“In recovery, recovering addicts do more than lose their addictions. Usually, they regain enjoyment of life… Most individuals want to be happy. Addicts learn that they may be happy – even joyful – by appreciating their lives in recovery. Instead of killing themselves with their addictive substances, they live in freedom.”
~Dr. Francis A. Martin, Ph.D., Full Life: a Spiritual Workbook for the Recovery of Addictions
No one has ever said that recovery from substance abuse is easy. In fact, regaining your sanity, sobriety, and serenity when you have been struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction is one of the hardest things you will ever do in your life.
But that doesn’t mean that your recovery has to be miserable. Just as your addiction was associated with the number of dysfunctional or “bad” habits, so can your sober journey be supported by healthier “good” habits. When you practice these 7 habits, you can experience the happiness that makes sobriety so very worth it.
Happy Recovery Habit #1 – Play to Your Strengths, Not Your Weaknesses
The traditional 12 Steps that form the basis of most recovery programs tell us to conduct a full “Moral Inventory” of ourselves in order to know where to begin when we start to work on ourselves. That is invaluable advice.
But too many people make the mistake of dwelling solely on their weaknesses and failures.
However, when you also remember to keep in mind your strengths – those things that make you the best YOU possible, you are giving yourself the tools to craft your own successful recovery. Even though you will still need support, you can become the architect of your own life.
What strengths might you possess?
- Capacity for love
- Sense of humor
And so much more – make your own list!
Best of all, when you are moving forward by focusing on the best parts of yourself, rather than the worst, you are giving yourself permission to stay strong, positive, and happy during recovery.
Happy Recovery Habit #2 – Surround Yourself with Positive People
One of the first lessons you learned during drug rehab is that if you want to change your life, you have to change what you do, how you think, and who you are around – you have to stay away from the people, places, and things that you associate with substance abuse, so you don’t trigger a relapse.
This doesn’t just have to include your old drinking and drug buddies – some of the sober people around you can also put your recovery at risk when they (at best) don’t provide you with any level of emotional support or (at worst) impede your recovery.
You can’t have that sort of negativity around you when you’re trying to recover from substance abuse.
Instead, spend the most time with those loved ones who support your efforts at recovery. They encourage you when you are feeling tempted or overwhelmed, and they understand when you have to put your recovery first. Make new friends if you have to.
Where can you meet new people who will help you?
- 12-Step fellowship meetings
- Group therapy sessions
- Support groups
Other people who are also in recovery can be a great source of camaraderie and support, because they know exactly what you’re going through, and you each can provide the other with strength and inspiration.
Happy Recovery Habit #3 –Limit Your Exposure to Stress
If you want to be happy during recovery from addiction, one of the most critical things you need to do is limit your exposure to stress. To best do this, you will need to make some personal and proactive adjustments:
- Budget your time and energy
- Actively avoid overly dramatic or negative people
- Remember to take care of yourself FIRST, before you take care of other people
- Learn the value of the word “NO” – don’t say yes to every invitation or request
- Slow down and don’t try to take care of everything at once
- Practice stress-reduction techniques – exercise, deep breathing, yoga, etc.
Happy Recovery Habit #4 – Look for the Good All Around You – And Make It Last
Make a point of trying to notice everything positive around you, even the simple things – a compliment from a stranger, sunshine, a good cup of coffee, the end of a productive day, etc. When you find yourself in a moment of happiness or pleasure, try to savor it and make it last as long as possible. Extend your moments of joy.
Happy Recovery Habit #5 – Be Mindful of the Moment
One of the best ways to ensure that you are not wallowing in misery during recovery is to practice “mindfulness meditation”. By focusing on your complete self and how you feel right now at this precise moment, you are in essence giving yourself a “check-up”. By regularly increasing your awareness of your own state of being, you will start to notice your progress over the course of your recovery. And, when you see how far you have come from where you used to be, you’ll find that it is a lot easier to stay positive.
Happy Recovery Habit #6 – Find New Ways to Have Fun
One of the biggest challenges for people in recovery is learning how to find new and healthy ways to enjoy themselves in ways that don’t involve drugs or alcohol. Although you might not initially think it’s possible, there are any number of enjoyable experiences just waiting to be had, including:
- Visit a museum
- Take up a new hobby
- Enroll in a class just because it sounds interesting
- Think “outside the box” by attending a type of event that you have never gone to before– a rodeo, an art exhibition, a ballet, a dog show– the event doesn’t matter, as long as it is new to you.
- Try your hand at cooking a new dish
- Give back, by volunteering
Here’s the thing – at first, you won’t really feel like doing anything, and you have a hard time enjoying yourself, because during early recovery, your brain’s dopamine levels are depleted. But when you “fake it until you make it” and force yourself to get out and about, you actually speed up your return to normal enjoyment.
Happy Recovery Habit #7 – Remember to ALWAYS Be Grateful
Addiction is a destructive disease that takes a destructive toll, so it has undoubtedly had consequences in your life. It can be far too easy to sit back and sadly think about everything you may have lost.
But there’s another way to look at it – you can be GRATEFUL for what you still have. At the very least, you still have your life and another chance at a bright future. Some people never get another chance.
The best part of recovery is having the opportunity to (re-)gain what you lost or never had, so you can live the life you were always supposed to.
Northpoint Recovery, Boise, Idaho’s, premier inpatient drug and alcohol rehab program, uses a wellness-focused treatment strategy that is both holistic in nature and evidence-based. Northpoint’s experienced team of addiction professionals can help you restore sobriety and balance to your life, so you can discover the best YOU possible.