You know why we’re called “recovering” alcoholics rather than ex-alcoholics, I’m sure. But for the benefit of those new to the process, let me quickly explain.
It’s because we have a susceptibility to alcohol and we have to be constantly vigilant because it is all too easy to go back to our old ways. We are leopards that can only suppress our spots but can never actually get rid of them.
If that sounds insulting, like we’re telling ourselves we have no willpower, no self-control, that’s where humility and then pragmatism comes in. If someone has a nut allergy, they make damn sure they don’t consume any nuts. Simple as that.
If you get terribly seasick every time you get on a boat, you don’t get on any more boats. These things are not moral weaknesses, they’re physical limitations – things that sufferers have to avoid.
Alcoholism is not unique, it’s just a form of addiction and there are many other types of addiction.
I have been sober for nine years now, but before that, I was at the bottom of the pit. I was an alcoholic. I started drinking at the age of nine, found that I liked having something else in charge, and quickly moved from sneaking a few drinks at a party when the grownups weren’t looking to making sure I had some at my disposal at all times. Wound up addicted to drugs too. Ended up in prison.
If you’re reading this because you’re trying to keep yourself from the brink of disaster or because you are concerned about someone else, it pays to learn about alcohol addiction and the detoxification process.
Alcoholism is an illness, but what makes it different from allergies and seasickness is that we got into that mess because a part of us liked it – and would like it again if we were stupid enough to lapse and throw away all we’ve gained since quitting. In my case, that means professional success and happiness in my personal relationships.
That is why my number one habit for recovering alcoholics to practice is this:
Know why you’re doing this
Why am I not drinking today? Because I used to be a disaster area and now I’m not, and I want to stay this way. Your variant of that could be lots of things. Maybe alcohol destroyed your marriage. It may have wrecked your career: an accountant who couldn’t get their head around a financial situation or a talented sports person who lost your energy and sharpness. Perhaps it made you do crazy things that got you in trouble with the law.
Whatever it was, you don’t want to go down that road again and the only way to ensure it, having gone through alcohol detox, is never to touch another drop. It sounds so simple and unfortunately that’s why there are so many people who don’t understand why drinkers can’t implement this simple strategy: don’t do it.
Once you’re on the right path, you have to keep reminding yourself. Think about the good things that have happened since you quit. You can’t take them for granted: they have to be maintained. But they make your life good, so you have to make the effort. But…
One day at a time
You may enjoy the thought of all the time you have been sober, like a mountain you have climbed. But just concentrate on the here and now. Some days are easier than others. On the hard days, all you have to do is get through this one and tomorrow will probably be better. You may feel like a drink this instant, but you’re not going to have one. Not right now. And forever is just a large collection of not-right-nows.
I devote a great deal of time to my business, which I have built up since that glorious day when I rejoined the human race. But it can’t be all work and no play. It helps to develop new interests. Join a club if you like. Take up chess, taekwondo, yoga. Read a lot. Just don’t allow idle time to weaken your motivation.
I also value my relationships with my family – which were severely damaged when I was addicted – and I have a good social life. And…
It is a proven fact that getting plenty of exercises makes us feel good. This could be part of number three, just keeping busy. Or it could become a serious pillar of your life. You will get fitter and feel better: the second comes with the first. You’ll look better, and that can only be a good thing
Be good to yourself
An active alcoholic is constantly rewarding himself with the last thing he needs: another drink. So don’t become a grim taskmaster just because you’re sober. You have discipline – great. Treat yourself to something good, be it a healthy meal out or a walk by the river. And as this list is moving smoothly from one to the next, here’s another natural progression…
Enjoy the world
It’s a pretty wonderful place, you know, full of natural highs. You can take that walk along the river. Or maybe there’s a nice park nearby. Some lucky souls live near the beach.
It’s important to see the good in things and in people. Enjoy the company of your friends: people are full of humor, wisdom, kindness, and compassion. And if your circle of friends is short on those things, maybe you should meet some new people.
Be answerable to someone
In Alcoholics Anonymous it is standard practice to have a “sponsor” who knows what you’re going through and is there as a shoulder to lean on, an ear to complain in, a friend to encourage you and a security guard who doesn’t tolerate any slipping. Even the most self-sufficient of us can benefit from knowing there is someone around to make sure we stick to our goals. That’s why athletes have coaches. That’s why tearful actors at the Oscars thank the people why helped them to stick at it before they eventually achieved success.
So, it really isn’t that difficult to help yourself. Take care of the simple things and the simple things will take care of you.
Do you have a personal angle on all this? If so, we’d love to hear it so please leave a comment.
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