Change Your 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 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. There are different tools in addiction recovery to deal with that.
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 of programs who believe all sorts of things. That we need to change is universal. If you are tired of eating out of the same pot of recovery stew day in and day out, try these recipes:
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. 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.
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. 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. Although sometimes we do need to add some flavor to our recoveries, sometimes the best recipes for recovery success are simple ones. There is great power in getting rid of what you do not use and do not need.
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.
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. These are just a few things that we can do to make sure we don’t get stuck in a state of boredom. They’re worth a try!