In the early days of recovery, it might feel like having incentives is the key to staying sober and avoiding relapse. However, according to a 2017 study, relying on incentives or rewards only produce short-term success and, over an extended period of time, can actually increase the likelihood of relapse.
First, it's important to note that experiences in recovery will differ. Treatment aids that one person finds effective may not work for the next, and vice versa. But regardless of what works best for you, remember the true benefits that lie in the lasting reward of long-term recovery.
With that in mind, you can go beyond material rewards and focus on these 5 powerful reinforcements to keep you going all the way.
1. Living in the “Now”
Material things can become a distraction if they're the only reason you're staying sober. Instead, disconnect from things, and plan a trip, outing or even a self-care day. Every experience in recovery lets you practice mindfulness – being present in the moment. Rewarding yourself with an experience can be a great way to celebrate another week sober.
2. Spiritual Enhancement
Instead of keeping material rewards in sight, meditate and focus on the spiritual gains your recovery is helping you achieve. Rewards like peace, serenity, and gratitude – among others – are lasting rewards that will bring positive impacts to the rest of your life. To better focus on spiritual rewards, try 10 minutes of meditation each morning.
3. Natural Endorphins
By engaging in activities like jogging, walking or kayaking, your body will release natural endorphins, hormones that produce a natural euphoric rush. Plus, the natural release of endorphins through physical activity is totally natural and healthy for you. To reap these benefits, try rewarding yourself with an outdoor activity every Sunday.
4. Making Milestones
The greatest reward you will experience in recovery is the life transformation that comes with it. Whether large or small, life changes are to be celebrated. It could be something like becoming more reliable, showing up to family events, or maintaining steady employment. Keep a gratitude journal that logs these positive experiences and start viewing them as the ultimate rewards to your commitment to staying sober.
5. A Recovery Community
Having a group of friends or support network is incredibly rewarding. When you hit a milestone – like 6 months, 1 year or 5 years sober – get your group of friends together and plan a little celebration. It doesn't have to be fancy; it can be as simple as a picnic outside, enjoying the company of one another. Surrounding yourself with positive community and friendship is a lasting benefit of recovery – so enjoy it!
Incentives may work on occasion, but try not to make them the only foundation to your recovery. By focusing on non-material rewards, you're setting yourself up for sustained success and true fulfillment in your new, sober life. True recovery is a reward in itself.