are trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. Being trustworthy means that others know that you are a person of your word. Respect is earned through being respectful of the needs and boundaries of others. Responsibility is developed over time, as we demonstrate that we have the ability to complete our obligations. We practice fairness and caring when we take the needs of others into account. Possessing all of these traits means that we are acting as a benefit for humankind. We become givers, rather than takers.
Work On Damaged Relationships
As we tend to find out early in life, the only people that we can change is ourselves. While you are busy putting the puzzle of your life back together, you may find that your life just does not feel complete without the presence of those whom you have been estranged from during your addiction. It may be the case that they have wronged you, and it is likely the case that you have wronged them. As the person who has been developing good character, the responsibility to mend those relationships may fall upon you. Reaching out to them with love and forgiveness can provide the foundation for building a new – and better – relationship. It may take time for those relationships to heal, completely, but your continued striving toward becoming your best self will be observable evidence that can embolden others toward making life changes toward reconciliation, as well.
Get Involved in Your Community
Think about the most successful people that you know. Chances are, they are also people who are well known, and well respected, within the communities that they live in. Being active within a community is a vital piece of overall mental and emotional wellness. Giving our time, energy, knowledge, and resources to help others provides us with meaning and purpose. For a person in recovery, this stage of life development is often the time that you end up finding your true self, and the person who was shrouded in darkness during the time of addiction. Getting to the point of taking your place in society – using whichever gifts you have been endowed with – is your time to shine.