For many of us, the term “addiction recovery” evokes images of styrofoam coffee cups and dingy church basements. The very prospect of spilling our guts to a circle of strangers makes us withdraw more fully into our cocoons of addiction. Having navigated this path from both sides - as a therapist and recovering alcoholic – I can assure you that there is not just one road to wellness.
What if I told you that your journey through addiction recovery could be designed by you and for you?
The following steps will help get you started:
Don’t Wait for Rock Bottom
Too many of us delay the healing process in anticipation of an earth-shattering “rock-bottom” experience. We convince ourselves that until we fly head first through the windshield with a bottle of whiskey in our fist that our problem simply “isn’t that bad.” Your relationship with alcohol is unique and it is, therefore, important to recognize that the term “rock-bottom” is relative. Rather than awaiting a potentially life-threatening “aha” moment, take some small, but productive steps today.
Call in Reinforcements
My personal and professional experiences with addiction recovery have confirmed that a solid support system is imperative. Even before I was ready to say, “I’m never drinking again,” I connected with a local therapist, an online support group, and select family members that encouraged my desire to heal. I’ve seen others enlist help from sober friends, local recovery groups (like SMART and A.A.), inpatient rehabilitation programs, and religious organizations. Enlist a team that will remain steadfast through both the highs and the lows of your process. And when reaching out feels like the most difficult thing you’ve ever done, remind yourself of the alternative.
Pack Your Toolbox
The resources that got me through early sobriety were unique to my journey. I cherry-picked the books, websites, and coping strategies that nurtured me during those challenging weeks and you can do the same. Begin with a list of ten activities to engage in when cravings and triggers arise. Prospects range from exercise and meditation to candy binges and reality TV shows. Early sobriety is about survival. You don’t have to charge right into the emotional exploration. Be gentle with yourself and collect the tools you’ll need as you move forward.
Seek out Success Stories
If your inner-cynic is still voicing doubts regarding a personalized addiction recovery approach, make your way to the internet or the local bookstore and conduct a search in the addiction section. There are countless success stories to be unearthed and no two are identical. Continue browsing until something really hits home. Perhaps it’s a memoir, an addiction recovery blog, or a self-help book that resonates. Add it to your own toolbox and acknowledge the fact that these small steps are the early stages of your own success story. Not that long ago, the prospect of a life without alcohol terrified me. But by carefully collecting the resources that took my unique needs into account, I set myself up to succeed.
You don’t have to leap straight into the deep end. Test the waters. Ease yourself in. Design your own life raft. And at some point, you’ll be ready to set sail.
Jen Anderson is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), sobriety coach, former alcohol enthusiast, and writer living in Florida.