In the 12-Step program, people are often encouraged to acknowledge their powerlessness over drugs and alcohol and that they are not in control of their lives. Instead, a higher power (God) is in charge. In early recovery, this can be an encouraging thought – essentially, the idea is that you do not have to worry about what you are going to do next or if you will relapse or how people will respond to you in recovery.
All you have to do is show up, stay sober, and consider each choice that presents itself to you, making decisions based on what is best for your sobriety. This tunnel-vision focus is vital to early recovery.
Later in recovery, as you feel more solid, however, it is time to take control of your life and determine what direction you would like to take, what you would like to accomplish, and how you want to define yourself now that you are no longer hindered by drug and alcohol use.
Here are 10 things you can do to begin that process and determine what course you would like to take in your recovery:
- Figure out what “being in control” means to you. Do you feel like you are in control when you are able to walk away from situations that cause you stress without exploding or imploding? Are you hoping to feel more financially secure, having enough money in the bank to manage whatever surprise expenses come your way? Is your schedule the place where you want to feel like you are in charge, choosing your work schedule or being able to travel when and where you like? Decide what you need to have happen to feel like you are in control in your life.
- Accept your past. The only way to move forward is to acknowledge where you have been and the role your experiences have played in creating who you are today. No matter what that looks like, the fact is that you would not be who you are now without those experiences, and in some cases, they may actually serve to help you identify your purpose going forward.
- Accept your current situation. You are where you are. Blame, guilt, regret, and anger – none of these serve to change your position. Getting focused, however, and taking control of your life can help you to alter anything that is not to your liking in your current situation.
- Know what your values are. What do you prioritize in life? What means the most to you? Choosing a direction that allows you to live out a value that is close to your heart can serve to keep you motivated and inspired – and sober.
- Identify what you want to change. Get specific. Think about where you live, your day-to-day schedule, what you do for a living, how you feel when you wake up, and how you feel when you are with the people who play the largest roles in your life. Notice what causes you anxiety, discomfort, or agitation. Pick the one that is easiest to fix and start there.
- Create a plan to make it happen. In some cases, you may be able to make simple changes, but if you are working to take control of your life on a grand scale, you are going to want to map out a more detailed path to accomplishing your goals. It can help to make a list of all you want to achieve, pick the one that is simplest, and create a program that will help you get there. For example, if you want to improve mood, decrease likelihood of illness, and improve your ability to stay sober, start by going to bed and getting up at the same times each day. Regular restorative sleep will empower you in the accomplishment of all the other changes that are coming, so if you don’t know where to start, this is a great place to begin.
- Identify your motivation. What keeps you going? Inspired? Excited? List why you want to do what you want to do and refer back to that list when your attention wanders or you begin to forget why you are working so hard.
- Manage your emotions. Emotional responses to situations, people, and sudden changes are normal, but they can stop you from being in control of what happens to you and how your life will proceed. We cannot control what others do to us, but we can control how we respond to changes in our lives. In almost every case, a huge emotional reaction is only going to complicate matters and cause more difficulties. Instead, take a step back, respond however you like privately, and then take a deep breath and focus on how you will adjust and adapt to the new things happening in your life and relationships.
- Work on attitudes and perspectives that may be holding you back in therapy. If you feel like you are often out of control, the victim of others, or otherwise being inhibited by outside sources from getting what you want, it may be time to address some of the assumptions you may not even realize you hold. In many cases, you will find that these are actually stopping you from gaining the control you want in life and that shifting these will help you to live life on your terms.
- Prioritize self-care. Getting good sleep, quitting smoking, getting to and maintaining a healthy weight, seeing the doctor regularly, getting regular dental checkups, undergoing recommended mental and physical health screenings, and making other positive choices that help you to stay healthy will help you to be at your best no matter what comes your way. When you are taking control of your personal health and wellness, you are in a better position to take control of other areas of your life.
What will you do first to take control of your life in recovery and make your day-to-day experience everything you want and need it to be?