Like many other addicts, it took me several years and many attempts to actually get sober and stay sober. I am grateful that I lived through each attempt, but more grateful that I learned something every time I tried. I knew I needed the willingness to get sober, but there were several other tools I needed in the beginning of my recovery that I developed along the way. I was fortunate enough to discover the light at the end of the tunnel, but many addicts are not as lucky as I was. There are five important tools to recovery that I had to uncover on my journey to sobriety--they were tools that I could not have gotten sober without. I share them with you here to help you on your road to recovery.
1. Willingness to Get Sober
This recovery tool may be so obvious to many of us who are already sober, but for those who are not, it must be understood that this is the most important piece of the puzzle. I may have had motivation and outside variables that made me want to get sober, but it took me years to gain the willingness to get sober. Every failed attempt only brought me closer to realizing that I never wanted to get sober. I had always held the feeling that if I got sober ‘forever’ I would be missing something. There was a part of my brain that knew I needed to get clean or I would die, but that was certainly not the same thing as wanting to get clean. Wanting to get clean is the first plan of action that will help you get and stay sober. Developing the willingness comes from hitting rock bottom.
2. Hope that Addiction Recovery is Possible
As a recovering addict I am a 25 year old writer who uses the word "hope" on a regular basis. I truly understand what "hope" means. However, when I was an actively using addict, I had no idea what hope meant. It wasn’t until looking it up one day that I realized hope was another essential thing I needed to learn and embrace. Hope is defined as a ‘feeling of expectation or desire for a certain thing to happen.’ I needed to know that there was hope for me, and that there must have been hope for everyone else in my position. Knowing that there was a hope of overcoming addiction--that there was a way out--helped me understand that my life, and my lifestyle, could change. I had always believed that I was hopeless. I had also believed that the people who had beaten addiction were in a better place than I was, but that wasn’t true. I learned that sobriety became a feeling that they held on to and wanted badly enough that they changed.
3. Meetings to Stay in Recovery
As much as I support people who can successfully get sober without attending sober recovery meetings, I would never personally recommend this option. Obviously there are exceptions to every situation, but meetings are something that I consider to be vital to getting and staying sober. Whether it is Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous or simply group therapy sessions, all meetings have positive benefits. Going to meetings set me on the path to discovering myself and learning how to communicate with other people who had been in my shoes. So often we find it hard to relate to the people around us because they don’t understand us. However, meetings expose you to a variety of people who have experienced what you have, and more. Recovery meetings not only teach you how to get sober and stay sober, but they offer tools to help you live a better life all around. I not only recommend recovery meetings to people who have substance abuse problems, but people in general who need tips on living a healthier and happier life.
4. Support and Unconditional Love
Getting sober requires support and unconditional love from whoever is there to give it to you. This is another reason I suggest attending meetings, especially if you don’t have a large family or support system. To clarify, it is important and necessary that you get unconditional love in the platonic form, not the romantic form. Forming bonds with friends and people who care about you can make or break your recovery process. Gaining support from fellow addicts, sponsors, friends and family is another branch on the tree of success. For me, my family was a great support, but I was never able to fully and honestly open up to them. If I relapsed, I was afraid to tell them because I knew the consequences would be unbearable. I never could have gotten sober without the honest and life-changing advice that my second family in the recovery fellowship had offered me. Once I realized that unconditional love was available from people who weren’t related to me by blood, I realized that getting honest with my family and asking them for help when I needed it was another way to help me stay sober for good. Well, for today anyway.
5. An Open Mind is Necessary for Recovery
Last, but certainly not least, is an open mind. With sober recovery, this means two things for me: not only being open to new ideas, but being clear-minded and ready to learn. Having a clear mind that was free of substances was a first step. Having an open mind was a second step. For my own recovery, I had to make sure that I was open to all suggestions, ideas and ways of life. This open-mindedness was crucial to my sobriety. I realized that every time I had gotten sober, I made a list of things I refused to do to stay sober. For those of you who don’t know, this was my indirect way of staying close-minded and assuming that drugs were the only way of life for me. Once I opened my mind and began listening to the alternative ideas that were being offered to me, I knew that my life could change. Instead of running my mouth in meetings, I sat and listened. Instead of listing reasons sobriety wouldn’t work, I named one reason it could. My willingness to stay open-minded is one of the main reasons I am sober today.
There are a number of other reasons that I am still sober today, but the five reasons I've listed here are certainly the most important to me. In a way, they all connect to each other and can do nothing but benefit you in the long run if you are willing to make changes in your behavior and do whatever it is you need to stay sober.