By Christopher W. Woodward, LAC, Substance Abuse Specialist
September is National Recovery Month. The aim of this month is to increase awareness and understanding of mental and substance use disorders and celebrate the people who recover.
I was talking to one of our client’s this morning over the telehealth application, and the client was about to turn the calendar on a year sober. First let me celebrate all the hard work that it takes to gain that level of sober living. Knowing where you want to go is easy, taking the steps to get there is where the difficulty is.
Not one of us truly enjoys change. Some of us endure it and some fight and push against it as hard as we can until the point of exhaustion. To gain a year without any substances as the client has—is no small thing. The client noted that he/she was very excited about this new year of being sober. The client had been resilient, was on the short end of relationship, money, housing and in jail for a good portion of the previous year. The client had persevered down the road and met his/her goal, now it was time to set a new goal. Hopefully the following strategies can help in making these new goals no matter the length of your recovery.
Walk the Path
Many times, when clients get to this point, the point of being a year sober and clean, part of me wants to say, “It gets harder from here.” Or “Now the tough work starts.” Most people will take that as a negative however, my point is that we have established positive patterns, changed in our lives our motives and in our methods.
Now we must keep doing it. Now we have to make that daily commitment and find new changes, deeper changes to solidify the recovery process. Long term recovery sometimes can feel like a false peak. Sometimes we think we have climbed the mountain, completed the task, only to get to the top and see that there is a valley and another mountain in our way to get to the actual mountain peak that we wanted to climb in the first place. That is where our resilient nature is our best friend.
We exhale, we sometimes swear, we can complain, we can survey the next steps and then we keep walking.
Take Constant Inventory
Occasionally we need to look around and consider the people, the places and our efforts. When we ask ourselves about the people that we are walking with, do they have the same goal in mind? Are they willing to take the next peak or are they satisfied with sitting here in the sun?
Finding people who push us and the pace, can help us get over the next hill and find the energy to build consistent gains. Another inventory we need to take is what are the places that we are walking in to? Am I triggered by my environment at work or at home? What does my social medial intake look like? Am I using it as a positive to push my recovery or am I slowly allowing negativity back into my thoughts and being activated by the situations of others? Also ask, do we need to make some changes in our daily efforts?
Walking in the cool of the day might be a welcome change to toiling in the sun to gain a few more steps, knowing that rest sometimes is better than pushing ourselves to the limit. Sometimes balancing our efforts with rest can make all the difference in the world.
Keep the Pace
Remember the tortoise and the hare? The hare jumps out of the gate quick and ahead of the race. The hare moves though the turns and down the path with reckless abandon, confident that the win is just around the next corner. He builds a lead and then finds himself distracted with his own speed and meaning to embarrass the tortoise took a nap on the path. Eventually losing sight of the end goal. He was caught sleeping and did not have the speed to overtake the lumbering tortoise.
The tortoise, however, was up for the challenge. He is the one if you read Aesop’s version who challenged the hare to the race. The tortoise found his pace, a pace that he could maintain for the entire race. He went about his business knowing that he would end the race. He passed the hare asleep on the road and built such a lead that the speed of the hare could not overtake him.
The tortoise made the finish line the most important part of the race. Hopefully, if we find our pace, we can do the same.
If we walk the path, take constant inventory and keep our pace we can find ourselves climbing each hill of our recovery and overall life in a successful manner. The way that we walk the path of recovery is sometimes as important as the daily goals that we have for our recovery. Remember it is not always about where we came from, it is more about where we are going that defines our life.