Restarting Life in Recovery: Your Life's Not a Failure - You Have a Fresh Start!
"But I'm a Loser..."
No, you're not. Being in recovery makes you a winner, you just don't see that yet. Failure only really occurs when we stop trying.
If you are vertical and breathing then congratulations; you've got another chance at a good life. Try to remember that many died along the way. Not everyone gets to recover.
Here are 6 tips for making sure you get the most out of your second chance opportunity:
Avoid Self Pity
Of all the places we can put our energies, self pity is the worst. Attitude is everything and the easiest way to improve it is to focus on gratitude. I've seen remarkable results from folks making a daily list of what they have to be thankful for. It's easy to overlook that if we have a roof over our head, clothes on our backs and food to eat, we're better off than billions.
We're free to move our focus away from what we've lost and move it toward what we can still have. Be an opportunist - be someone who sees possibilities and pursues them. Being an optimist doesn't cost you anything (I know it's scary to have hope but what's life without it?).
The problem with self-defeating beliefs, perspectives, or behaviors is that they always work.
Treat Yourself Better
The perils of black and white thinking are countless. Folks in early recovery usually tell me they are "back at square one." They're ashamed and describe in great detail where they "should" be. I tell them "should" and "shouldn't" are always judgments and that they should hold off on these until they become a fair critic of themselves.
If we're going to get better, we have to treat ourselves the way we'd treat a loved one who is trying to get better; we'd encourage and support - never tear down or criticize. It's the 'Golden Rule' in reverse; if we're going to get better, we have to stop beating ourselves up.
Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
There is no peace or satisfaction to be found in comparing ourselves to others. We make our worth relative and contrast where we're at to where our old friends, family or peers are at. We compare our insides to everyone else's outsides; sure, they appear happy and successful, but we only have a small part of the story. If we knew everything that was going on in their heads we'd feel better immediately.
It's not like we ever compare ourselves and feel better. We readily embrace opportunities to feel bitter. It feels safe to be cynical and jaded, but there's no joy in it.
"The race is long and in the end the race is with yourself." - Baz Luhrmann
Shut Up and Work Hard
No whining. No saying, "I just..."
Whenever a person in recovery starts a sentence that way, whatever follows is likely to be something that they're completely powerless over. "I just wish" is a 'poor me' statement. The most common example is, "I just want to be happy!" To which I respond, "Great! How hard are you willing to work to become that?"
Keep your dignity but don't believe anything is beneath you. Maybe a minimum wage job seems offensive to you or maybe "starting over" at the bottom of the ladder seems insulting. Shut up - someone gave you a second chance. When we think about what we deserve we lose sight of the fact that we deserved to die or to be in prison. We know it could have been far worse than it was.
- Work is honorable.
- Whatever you do, do it as well as it can be done.
- You're opening doors and teaching employers what they can expect from others in recovery.
There are two foundational relationships that must take precedence over all others:
- The one we have with ourselves.
- The one we have with a higher power.
Trying to love another while retaining self loathing or remaining ambivalent toward self just doesn't work.
Conventional wisdom in recovery is that we don't make relational changes in the first year unless absolutely necessary. Folks usually cringe at this one because they immediately imagine going a year without sex. This is one more area in which you must be rigorously honest with yourself. If you're the kind of person who can have sex without intimacy then pursue it, if you're not - don't.
Early recovery is one of the few times in life where making it all about you is healthy. Reaching out is paramount to success and while it seems counter-intuitive, we must be mindful that it helps those who went before us to help us. Know that they vividly recall what it feels like to be you. Consider the possibility that you can have what they have and above all, when people believe in you, let them. This plants a seed of doubt within us that grows and becomes something beautiful.
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