Spring Cleaning for Those in Recovery

Although it’s summer, it’s always a good time for a little spring cleaning! The changing of the seasons reminds us of the change we have gone through as we moved from addiction to sobriety; our addiction was the chill of winter melting away under the springtime sun of our recovery.

Achieving personal growth means we are always starting fresh. Learning is growth and growth is change.

Every new day is an opportunity to prioritize your principles for recovery. View this as a time to stock up on how far you’ve come and how far you can go. Remind yourself of the coping skills you’ve learned and figure out ways to put them to practical use as you return to your life with friends and family.

A Family’s Addiction Recovery Homework

Whether you’re a recovering addict or a friend or family member of a recovering addict, the most important part of spring cleaning includes taking inventory. Many view taking a personal inventory as a difficult assignment, and it is, but you never thought addiction recovery homework was easy and you don’t take the easy way anymore.

The addict benefits from this lesson by growing personally and spiritually. When you look inward and take inventory of yourself, it’s easier to end any feelings of self-pity or uselessness. You begin to see the strength that lives inside of you.

The addict’s close family and friends can benefit from doing an inventory as well. Your addiction didn’t just affect you; it made a significant impact on your family and friends too. Is there any residual resentment that may be preventing a loved one from embracing your recovery?

Addiction wounds everybody, but forgiveness is key. Addicts need to forgive themselves for their past transgressions just as family members do.

Addiction recovery is about repairing a life and rebuilding relationships. This understanding should come from both sides. After all, we’re talking about building effective coping skills which can benefit everyone, addict and nonaddict alike.

Coping Skills for Substance Abuse Recovery

Taking the first step and admitting you needed help was probably the hardest thing you did in your life up to that point. Whether you went to rehab or not, now you’re clean and you want to stay the course. Facing the realities of the real world with a sober mind might seem just as hard as admitting you needed help in the first place.

Except it isn’t. With proper coping skills, you can tackle any problem or perceived stress.

There are quite literally hundreds of different coping strategies, each varying in its effectiveness, depending on the application.

All can be classified under three main categories:

  • Cognitive
  • Behavioral
  • Emotional

Some coping mechanisms are activated subconsciously, while others require mental concentration. While it isn’t necessary to know every one, developing those that work best for you will help you cope more effectively with what life throws at you.


Cognitive Coping Mechanisms

Your brain is quite powerful. With proper focus, it isn’t hard to actively direct your brain to do what you want it to do. Challenge yourself to cope with life using the full potential of that amazing organ.

Mind over matter is not a tired old cliché. It is a real principle that has solid scientific backing and popular approval. There are several ways to bring your mind under firm control:

  • Mindfulness: Mindfulness means being in the present; being aware of what is happening in the here and now. It does not mean reacting or acting impulsively, but instead being cool, calm and collected.
  • Objectivity: One of the best things you can do for yourself and others is to remain impartial and not judge. Stay above the fray when stressful moments arise. You should almost feel detached from your body, looking down at it in slow motion as you make quick decisions regarding how to react.
  • Understanding: Things like the past cannot be changed. You must understand that life proceeds the way it does and people act the way they do. Don’t let judgmental thoughts degrade your understanding.

Tell your brain what you want it to do. Put it to work for your benefit and flex it like a muscle. Embrace adversity as a way to link up new pathways in your mind.


Behavioral Coping Mechanisms

There are several conscious behavioral coping techniques that require little time and effort, but yield big results. These are techniques that you can actively pursue at any moment in the day.

Modifying your behavior is part of creating healthy routines. As you build new, sober ways of doing things, add these healthy techniques to your day:

  • Meditation: One of the best ways to get to know your brain is to meditate. Contrary to popular belief, meditation is not about quieting the mind; it’s about being able to calmly interpret all the audio feeds. Meditation is a relaxation technique that has real benefits for mind and body.
  • Exercise: When you’re feeling down, get up and get physical. Exercising, whether it’s a quick jog or hours at the gym, is a healthy activity that fits nicely into a recovery routine. Exercise helps you feel good about your body, just as meditation makes you feel good about your mind.
  • Hobbies: Part of managing your behavior includes putting yourself into situations where you are happy and enjoying yourself. As you do your personal inventory and carry out your spring cleaning, ask yourself what it is that you like to do and do it.

Once you’ve got your mind and body under control, it’s time to move on to the most nebulous of human traits. How will you tackle your emotions? Don’t worry; it’s easier than it sounds, especially now that your mind and body are clear.


Emotional Coping Mechanisms

Our emotional state is quite possibly the most complex and difficult-to-control aspect of our existence. It’s easy to quantify what we can see, but it is a lot harder to properly explain what it means to feel.

As an addict, your emotions were the last thing you relied on. In many cases you used drugs to smother them. Now in recovery, you must rely on your emotions to help you get through the world. Sobriety doesn’t equate to cold and calculating.

Look to your emotions as effective coping mechanisms in the following ways:

  • Optimism: Optimism is associated with anticipation. This is the willful act of looking forward to future events in a positive light. Associate optimism with positivity and you can’t go wrong.
  • Humor: Laughter is associated with happiness and levity. You create positive endorphins within when you laugh and smile. Research has proven that laughter aids in the recovery of sick patients. Use it as you recover.
  • Kindness: Be kind to others, but most of all be kind to yourself. When you are helping others and exhibiting kindness, you are benefiting just as much as the other person.

Reread each of these behavioral coping mechanisms, and imagine combining all nine of these attributes into yourself. Could you be any more amazing?

Well, yes, you can. Although many emotions are important, one of recovery’s most crucial emotions is courage. When hope and courage combine, you are unstoppable.

How to Cultivate Your Courage

Getting to where you are right now took a tremendous amount of courage, and you’ve done it. Carry that courage with you as the future approaches.

The definition of courage does not include the absence of fear. Courage is the ability to face a difficult situation even though you are afraid. You are courageous when you make it through something difficult without taking the easy road; without sacrificing what is right for what is popular.

Develop your courage in the following ways:

  • Fight fear: Don’t be afraid to ask yourself the hard questions. What do you fear about sobriety? What do you fear about facing family and friends? What do you fear about returning to normal life? Finding internal answers to these questions gives you the information you need to fight them.
  • Build small: It would be nice if you could embark on some swashbuckling act of courage that propels you into fame and glory, but life doesn’t work that way. Courage isn’t about one single act of greatness, it’s about the small acts of greatness you exhibit every day. Saying no when you want to say yes. Going to a meeting when you don’t want to. Every little thing you do that continues your recovery is an act of courage.
  • Be patient: You won’t wake up tomorrow and be the most courageous person you could ever be. Developing courage happens gradually. Hope degrades into doubt when combined with impatience. Be strong, be calm and be patient. Knowing how to wait is in itself a courageous act.

As you develop your courage and become formidable in your determination, seek out role models and mentors to learn from. Have humility and understand that we are all growing, all the time.

Study how people react to stress and handle pain. Adopt successful strategies and focus on healthful outcomes. No one acts courageously all the time, but you should still strive to.


Remember How Far You’ve Come

To the addict, recovery seems like a nearly impossible goal. As you struggled with the very basics of personal survival, living a normal life was both out of sight and out of mind.

Once you enter recovery, the life you are working toward may seem like another impossible goal. Each part of the process is a step, and that next step always seems so far. Realize that this happens to everyone, whether addicted or sober.

As famous pastor and author Rick Warren so aptly put it: “Remember how far you’ve come, not just how far you have to go. You are not where you want to be, but neither are you where you used to be.”

There’s a reason why the 12-step program repeatedly reminds us to live in the moment. By remaining firmly centered on how well you’re doing now, you avoid dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.

Remembering how far you’ve come isn’t about wallowing in the misery of your past or constantly replaying all the awful things you’ve been through. No, remembering how far you’ve come is about being proud and building on the courage that carries you through the day. It’s about reminding yourself how much potential you’ve shown, have and will carry into the future.

Realize How Far You Can Go

Use the memory of the great things you’ve done to get where you are as motivation for all the great work you have yet to do.  As always, preparation is key.

The future you deserve begins with recovery. Get yourself ready for what lies ahead by embracing the principles of recovery and being the best you in every moment.

Do not limit yourself or feel bound by past transgressions. A heavy burden of guilt can be the worst kind of trigger. When you acknowledge your potential and move forward with positive thinking, anything is possible.

Finally, don’t be afraid to think big. Yes, you should live in the moment and not set unattainable goals, but you can also give yourself something great to shoot for without feeling bad about it.

When we achieve sobriety and embrace the potential that lives within each of us, no goal is too out of reach. A proper spring cleaning includes acknowledging the goals we’ve met and preparing for those we have yet to meet.

At 12 Keys Rehab, we want to help you acknowledge the past, live in the present and embrace the future. If you have any questions about the effectiveness of your spring cleaning, or feel in danger of addiction’s winter chill, give us a call today.

The Addiction Blog