Recovery should be your number-one priority. Period. When you’re a person with substance-use disorder, you must spend the rest of your life fighting not to drink or use. Sobriety is a foundation on which everything else is built, so you better make that foundation strong and solid.
Listen—all of those are true, but also not entirely true. They’re only part of the truth – and even if they sound familiar because you’ve heard similar statements during your recovery (for example, in 12-step meetings), it’s good to be discerning and curious and not rely on everybody else’s so-called wisdoms.
But let me unpack this for you a little. First, sobriety is indeed a foundation that should be built strong and solid. This might mean immersing yourself fully early-on in recovery to prevent relapse by, for example, attending 90 meetings in 90 days, attending professional counselling and treatment programs, and/or devoting all your energy to not drinking or using. But even in the early days, that energy should also be directed at simply learning how to live again—for some of us that means, re-learning how to feed ourselves, how to pay bills, how to socialize, how to keep a clean house, how to shop for groceries, even how to dress. Statistics show that being diligent about recovery for five years is as good of a guarantee of not relapsing as you will get. When I was in early recovery, I devoted myself to it—I emerged with an ironclad determination to stay sober, but it was also as if I’ve trained for long enough that sobriety was almost like a muscle memory. It was just part of my life. Not all of my life. A strong and enduring recovery philosophy allows for this transition from immersion in relapse prevention to immersion in living a life philosophy that allows for sober flourishing.
So in a way, I will most likely spend the rest of my life not drinking, but I am no longer at the stage where this is a fight, where not-drinking is what my life is all about. How boring and limiting that would be! One cannot always live in the problem and use one’s entire energy to simply not be in addiction. At some point, you have to pull the goalie and go on the offensive, devoting your energies to living a great life instead of living the life of just not-drinking.
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