“Never, never, never give up!” – Winston Churchill
This blog is not about taking vitamins, I promise. However, I do take vitamins every morning and have done so for the past 10 years. I never miss, yet every now and then, I stare mindlessly at the vitamin bottle and wonder silently if I still need to take them. Then, from the far reaches of the saner region within my mind comes this stinging rebuttal: “stick to the plan!” “We’ve been over this. We don’t need to rethink this! You’re not being asked if you enjoy it, are fanatically passionate about it, or if it is convenient for you – just stick to the plan!” So, I do.
Staying on Track
That’s the way it is with your recovery program. Once you have decided to journey down this road there may be more distractions, detours, and alternate routes than you ever dreamed of. You set a goal such as respecting yourself, getting married, raising your own children, and staying out of legal trouble. Your recovery program makes your goal possible. However, without steadfast adherence to your recovery, your goal slips by the wayside, an unintentional victim of disinterest and apathy. Without unwavering devotion, it is easy to get sidetracked and drift off course. Acknowledging and addressing the following five areas will help you stick to the plan.
1. Recovery is hard work. Many projects lose their luster as the initial interest and enthusiasm wears thin and turns into a daily grind filled with problems to be solved and boredom to be endured. Recovery is not an exception to this truth. Staying in recovery is hard work, plain and simple, and anyone who says otherwise likely has a limited or idealized view of how cunning, baffling, and powerful addiction can be. The fix for this, like it or not, is to develop long-term endurance, roll up your sleeves, and be willing to do the hard work, day in and day out, without wavering.
2. There seems to be a better offer. Many people tip off the recovery horse merely because something more interesting catches their eye. They are lured away by immediate pleasures, intrigued by something easier, and fascinated by the super exciting. This is the devil in disguise. It may look good at first glance, but is sinister in its ways and destructive in its results. To combat this trap, play the tape forward or flip to the last chapter of the book. Seeing how it ends can put a proper perspective on the beginning and the middle.
3. The goal has changed. I mentioned earlier that recovery makes your goal possible. Perhaps your goal was to get married, retain your job, or buy a house. If your relationship ends, you get laid off, or you can no longer afford to buy a house, your primary reason for doing the hard work of recovery has shifted. This change may compromise your recovery. Adjust for this disruption in your external situation by focusing on the quality and consistency of your character. Be the kind of person someone would want to marry, someone would desire to employ, and someone who could choose to buy a home. In this way, a strong recovery still makes your goals possible.
4. Outside pressure is intense. Recovery is often sacrificed because someone else thought your relapse was a good idea. Others may find you more charming, interesting, and moldable if you are using. To overcome this pressure to please others, nurture self-acceptance in the present moment and develop self-control for the future. Learn to care about what you need for you, more than you care about what others want from you.
5. Emotional problems are draining you. Depression, anxiety, and other emotional problems are, at times, extremely distressing. A strong desire to comfort yourself and avoid emotional pain may trigger a relapse. During these times, the hard work of recovery may appear just too hard. The strategy here is to consistently maintain your mental health rather than make repeated attempts to overcome the sickness. Adequate sleep, exercise, a positive attitude, good social support, and taking medications as prescribed are all great maintenance tactics.
Sticking to your recovery plan is possible through intentional focus and hard work. Better offers, changing goals, emotional pains of life, and outside pressures will try to sabotage your efforts at success. Safeguards can be built. When given a choice between a deceptive illusion or making solid progress in your recovery, you, like me, will momentarily glance at the vitamin bottle, and quietly remind yourself: “stick to the plan.”
Recovery is a journey. Enjoy the ride!