What happens when you struggle with a substance use disorder that doesn’t respond to medication alone? Are you doomed to suffer for the rest of your life, or are there other alternatives?

Addiction is a complex and multifaceted illness, and everyone struggles differently. Some have childhood trauma, others start with prescription medication, some come from loving homes, others experience mental health issues, and some have painful pasts.

Simply put, getting clean and sober isn’t a one-size-fits-all-all.

Our stories vary, but a few tried and true practices have saved my recovery over and over again.

Below is my simple prescription for recovery.

GRATTITUDE is the reason I’m (still) sober. Saying thank you has saved my ass over and over again. When I’m sad, I say thank you. When I’m hurt, I say thank you. When I’m struggling, I say thank you. When I’m baffled, confused, and lost, I say thank you. Thank you is the preface to every moment, be it bright or dark. Abusing drugs or alcohol creates changes in the brain, resulting in a toxic chemical soup of self-pity and negativity. It’s essential, once sober, to lay down a fresh new track. Nothing changes the brain faster than gratitude. It is the nemesis of addiction. Gratitude improves physical, emotional, and psychological health. It improves relationships and self-esteem. Gratitude improves sleep and decreases anxiety, stress, and aggression. If you don’t believe gratitude can change your life, I challenge you to try it. Instead of reacting to your daily stressors, start saying thank you to them. Do this for 30 days, and you’ll be shocked at how good you feel.

GIVING BACK. Addiction is an illness that leaves its host in the worst kind of hell: self-absorption. The noise in our head gets so loud it overrides everything else. We stop noticing the sky; we don’t see how our actions affect other people; we may focus on all that is wrong without balancing it with all that is right. When you help others, you focus on them, silencing the internal battle in your head. Helping others gives you a sense of purpose and satisfaction. It also has many physical and mental benefits like lowering blood pressure and increasing serotonin, your brain’s natural ‘feel good’ chemical.

CONNECTION through recovery support groups. Unless you’ve experienced emotional purging, you’re not likely to understand the powerful relief you get from sharing your thoughts and feelings with a group of safe people who say ‘Me too.” It’s comforting to know you’re not alone or crazy. Just debriefing your thoughts and feelings with others improves mental wellness and decreases the likelihood of relapse.

PRAYER. There will be times you struggle. When life doesn’t make sense, lean on God, the Universe, or a Power Greater Than Yourself. Sometimes, closed doors are a Godsend, but you won’t know that immediately. When nothing else makes sense, turn it over. Have faith that although you don’t understand the reasoning and don’t like the answer, you will understand down the road. Sometimes, not getting what we want is the best thing that ever happens to us.

HARD WORK. It’s exhilarating to replace old tapes – loser, junkie, hopeless– with new ones. Hard work in recovery builds self-esteem, self-worth, confidence, and results. Hard work builds character and resilience. It also draws attention, the positive kind. People notice when you’re putting in effort. Do you remember how much effort you put into getting high? Do that in your recovery, and you’ll be a huge success.

Life doesn’t get better by chance. It gets better by change.

Anyone can get clean and sober; it’s staying that way that is hard. But if you make the above five suggestions part of your daily routine, I have no doubt that you’ll achieve success.

Winston Churchill sums it up nicely. “To each, there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do an extraordinary thing unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for what could have been their finest hour.”

(c) 2014 Jagged Little Edges All Rights Reserved

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