Long-term sobriety requires personal engagement in your recovery. Real engagement goes beyond just attending meetings or calling your sponsor. Engaged recovery requires that you constantly learn new, concrete skills which support long-term sobriety. When I think of concrete skills that support recovery, several things come to mind:
Resilience - This generally refers to a person’s ability to cope with adversity, or the ability to bounce back from problems and setbacks. Research has shown resiliency to be a dynamic process. Resilient individuals adapt to changing and unexpected events even under the duress of adversity. You can develop your own resilience by establishing good problem-solving skills, or by seeking help and building social support. Fostering a belief that there are things you can do to manage your feelings and cope, and finding positive meaning in trauma, are other strategies for building your resilience.
Delayed gratification – Usually, people who can abstain from alcohol or drugs, or people who have managed to stay out of prison, have found ways to delay their gratification. People use chemicals to change the way they feel, so if you learn skills to act on your emotions in healthy ways, including offseting a need for immediate gratification, you can manage to fulfill your needs through avenues other than chemical use.
Volunteer work - My experience has shown me that volunteer work is a great way to feel better about yourself, develop a community of peers who share similar interests, and be of service to others. If you want to raise your self-esteem, do things you’d be proud to tell other people.
Develop a mission or vision statement – Write yourself a paragraph that creates a framework for your sobriety. My mission statement is as follows: My recovery is the single most important thing in my life. Anything which jeopardizes this is eliminated.
Developing enthusiasm and interests outside of recovery - While getting and staying sober may not always be challenging, fascinating, and exciting, it shouldn’t be approached as a chore. You can make it fun and enjoyable. Explore new hobbies, interests, and opportunities for personal growth that are not directly applicable to staying sober. Martial arts, horror films, model building, reading, exercise, cooking or pets are all viable options that could add color and interest to your life while enhancing your chances of recovery..
Habits – Develop good habits that support sobriety. Assign yourself time to “work” on your program, whether through meditation, journaling, time with a therapist, or exercise. This is an investment in yourself and your success. Practice mindful awareness that you may not be able to control the outcome of a situation, and continue to practice these skills until you can use them with facility and ease.
Affirmations - Using affirmations can be quite helpful. When you develop affirmations, make sure they’re worded simply, and in the present tense. They should be specific, concrete, and personal to you. Examples: I attract all of the resources I need for comfortable recovery. I can trust people. I’m safe, and people want to be my friends. I will nurture myself with these friendships. I live in the present moment, and worry is a thing of the past.
Remember, recovery is a dynamic and fluid process, rather than a single event. Be mindful that, throughout your life, you will continue to learn skills to support yourself as a well-rounded, healthy person. Develop enthusiasm and add good habits to help you build and maintain a rock-solid program of recovery.