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Drug Treatment

Integrating the 12 Steps into Your Life

By Staff Writer

If you're a recovering addict, you may find a disconnect between the ideals expressed in your 12-Step program and the day-to-day world that you walk through. This is a common feeling for recovering addicts, and it's a major reason why many people relapse.

"When the present day is such a struggle," you may think, "how can I possibly stay strong through all the weeks, months and years to come?" A lifetime is a long span to spend struggling day in and day out, with little consolation.

Of course, if your addiction recovery program has taught you anything, you know deep down that this is exactly the wrong attitude. You know that your past way of life is not the path to happiness and well-being, but just an easy escape from hard realities of life. Your old way is a temporary flight from your problems, which will only grow more serious if you refuse to face them head-on.

If you're having these thoughts, the good news is that you're self-aware. You're conscious of your mental processes, your attitudes and your spiritual state. This allows you to recognize where your thinking goes bad, which can help you begin to turn your negativity and doubt into positive, aspirational thoughts.

Focus on Today

To fight back against negative thinking, try taking a "just for today" approach. Rather than agonizing over how much time you'll spend struggling to stay sober, focus on the 16 or so waking hours you'll have today. And while today may present its own difficulties, you know that you can make it through to the end:

  • Today is only a short time, but it's a chance to stretch your recovery toward a new personal record. Focus on moving forward in your recovery while enjoying life as much as you can. Make mental note of all the little moments of joy, pleasure and peace, and know that your efforts will make you a little bit stronger for tomorrow.
  • Be in touch every day with your sponsor and any friends or family who are actively helping you in your recovery. Don't hide your feelings. Talk openly about what you're going through. If it's hard, tell your loved ones and your sponsor all about how hard it is. If you need help, don't be afraid to admit it.
  • Give yourself a program for the day. Know ahead of time what you're going to do, envision a successful and productive day of recovery, and work to reach your goal every step of the way. With this attitude, your day will have purpose. And in your final moments before going to sleep, the pride you'll be able to take in another hard-fought, successful day will be a reward to savor.
  • Throughout your day, use any spare moments to contemplate ways that you can further improve your perspective. It doesn't have to be all about thinking positively at all costs; everyone knows that sometimes there are simply not a lot of positive things to grasp onto. But know that this is okay, and that mixed feelings are a perfectly normal part of life. At the very least, try to come to the perspective that everything is okay and that life is tolerable. In the long run, this is a healthy outlook even for non-addicts. We take the good with a dose of bad, and vice-versa.
  • One day of losing strength, of reconnecting with negative associates from your past or of giving in to fear can set your recovery back months. Take pride in the quiet strength you show from moment to moment throughout your day. Think about children or any younger family members or friends you have in your life, and focus upon being a positive role model for them.

Perspectives for Moving Forward with Life

Open-mindedness: Some recovering teen addicts have a bad habit of wanting to stay set in their old ways of approaching the world. If you want to move forward, you have to accept that there are other outlooks than your own, and you may want to begin testing the waters of some of the other possibilities — at least as an experiment.

This doesn't mean you have to change who you are. Think of it as a version of yourself that is in transition toward a better, more expansive and healthier way of being. And if you stay in transition forever, that's life. Try doing different things than you would normally: read different types of books or eat different foods. Think of it not as changing, but as an expansion.

Faith in your higher power: Moving through life, many recovering addicts find it difficult to maintain the same type of faith that helped get them through the early stages of the 12-Step program. This is natural. Whatever your higher power may be, your relationship to that being will change as you grow.

Instead of questioning and doubting your higher power, allow it to grow with you. As your mind grows, you may have trouble justifying your higher power on logical grounds. Just remember that there is a level of existence that transcends human logic and that, as smart as we are, we're just humble creatures before its grand design.

Take care of yourself: If you've been a serious addict, you probably know that addiction can sometimes take a huge toll on one's health, personal appearance and hygiene. Without getting too psychological, it's safe to say that part of this self-neglect comes out of an addict's self-loathing.

By taking care of yourself during your recovery period, you can earn self-respect by proving that you can be a healthy, productive member of society. Eat healthy foods, exercise daily and take pride in your appearance. It may be shallow, but there's something positively mood-altering and helpful in simply feeling good about your health and your appearance when you leave home and go about your daily tasks.