Most of us alcoholics and addicts find our lives in shambles by the time we are ready to make a change; in fact, the circumstances generated by our addiction are generally what motivate us to seek recovery. Then there are those whose lives are pretty much still in order—on the surface—but whose emotional bottoms are sufficient to compel them to seek help. Either way—and it’s usually a combination of both—alcoholics and addicts at the turning point are faced with a blatant reality: on their own they are powerless to change the course of their addiction, and the consequences of their addiction (emotional, social, physical, mental, legal, and situational) will continue to pile up. The desperate effort to manage one’s alcohol or drug addiction, to cope with deteriorating relationships and life problems, and to bear the resulting emotional pain finally becomes too much. Those of us battling addiction are faced with a choice: continue to the bitter end on a worsening downward spiral, or choose to making ourselves better by devoting our time and energy into our recovery.
First things first
Recovery is most reliable—and satisfying—when it is given priority. The newly sober person is often overwhelmed with the complications of their life, and obsessed with the idea of fixing each problem. The trouble is, the mind that created the problems—and that invariably led to another day of drinking or using—is not equipped to repair the problems, nor to solve the addiction problem. In fact, this is typically the mind that helped to generate the situations we found ourselves trying to break free from. Putting our recovery first will help us to adjust our way of thinking so that each individual problem can be solved without us drinking or using over them.
The mind itself needs repairing
Most recovering alcoholics and addicts discover that a complete surrender to the recovery process yields the best results, not only in terms of stopping drinking or using drugs, but also in terms of handling circumstances and finding emotional stability and some degree of contentment. Putting recovery first—using the tools learned in treatment, participating in a recovery community, prayer and meditation, awareness in regard to watching for counterproductive thinking, anger, and negativity, and finding and talking to trusted sober friends—offers a tremendous payoff. Putting recovery in a back seat and giving priority to coping with life without using new tools is simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic: there’s a crash ahead, and it won’t be pretty. There is no middle-of-the-road solution.
Some ideas about putting recovery first
One good idea is to devote as much time to recovery as was devoted to drinking or using. Recovery should come first because drinking and using came first for years, and it’s time to find a new priority that will be a positive influence on our lives. It’s time to put our recovery on the top of our list and do “the next right thing” so it stays on the top of the list. Sometimes we may not feel like it’s the right thing to do, but without our recovery, many of us would be unable to do pretty much anything.
Recovery is a continuous journey of self-discovery. It’s a journey that just begins when the drugs and the drinks are put down. Recovery is a constant journey of working on ourselvesand our strengths and weaknesses every day. Becoming the best person we can be is hard work and it will take a continued effort if it is going to have a lasting results.
We can’t help others if we don’t help ourselves first. If we want to be a good mother, father, daughter, sister, brother, friend, or partner, we must first make sure we are healthy and strong in our recovery. Once we are stable we’ll have the ability to bring joy and love into all of our relationships and use our recovery toolbox for healthy coping mechanisms. Just by keeping our recovery first we will be able to help others.
Don’t conform to the world, let the world conform to you. Committing and sustaining recovery is not easy, but if we find pride, security, and solace in our recovery we will be able to get through anything. The world can be a scary and overwhelming place, but we can still stay true to ourselves. Keeping our recovery number one will help us find our place in the world. Our recovery will allow us to let the world adapt to us, instead of the other way around.
It’s not wrong or bad to want to put our recovery first, it’s imperative. It will not only keep us alive, it will ensure we live a life that we’re proud of. While drinking or using, most of us did things (or did nothing at all) that we normally would not have done. If we don’t stay sober, we won’t be able to live life to the fullest. Putting our recovery first is a form of self-care and the most important one for all of us.
When we don’t put our recovery first, it suffers. We end up feeling restless, irritable, and discontent and this can be a recipe for disaster. If we want to reach our goals, stay peaceful and serene, and be successful we have to keep our recovery first. Without our recovery, we cannot accomplish anything. It has become a part of our identities and it is just as critical to us as breathing. By putting ourselves first and focusing on our recovery, we put others first by “being of service”. As long as recovery is our top priority, we will be ready for whatever life throws at us.
We’re told again and again that we have to be selfish about our own recovery, but this seems to be in conflict with the fact that selfishness is the root of our problem. How can selfishness be both good and bad?
The selfishness we need for recovery is a devotion to self-improvement, rather than the selfish indulgence that made us sick. One is a giving of ourselves, the other is frantic taking that leads to destruction. The person who seeks self-improvement is competing only against his or her former self. The sick brand of selfishness, on the other hand, is usually involved in unhealthy competition with others.
There is no easy way to test whether our selfishness is the right kind. If our conduct leads to long-term happiness and higher self-esteem, it is probably right. If it harms us or others, something is wrong. We can correct this by getting back to the basics of the program and pursing self-improvement rather than self-indulgence.