Picking Up The Pieces of Your Life In Recovery

Picking up the pieces of your life

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.

 

 

How To Stay Sober Through Hard Times

Staying Sober Through The Hard Times

It is fairly easy to stay on track with our goals while we are feeling good, and easy to stay sober while life is going exactly how we’ve planned it. The thing about life, though, is that it rarely unfolds in a perfect way. Days and years are spent doing things we’d rather not do. Good people in our lives may leave us, and the ones who stay near us may not be as supportive as we’d like. Unexpected events can leave us hurt, confused, and frightened.

The goal of long term sobriety is to be able to weather the hard times while remaining dedicated to our resolution to stay clean. This doesn’t happen on accident. The ability to stay strong during difficult times depends on our utilization of the coping skills that we’ve developed during our initial stages of recovery. During hard times, remember these basic tips for staying healthy and focused.

 

Don’t Neglect Your Self Care

Our energy level works like the gasoline in a vehicle. If we don’t stop regularly to fill it up, our tank will run dry. We can lose the motivation to keep going forward, and can end up lost and stranded. Self-care practices are the opportunity to pull into a maintenance station. While in self care mode, we can make sure that our positive energy levels are good and our perspectives are balanced.

Once we have started the journey of sobriety, the temptation to use drugs and alcohol primarily arises when our energy levels are low. Work, school, and social obligations are all potential energy drainers. Unexpected events can also drain our tank. It is important that we learn to keep an eye on our own energy levels throughout the day. If our internal light starts blinking red, it is time to stop and do something healthy about it. Some warning signs include feeling easily irritated, losing the ability to think clearly, or beginning to cry easily.

The secret to good self care is finding out what it is that most effectively works for you. There are many suggestions available on the internet for how to go about it, but it is only effective if it is something that you can truly enjoy. If you haven’t yet identified what best fulfills this purpose in your life, spend some time exploring new activities and hobbies. Keep at it until you are able to clearly define what self care activities work best for you.

The goal of a self-care activity is to temporarily take your mind off of your problems and to replace any negative attitudes with peaceful ones. You will also need to make sure that others around you are respectful of your need to refill yourself with good energy. Be bold in letting them know that you need some regular self care time.

 

Get Outside Yourself

When times are tough, it is particularly easy to sink into a pit of rumination. We will go over and over the same scenarios within our minds, but with no new solutions to show for it. Eventually, running in that same circle can result in digging our way into a rut of depression.

While self care works by making the focus about our own needs, there are also times when we will find more benefit from turning our focus outward. A life that is spent too focused on only our own happiness is one that is out of balance. Examine yourself, and check to see whether you might benefit from thinking more about the other people in your life. Learn to find joy in the accomplishments of others, and learn to extend grace and forgiveness for their shortcomings. You are likely to find that your own load is lightened as you practice being a support for others.

 

Ask For Help

One of the first things that many of us learn in our sobriety is that we need the help of other people. Being a lone wolf may work for a time, but enlisting the support of the loving people around us makes going through hard times much easier. Not only does having a support network provide us with a safety net, it also provides us with accountability. Our allies in our quest of sobriety will both encourage us, and remind us of what we need to stay focused on.

If you have the benefit of belonging to a recovery support or sober living group, they will be standing ready for you to call upon them during times of struggle. The nature of these groups is to provide long-term support, and members are taught to expect that they will periodically need each other over the years.

Ideally, you will have also made some good friends by this time, as well. As we maintain our sobriety, we learn to discern between people who have our best interests in mind, and those who might threaten the security of our sobriety. The main hallmark of a good friend is that he or she is available to provide a listening ear or a helping hand during the worst of times. Make sure to reach out to these people when you need them. You will surely be returning the favor, in the future.

Whether you have the benefit of a support group and good friends, or not, you may also consider enlisting the help of a trained therapist. The outside perspective of a therapist may be what is needed to provide you with new ideas, techniques, plans, and goals. You don’t have to settle for the first therapist that you come across, either. Take some time to shop around, and find a therapist who is a good fit.

 

Remember How Far You’ve Come

While thinking about the past too much isn’t a good idea, thinking about it for the purpose of examining your options can be useful. Take some time to ponder the differences between your life in addiction, and your life, now. You have worked hard to get to this place of recovery, and throwing your progress away to addiction would mean having to start it all over. No matter how hard the life of sobriety gets, it is always better than the hell of addiction.

A New Decade: Resolving To Be Clean Through The 2020’s

A New Decade - Staying Sober in the 2020s

January 1st, 2020, wasn’t an ordinary New Year’s Day. We didn’t simply start a new year with the event of it. Depending on how you look at it, one can say we’ve begun the journey of a whole, new, decade. We have entered another phase of our lives, and with this new beginning comes the chance to reinvent our reality.

As most of us have figured out, it is much easier to do something than it is to do nothing. Rather than telling yourself that you are going to stop drinking or using drugs during this next phase of life, tell yourself what it is that you will start doing. Developing positive habits to replace the negative behaviors is one of the surest ways to turn your sobriety into a lifestyle that will last clear into the next decade. The following are some of the items to put on your agenda toward developing a stronger, wiser, more peaceful – and totally sober – you.

 

Consciously Reject Fear

Most of us are familiar with the famous phrase, uttered by President Roosevelt, admonishing that, “the only thing we have to fear is fear, itself.” That saying is more than just clever. It gets at the root of what it is that holds us back from becoming our best version of self. Fear is directly related to what it is that we think might happen. It has no real basis in reality, at all. Fear tells us what we can’t do and can’t experience, but it has no basis of the reality of our situation in this current moment of time.

Experts have suggested that there are three, primary, forms of fear. There is the fear of being rejected by others, the fear of being physically harmed, and the fear of feeling anxious. That latter form is equivalent to being afraid of being afraid, as anxiety can be defined as experiencing a fear about what will happen in the future.

For many who decide to persist in drug and alcohol abuse, fear is at the root of their motivation. They are afraid that life is too hard, that too many mistakes have been made, or that there is no hope for the future. Rather than giving into these fear-based excuses, learn to shut fear down for the illusion that it is.

 

Learn to Practice Mindfulness

Our western society is one that is continually geared toward the future. We are taught that, to be happy, we always need more than what we have, currently. The constant desire for more money, more friends, and more property can create a sense of anxiety and despair within us. We are prone to compare ourselves to what others have, and then to drive ourselves toward reaching whatever standard we think we need to also obtain.

What if, for a moment, all of that future worry disappeared? What if, instead of stressing about bills and deadlines and obligations, you were free to take a minute to observe the clouds in the sky, or to enjoy the sound of your baby’s laughter? Mindfulness is the ability to put all the worries and what-ifs aside, and to simply focus on what is immediately available to your mind, emotions, and physical senses. It removes the heavy bonds of our past, and dismisses the concerns of the future. It frees us to simply be.

When we are not depressed or worried, our minds become more clear. While practicing mindfulness, you are likely to find that solutions to your problems come much more easily, and that your relationship with yourself becomes more meaningful. You will also be better equipped to resist any temptations to sabotage your progress through returning to the escapism of drugs or alcohol. The best part about practicing mindfulness is that it can be done anywhere, and at any time. With practice, the state of mindfulness can become your new normal.

 

Heal Your Wounded Relationships

Many who have struggled with alcohol and drug addiction have left a trail of broken hearts behind them. While repairing those relationships won’t happen overnight, a lot of progress can be made in a year. Those who truly love us don’t ever give up all hope, and that small spark that remains can be rekindled into a strong and lasting bond.

The first step to repairing relationships is to remove the behaviors which damage it. It is likely that any substance abuse has played a large role in causing the negative feelings, so staying sober will lay the groundwork for any further relationship building. After a period of time, your loved ones will begin to trust that you sincerely have devoted yourself to your sobriety, which will pave the way to healing wounds that have existed in addition.

The concept of attachment theory teaches us that providing those we care about with a corrective emotional experience can repair countless years of negative interactions. As humans, we can be quite animal-like in our reactions to situations. Similarly to how a dog who has been beaten with a broom will run out of the room at the sight of one, people in our lives who have been hurt by our past behaviors can learn that it is better to avoid us. They can also learn that we are prone to express any number of undesirable characteristics, such as being critical, angry, or unreasonable. The more we are able to practice a better version of ourselves around them, the more their impressions of us will be reshaped.

Being surrounded by positive relationships is one of the best hallmarks of a successful life. When you look back on your time from your deathbed, you won’t be thinking about all of the opportunities to get high or drunk that you missed out on. It will be the efforts that you have made toward sharing time and love with those nearest to you which will be on that list of life review. Spend this gift of a new decade on making sure that your time is invested in sharing your life with others, and not thrown away into the abyss of addiction.

Maintaining Sobriety Another Year: A New Years Resolution

Maintaining Sobriety Another Year

Anyone who has viewed a big, red, button with the words “Don’t Touch!” posted over it knows that telling ourselves not to do something is difficult. The thing that we are prohibited from can become the only thing that we think about. Our time and energy will be spent on avoiding that negative behavior, and there will be little resource left for looking forward.

With any behavior change, it is more effective to be proactive than it is to be inactive. Instead of making an overall promise to refrain from using drugs or alcohol this next year, try making a new year’s resolution to complete some of your goals toward a better you. It is highly unlikely that drugs or alcohol are part of that equation, which means that your continued sobriety will be a built-in factor.

 

The SMART Way to Plan

When it comes to new year’s resolutions, where many people tend to go wrong is in the planning stage. In fact, there are often very few plans made in regard to how these expressed intentions will be manifested. This lack of solid planning is most likely why up to 80% of people report failing to achieve what was desired.

It is not enough to simply want something different to happen. As many people in recovery already know, we have to make it happen. Designing SMART goals is a reliable way to go about ensuring that you will be patting yourself on the back for your accomplishments at the beginning of the next year.

 

S is for Specific

When setting out to achieve your goals for the new year, it is important that you first design what they are. Without knowing exactly what your target is, it is very difficult to aim for it. You might as well be shooting an arrow into the wind.

The first step in forming a specific goal is identifying the general area that you wish to address. This may be a desire to achieve a lower weight, to have a better relationship with a loved one, or to get a better job. As there are not very many goals which won’t require a series of steps toward reaching them, your next task is to define what it is that you need to enact in order to reach this eventual goal.

With weight-related goals, for example, setting a target weight is only one small piece of the plan. It is likely that you will need to change your eating habits. Perhaps you will need to purchase a gym membership, or set a schedule for daily exercise. All of the changes which will need to take place in order for your weight loss to occur will need to be included in this stage of being specific about your game plan. Take some time and brainstorm on what things need to happen on the way to making your targeted change a reality.

 

M is for Measurable

Once you have the pieces of your plan in place, it is time to make them measurable. Being able to monitor our progress in tangible ways is part of the formula for success. Rather than setting your measurement at the end of the year, find ways to measure out your sequential steps to get there.

With relationship goals, for example, simply stating that we want our relationship with our significant other to be better is not a measurable goal. How will you know when that state of “better” has been reached? By working out what it is that the relationship currently lacks, you will be able to monitor progress toward improving it.

It may be that you want to reduce the amount of arguments that are occurring to no more than once a week, or that you want to increase the amount of quality time that is spent together to be at least one hour a day. These smaller improvements can be set out to increase over the coming months, and your steady progress toward meeting these milestones can be tracked in a ledger.

 

A is for Attainable

While working through how you are going to measure your progress toward a goal, it is important to keep the reality of your circumstances at the forefront of your mind. What you don’t want to do is set yourself up for failure. Be honest when assessing your personal strengths and limitations, and set a goal which is customized to who you are.

For those who have a new career goal in mind, for example, it is important to consider the amount of education that goes into gaining the credential or degree that is necessary. Are you one who despises sitting in a classroom? Have you always struggled with basic math? If so, you will need to adjust your goals to include aspects like coursework which can be completed from home, or to include space for taking a remedial math class at the adult school.

 

R is for Relevant

Some could argue that the aspect of relevance would be better off coming first in the line of planning, but putting it first would mess up the catchy acronym. When planning for your future, it is always important to consider your motivations for wanting these changes. Take some time to consider whether you are making these changes for yourself, or to please others. Are you working from an internal desire for change, or from outside pressure to make something of yourself? Having intrinsic motivation for making change is much more sustainable than motives for ourselves which are imposed  by others.

 

T is for Time Limited

It is a very human tendency to procrastinate. We will put things off until the very last minute, and will put ourselves through the stress of not knowing if we will actually make it in time. When forming your SMART goals for the new year, make sure to include concrete time limits for reaching each of your targeted steps. As with the other aspects of your plan, it is better to keep a monthly – or even weekly – measure of progress.

 

Each step you take towards bettering yourself is another step down the path of sobriety. If you’re looking for a more structured environment to help you abstain from drugs and alcohol while you pursue your personal goals, see if a sober living community is right for you.

 

How To Stay Sober On New Years Eve

How To Stay Sober On New Year's Eve

The party atmosphere on New Year’s Eve comes from bidding the past year goodbye, while looking forward to the adventures of the next year to come. For a person in recovery, that past year may have consisted of struggles with substance abuse and addiction. After battling those habits to get where you are now, you certainly wouldn’t want to start the new year off with another round. The following are some perspectives to take – and suggestions to apply – toward making the most of this festive occasion, while making sure to maintain the sobriety that you have worked so hard to gain.

 

Give the Night New Meaning

In many cultures, the traditions included in a New Year’s Eve party are related to the type of good fortune that is hoped for in the coming months. Foods that represent wealth and prosperity are brought to the table, setting the tone for an upcoming year of financial success. New Year’s resolutions have their origin in making the events of the evening relate to the future, as they originally were designed to be promises – made to the gods – that could be exchanged for divine favor. In celebrations other than our own, the focus of the event is on ensuring that things are set in place for a  successful transition into the next season.

How these forward-looking traditions of the new year got replaced, within our culture, by flashing lights, glittery sequins, and drinking to excess is hard to pinpoint. It is possible, however, to return to the original intent of the celebration within your own space. Rather than viewing the night as a time to set loose, use this time to carefully consider how you are going to play a part in crafting the outcomes of your next year. While bartering with the gods may not be effective, spending your new year’s eve on figuring out how to reach your goals is a good way to start.

 

Surround Yourself With Sober Friends

As many of us know from our own adolescent years, giving into the temptation to do something we ought not to do becomes much easier when our friends are doing it, too. Peer pressure may change forms, once we have reached adulthood, but social environment still plays a role in how we decide to behave. When out for a night of socializing, it can be difficult to remember that what appears manageable for another person to do may not be a good idea for ourselves. If our friends are all having a good time with alcohol, it can be hard to sit there with a soda.

If you have been plugged into a recovery program for any length of time, chances are good that you have already developed a sober social network. Check in with your support groups, and see what type of gatherings these fellow travelers are planning for the night. If there doesn’t seem to be anything going on, take initiative and plan out the get-together, yourself. A night of rational discussion, accurate perceptions, and sober party games can be much more satisfying than participating in the sloppy bar scene.

 

Focus on Family

If you are blessed to have loved ones around you at this time, spending the evening in appreciation of them is an excellent end of year undertaking. For a person in recovery, the individuals who are closest to us play a massive role in supporting that resolve. Rather than seeking to end your year with a bang, spend the last day of the year focused on the peace and joy that having your own family can bring. The winter months make it a great time to snuggle up with some hot cocoa, a fireplace, and a good movie. If you have the means, take the family out for a celebration dinner. In addition to feeling good the next day about how you have spent your time, you will also be setting an example of how the holiday should be celebrated by the younger generations whom are observing you.

 

Have A Backup Plan

If none of these suggestions work with your ideas for the holiday, at least make sure you have a backup plan for maintaining your sobriety. You may feel obligated to attend a party or two, or may even feel as though you will be missing out to not join in with the celebrations. Rather than disappointing others or feeling deprived by staying home, be smart in how you go about attending the festivities.

Prefacing the fact that you plan to leave the party early is one way of ensuring a graceful exit. You can make it clearly known, ahead of time, that you will only be staying an hour or two. While there still may be some cajoling or complaints as you leave, the fact that it was already made clear will make your escape easier. What reasons you give for your departure are entirely up to you.

For many, the best plan for being able to avoid substances at a party is by being open about the fact that you are in recovery. If the friends at the party are good ones, they will not want to put any stumbling blocks in your way, and will support you by not offering you drinks or by making sure that your departure is a smooth one. If your friends or family are not the type to support you in your recovery in such a way, you might want to think twice about spending your holidays around them.

For those who are not ready to admit to friends or family that there is a problem with substance abuse or addiction, bringing your own beverages can be a way to minimize questions and ridicule. Once a non-alcoholic beer is poured into a cup, there is really little way for someone to notice and point it out. Many bars are now offering non-alcoholic drink choices, as well, with some of them looking – and even tasting – rather convincing.

Women’s Only Sober Living Can Aid Your Recovery

Women's Sober Living

Our current culture is keen on promoting the idea that sex and gender differences are a myth. While it is true that stereotypical roles for males and females have been changing for years, there still exists social and biological differences between the sexes. Growing up as a female involves situations that males will not ever experience. From the transformative experience of having a first period, to being gawked at by strangers after developing breasts, to the mind boggling process of forming another human life within our bodies, a female’s journey is quite filled with wonder.

The exclusive experiences that come with being a woman also involve unique challenges. A woman’s self-esteem can be negatively affected by societal expectations of female beauty. She can be torn between dedicating time to raise children, or toward succeeding in a career. She can experience stress over needing to balance the needs of her immediate family, while being called upon to care for her extended one. She can be confused over how to go about choosing an applicable mate in this age where women’s roles have expanded to include the ability to earn her own income.

Just as with the rest of life’s experiences, the experience of a woman in addiction is a personal one. The conditions of life which lead her down that path of self-destruction are those which are only truly understood by other women. A period of time which is spent in a women-only sober living environment can provide the support and validation that is necessary for healing from the negative self-perceptions and life perspectives which prompt us toward using drugs and alcohol.

 

Relationships and Relapse

It is common knowledge that women tend to value the quality of their relationships above all else. Whether it be ties to parents, siblings, children, partners, or coworkers, females are prone toward wanting those relationships to be mutually nurturing and supportive. It is suggested, by some, that these tendencies date all the back to our cave dwelling days. During the time of hunters and gatherers, it was women who spent time working together to sustain the relationships of a home life. As society progressed into the development of civilizations, this natural tendency toward nurturing relationships became a dictated duty.

The importance which females place on their relationships can be a source of great joy, and a source of great stress. When relationships are going well, women report a higher satisfaction with their quality of life. When relationships are strained, neglectful, or abusive, women can suffer from mental health problems for years to come. Women report more instances than men of returning to abuse of substances as an attempt to cope with the stress of their difficult relationships.

The impact of quality of relationship on a woman’s tendency toward relapse points toward the importance of ensuring that she has access to a recovery environment which is supportive and positive. She will benefit from a lack of distraction by romantic partners or old connections while she seeks to rid herself of the destructive patterns of addiction. An all-women’s sober living home is designed to provide this type of environment. Within it, you will be supported by a network of sisters who have suffered in ways similar to your own, and who have similar goals, hopes, and dreams. It is a place to form new, healthier, relationships with those who genuinely want the best for you.

 

Women and Mental Health Needs

While mental health disorders are on the rise in all segments of our population, women consistently report more experiences of depression. In addition to the powerful impact that relationships have, women are also beset by unique challenges within our current times. In this modern age of liberation, women are expected to pursue education, become successful in a career, raise children, and manage a home.  The pressure of wearing too many hats can create a strain on a woman’s mental and emotional resources, leading her toward a feeling of hopelessness and desperation.

While time spent in a women’s sober living environment is not likely to erase the source of multiple pressures on women to succeed, it can be a place where new perspectives on how to manage life are gained. Recovery curriculum and support groups can be catered to the unique experiences of a woman, and can specifically address ways in which she can find more balance and satisfaction in her life. The better able one is to successfully manage life, the less temptation there will be to escape it through drug or alcohol abuse.

 

Empathy and Validation

Studies have shown that women tend to become addicted to substances less often than men do. What women lack in sheer numbers of those addicted, however, they make up for in extremity. Females who engage in substance abuse tend to become addicted more quickly, suffer more consequences in their relationships, and have a higher rate of relapse than their male counterparts. Any woman who has been shamed by others for being extreme in her substance abuse behaviors is not alone. The experience is common among women who seek escape through such behaviors.

There is a freedom which comes from knowing that we are not alone in our suffering. For females, this form of empathy and validation of experience can be even more powerful, as we tend to place so much emphasis on the opinions and input of those around us. Being around those who shame and judge us for our shortcomings does nothing to improve our life view, or reduce our desire to self-destruct. To the contrary, being affirmed and valued for what makes us strong and beautiful is what gives us the boost needed to make successful life changes.

A women’s sober living home is designed to provide these forms of positive feedback. With the help of your sisters, you will begin to remember the you which was lost during your struggles with addiction. You will be empowered toward finding true purpose in life, and feel the satisfaction of helping those around you in doing the same.

Why The Community Aspect of Sober Living is Important

Community Aspect Of Sober Living

As history teaches us, early humans existed in small, nomadic, groups. Hunters and gatherers lived off of the food that was made available by nature, and found shelter in the landscape. The conditions of being subject to the elements of nature could be harsh, and members of a clan learned to depend on one another for protection, comfort, and camaraderie. Each member did what needed to be done in order to sustain the tribe’s existence.

As human kind evolved toward creating civilizations, the establishment of a community role became vital. No longer would a small group of people be expected to be self-sustaining. Each individual would play a role in an interconnected wheel of production. The baker would depend on the tailor to make his clothes. The tailor would – in turn – depend on the baker for his bread. Both would depend on the local doctor for health, and the doctor would receive his payment in their produced goods. Each member of society played a role that was vital to the sustaining of the community.

Then, the practical need of direct connection with others began to decline. As the cash system came into play, it created an environment of less interaction with the members of our community. The necessity of haggling with our neighbor to arrive upon a fair trade for our daily bread was eliminated with the invention of the price tag. It became possible to stock a variety of goods in one place, and complete the exchanges with minimal communication. A person’s earned gold could be used to buy the goods of the baker, the tailor, and the doctor, without ever even needing to speak to them.

As our access to goods and services increased, so did our exploration of technology. The ability to travel further distances away from our home base was made possible by the invention of the wheel and the production of boats. Particularly in the Western world, it became no longer the custom for sons and daughters to stay close to home. Many were expected to set out and find their fortunes on the ever-increasing map of the world, which meant that families became increasingly isolated from their extended members.

The evolution of society, on the other side of the creation of civilizations, has resulted in a massive amount of lonely people. Particularly in the United States, we can live in a city of a million, and yet not know our next door neighbors. While some are fond of blaming the internet for this creation of isolation, we can see that it is only one more step in a phenomenon which began ages ago. Our economic and technological innovations have been creating the conditions of loneliness for centuries.

 

The Impact of Loneliness on Addiction

Unfortunately – or not – our emotional and psychological needs, as humans, have not progressed in the same fashion as our societal innovations. At the core, we are still in need of the same, basic, connections which drove us together to form tribes and communities in the first place. People need to feel protected, supported, valued, and validated by others. Likewise, we have an innate desire to perceive that our unique contributions on the planet are making a positive difference for those around us.

Studies on the impact of loneliness and social isolation on the tendency to engage in addictive behaviors have consistently shown a correlation. Those who do not feel a sense of connection with their community are more likely to turn to substance abuse as a means of attempting to cope with the painful feelings of societal disconnect. Loneliness is such an intensely painful emotion, that it can become a physical pain. It can also contribute to health problems and early death.

The trap of turning to substance abuse to ease such discomfort is that the addiction, itself, creates more loneliness. Feeling a need to score the next high can result in anxiety, which can negatively impact our ability to form strong connections with others.  Our self-esteem takes a hit, once we realize that we have become a slave to the substance we once considered a friend. We can experience social ostracization when others learn of our addiction and disapprove of our coping methods. The isolating nature of addiction becomes a vicious cycle, which many find they cannot escape without help.

 

The Benefits of a Sober Living Community

If not already experienced beforehand, a person in addiction can begin to feel as though he or she is an outcast. The rest of the world seems to be bustling with people who have somehow adapted to the current structure of society, leaving you behind to fend for yourself. This is where the benefits of a sober living community come into play. Within this type of environment, you can begin to feel accepted by a tribe, once more.

 

Connection

When you enter a sober living facility, you know, immediately, that you are not alone in your struggles. The community is made up of others who have faced down a similar demon, and who have likewise discovered that there is a way back out of the fire. The social environment is free from judgment or condemnation of your addictive behaviors, as the others who are present have struggled with the same problem. The experience of being accepted, just as you are, can be the first factor in your healing experience.

 

Accountability

When we are isolated, we only have ourselves to answer to. While that may seem like a freedom, it can also be our downfall. It is far too easy to justify our own, negative, behaviors. Becoming part of a sober living community means that you will be surrounded by others who will be invested in your recovery. Their expectations for you will provide an extra layer of protection from your own temptations.

 

Support

Whether you are experiencing the joys of succeeding in your sobriety, or struggling with failures, the members of your sober living community will be rooting for you. They will be providing you with the tools necessary for success, and comforting you during the hard times. The connections that you make during this period of recovery can last a lifetime.

How Long Should I Stay In Sober Living?

How Long Should I stay In Sober Living

The concept of a sober living home originated in California, and the amount of options and locations which are available in other states have continued to grow since that time. The justification behind the existence of this type of support involves the idea that environmental exposure and social connection are leading factors in success – or failure – when it comes to maintaining sobriety. A sober living environment (SLE) provides a space for the person in recovery to experience intensive social support toward reaching goals of sobriety, while simultaneously being separated from the stressors which exist  in the location where the drugs or alcohol were being abused. It is a place to form new, healthier, relationships, and to establish more productive daily habits.

Sober living homes are usually a second – or third – stop on the way to maintaining sobriety. For some, their stay will begin following a period of receiving medical detox at an intensive inpatient facility. This process can require up to 10 days, depending on the drugs that are influencing the body at the time of entering treatment. For others, their stay in an SLE will begin following participation in a residential treatment program. This intensive form of treatment can last from a month to half of a year, and involves mandatory participation in several daily groups and therapy sessions. Many residential treatment programs have strict rules to follow, including participation in regular drug testing.

 

Recommended Timeframes

For best chance of lasting results, the National Institute on Drug Abuse recommends that most participants spend at least three months in a rehabilitation, with many needing the support of an active treatment team for several months beyond that. For those who are not able to afford the time or costs of staying with an intensive treatment program for that length of time, sober living homes can provide a buffer between exiting a rehab program and going solo.

Unlike with a treatment program, a sober living environment assumes that a recovering person is in a place where his or her sobriety is driving the desire to be there. The focus shifts from being centralized on escaping the drug toward one of making it as easy as possible to maintain existing sobriety. These facilities offer more personal freedom, and put more emphasis on a person developing the life skills necessary to continue to move forward. While some groups and meetings are typically still required of a resident, there is also opportunity to improve life through attending school or looking for employment.

 

Available Program Length

Most sober living environments will be open to a person in recovery for as long as the person is benefiting from being there. Before leaving, a person will want to ensure that both physical and psychological needs will be cared for. This means making sure that feelings and mindset are in a good place, that there is a healthy home environment to return to, and that social support will be continued after leaving the SLE. It will be extremely helpful to have used your time in the environment to form both short term and long term goals for maintaining your sobriety and continuing to build a life which you are proud of. You will also want to ensure that you have stayed long enough to have satisfied any legal or court-ordered treatment orders.

 

Benefits of Staying Longer

In general, the idea is that the longer you can maintain your sobriety, the less chance you have of relapsing. Statistically, the chance of relapsing after a period of five years sober is only 15 percent. This is in contrast to the success rate of a person who has only claimed one year of sobriety, and whose chance of relapse hovers around 50%. With this pattern in mind, deciding to stay longer in a sober living environment may be what is needed to achieve the long haul of sustained sobriety. The peaceful setting, reduction of life stressors, and provided social support can allow you to really cement those mental concepts which will guide you toward maintaining sobriety for years to come.

 

Do What Is Right For You

When it comes down to it, your needs for support in maintaining your sobriety are entirely unique. While some may experience a benefit from maintaining a full regimen of sobriety-focused treatment for many years, others may believe that they have received enough support to go on with their lives after only a few weeks. The main factor in maintaining sobriety is the internal desire to keep moving forward in life.

Some reports about recent addiction studies are indicating that up to 70% of people who recognize an addictive pattern in their lives are able to cease the behavior on their own. This flies in the face of conventional approaches, which have typically propagated the “once an addict, always an addict” idea. The progress being made in the collection of scientific data toward finding what really works for people who are escaping addiction means that there is less chance of being pushed into a treatment regimen which does not fit your particular needs or personality bend. When it comes to determining your length of stay in a sober living environment, be sure to practice your own logical thinking and assertive communication skills, and don’t let others decide your best course of action for you.

 

Relapse and Readmittance

If you do decide to leave your sober living home against the advice of those involved, check with your treatment team to find out the possibility of being readmitted, if needed. The rates of relapse in addiction are very high, and the rates for those who do not stay long enough in treatment are even higher. Around half of all of those who embark on the road to recovery through receiving specialized treatment will find themselves in need of another intervention within the first year. While many sober living homes are quite strict about not allowing an active user to participate in the program, they are generally quite compassionate when it comes to giving second – and even third – chances.

Why A Men’s Sober Living Can Make Recovery Easier

Men's Sober Living

While it is true that we live in a world where the lines between what it means to be male or female are blurring, there is no point in denying that there are genetic, and cultural, differences which still exist. Unless you are one who is caught up in the current trend of dismissing any consideration of sex and gender differences within your personal life, you are likely to benefit from the environment which is provided at a same-sex treatment facility.

Being identified as a male comes with a unique territory of experiences, perspectives, and expectations. Males are barraged with ideas of manhood from an early age. They are advised by their grandfathers and can struggle to meet the expectations of fathers. They are taught how to behave as a boy – sometimes cruelly – by other boys on the playground, and have their levels of testosterone as continual prompters. A treatment plan for recovery which takes into account the distinguishable characteristics of what it means to become a man is one which acknowledges that the needs of males are unique.

 

Opportunity for Customized Treatment

Anyone who remembers sitting in a public school classroom can understand the difficulty which arises when there are multiple students, with differing backgrounds and comprehension levels, all trying to learn the same thing. This experience doesn’t change just because we become adults. It can still be a trying experience to wait for the needs of others to be addressed before our own learning can take place.

The potential increase in success rates for sex-segregated programs is something that is typically studied in the educational settings. While results do vary, there are many experts who suggest that students who are in a sex-specific program do better than those who attempt to learn within a mixed-sex classroom. These studies point to differences between the ways that males and females learn and process information. These same types of experiences can be applied to the learning which takes place in a sober living home program. Catering a recovery program to the particular strengths of males means that more specific content can be covered, and can be processed in less time.

 

A Potential Lack of Distractions

Humans are biologically prone to seek out a mate. With over 90% of the American population identifying as heterosexual, the chances of a male in an all-male treatment facility being distracted by flirting behaviors is slim. Being free from the temptation to put self-improvement goals aside for the purpose of wooing a female leaves room for more focus on recovery. You won’t have to worry too much about how you smell, or about making sure to shave before a meeting.

It is generally recommended that people in recovery do not seek to form a romantic relationship during the first year of sobriety. The rationale behind this admonition has to do with the amount of energy that is necessary for an individual in recovery to expend toward self-work. The initial months of recovery are intended to be a time of introspection and self reflection. There are old wounds to uncover and deal with. There are dysfunctional patterns of thinking and reacting which need to be reprogrammed. Getting into a romantic relationship before we are fully healed, ourselves, can be a recipe for disaster.

If you happen to be someone who is already in a committed relationship before entering recovery, it is likely the case that your partner will appreciate that you are not going to be spending time around a lot of females, too. While jealousy can be an unreasonable and destructive force, there is valid room for a bit of worry when our partner is spending more quality time with someone other than ourselves. Assuring your significant other that you will just be hanging out with a bunch of guys can help ease her mind about your time away. Easing her mind about it is likely to translate into less drama during your phone calls and visits at home.

 

The Healing Power of Empathy

There is a reason that women will get together and share birth stories. It is understood that only women can share that particular experience. Similarly, there are experiences that only men can know. As much as we would like to consider ourselves sensitive to the plight of others, there is always a gap between what we understand and what we have personally experienced. That gap is filled by the application of empathy.

When we are able to share our own stories with others who have walked that mile in our shoes, we experience an immediate sense of validation. There is a feeling of relief which comes from knowing, deep down, that someone else really gets it. While surrounded by your fellow men in your sober living home, the opportunities for this healing experience are readily available.

 

The Benefits of Camaraderie

Social support is one of our primary needs. While there are some folks who don’t need many friends, it is rare to find someone who doesn’t need at least one. Often, friendships tend to be formed on the basis of sharing things in common. Other times, friendships are formed simply on the basis of availability. As a male in an all-male sober living home, you have the option of forming friendships from both angles. You will be sharing things in common, and you will be exposed to a ready-made group of potential friends.

In addiction, it is often the case that our social circle consists of other substance abusers. While surrounded by others in your sober living home, you have the opportunity to create new, healthy, ties. Everyone there is bound by the common thread of wanting to make a positive change in their lives, and share with you a commitment to eliminating drug and alcohol use as a factor. Having a team of like-minded brothers at your back can make the journey much easier than any attempts to go at it on your own.

Dating in Recovery

Dating in Recovery

Intimate relationships can be beautiful and rewarding. They can also lead us down a path of emotional difficulty, blurred boundaries, and compromised values. The best way to ensure that the dating road you are traveling consists of good experiences is to start out from a good place within yourself.

During initial stages of recovery, our resolution to stay sober is still fragile. Our thoughts are still programmed toward craving the substance, and our emotions tend to be raw. This sober space is typically the time that you will want to do a good amount of self work, including discovering – and addressing – what it is which prompted you toward addictive behaviors, in the first place. The amount of self work required can be enough to make some people put the idea of dating off for awhile. If you are certain that you are in a place of enough stability to bring another person into your personal space, you will want to take the following suggestions into consideration.

 

Be Honest About Your Recovery

Starting out a relationship with any kind of deception doesn’t bode well. Things that are hidden tend to make their way out into the light, eventually, and can leave the scar of damaged trust for those who were taken unaware. The last thing you will want to do is hide your history of addiction from a person whom you are dating.

While it might not be conversation for a first date, bringing up the fact that you are in recovery needs to happen fairly quickly. Your dating partner might not be open to the idea of dating someone in recovery, and failure to mention it is not fair play.  On the other side of it, he or she might also struggle with addictive behaviors, and failing to mention the topic can allow space for you to be the one unpleasantly surprised. It is much harder for a couple to maintain sobriety than it is for an individual to do it.

One of the ways that people attempt to conceal an addictive past includes making excuses for not partaking. While out at dinner, for instance, such a person will blame the refusal of a drink on stomach problems, having to drive, or feeling too sleepy. If you aren’t ready to tell your dating partner the real reason that you aren’t ordering off of the wine menu, then you probably aren’t ready to date.

 

Don’t Neglect Self-Care

It is all too easy to lose ourselves in a whirlwind of budding romance. There is no other time in life when we feel more hopeful, more giddy, or more unselfish than while in the embrace of a new love interest. Our thoughts are always of him or her, and we will drop everything on a dime to answer a call or text. While all of this experience is well and good, remember to abstain from losing too much of yourself to the relationship. Lack of healthy boundaries in a relationship can be a relapse pitfall.

 

Stay in Treatment

It is not uncommon for humans to humbly ask for help when things are bad, and then leave the help behind when we are feeling good. As much as you might be tempted to think that finding the right partner is the answer to all of your problems, do not forsake your recovery treatment steps while dating.  Consider it part of your self-care plan.

Be sure to attend your meetings, do your homework, and continue to strive for those milestones. Your perseverance in finishing this regimen can set the stage for your ability to persevere in future scenarios. Neglecting to see it through to the end can mean setting yourself up for backslide or carelessness. If your dating partner is of the right kind of quality, he or she will understand why some of your time is taken up by the program.

 

Avoid Triggers

Along with continuing to receive the support of your program and groups, you will want to avoid engaging in triggering scenarios while out on your date. Familiar sights, sounds – and even smells – can cause addiction temptations to rear their ugly heads.

If you have associated your drug or alcohol use with specific venues or activities, don’t sabotage yourself by going into that lion’s den. Find something new and exciting for the both of you to try. If your date suggests going somewhere or doing something that you know will give you a hard time, remember the suggestion regarding being honest about your reasons for declining.

As your dating life is progressing, you may find that it is more than just places and things which produce the temptation to use a substance. You may find that it is your interactions with other people which are the primary trigger. Maintaining a relationship can be tough, and relationship difficulties can be an easy scapegoat for our return to the self-destruction of addiction. Stress arising from low self-esteem, jealousy, arguments, or rejection can become an excuse for relapse.

The triggers don’t always have to accompany negative states of being, either. It may be the case that you realize that your ability to enjoy a healthy time while in a relationship is impaired. You may even find yourself tempted to indulge in drug or alcohol use as a misguided attempt to enhance the existing fun of the relationship. Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of thinking that it is fine to use while things are good. Seek additional counseling to get to the root of your difficulty with not associating enjoyment with substances.

 

Take Your Time

Last, but certainly not least, is the admonition to take your time. Nothing of quality is built by a person overnight, and your intimate relationships are no exception. Resist any urges to act impulsively, and give the relationship the space to let the true natures between you and your dating partner come to light. Allowing things to unfold at a natural and steady pace is the best chance of ensuring that the two of you are genuinely compatible, and can mean the difference between making a decision you are proud of, and one you regret.