Addiction recovery is a life-long process of continual self-improvement. We shouldn’t ever stop growing and changing so it’s no surprise that recovery and self-improvement are so closely intertwined.
In addiction treatment, it’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to suddenly improve everything about yourself. Instead of focusing on small, actionable goals, you might try to take on the world, which might eventually lead to you feeling overwhelmed or burned out. Ideally, you’ll have caring treatment specialists to keep you grounded and guide you through the treatment process.
Once you’re done with addiction treatment, you might decide to enroll in a sober living program for enhanced recovery support. This is an excellent time to continue working on self-improvement in recovery. Addiction recovery isn’t just a fight to stay sober and years spent avoiding relapse. Instead, you have the blessing of a second chance at life and unlimited opportunities for change. So where do you start now that you’re sober?
Here are 11 practical steps for self-improvement in recovery. These are small things you can work to achieve every day to enhance your personal growth and development. So, let’s get started with number one.
1. Start small.
Whatever your goals may be in recovery, it’s best to start small. Pick small, manageable steps and focus on one thing at a time. Otherwise, you can quickly become overwhelmed and discouraged. For example, you can focus on attending a set number of AA meetings each week. Or, you can focus on changing your diet or limiting your screen time in favor of time spent in self-reflection or meditation. The options are endless but it’s best to bite off one small chunk at a time.
2. Be consistent.
Whatever you choose to focus on, choose to work on those small steps every single day. Consistency is key. Although some days you may not feel like you’re making any progress, if you dedicate the time to make changes in your life, it will eventually pay off and you’ll see improvement. More often than not, it just takes some time, dedication, and patience.
3. Surround yourself with positive people.
Ultimately, life is about people, not the things we accumulate or the financial success we achieve. Make connecting with people a priority by investing your time in relationships that add to your life, not take away from it. If you have an ongoing relationship that makes you want to use or drink again, it’s best to put some distance between yourself and that person. Take the time to find a sponsor who will be a positive mentor and support figure in your life and connect with sober peers to remain accountable and connected.
4. Keep track of your progress.
Keeping track of your progress in recovery will help you reflect on your accomplishments and strengthen your resolve to stay sober. One of the best ways to keep track (especially in the early stages of recovery) is to count your days sober. You can easily do this using a sobriety app on your phone. Or, if you want to, you can manually keep track with a wall calendar or planner. If you enjoy journaling, you can also journal regularly and every so often, take a few minutes to read an old entry and reflect on how far you’ve come.
5. Ask for help.
There’s nothing wrong with asking for help, no matter how long you’ve been sober. Whether it’s been 10 days or 10 years, if you feel tempted to use or you have a slip, reach out for help right away. No matter how long you’re sober, you’ll make mistakes and you might even have some slips. But the important thing is that you learn from them and keep moving forward.
6. Pick up a new hobby.
After addiction, sometimes it can be difficult to find meaning in life. Finding things you’re passionate about and that you enjoy can help you find purpose in life. You might not know where to start but to find your passion, you can simply start by doing things you enjoy. Try new things and don’t be afraid of failure. As you gradually learn what you do and don’t enjoy, you’ll find your passion(s) and those things that make you want to wake up each morning, despite life’s challenges.
7. Wake up early.
You might not think you’re a morning person but anyone can master the art of waking up early with persistence and determination. Waking up early has many benefits, including adding value to your daily routine. It gives you uninterrupted time to meditate, read, or exercise so that you start your day out right, physically and/or mentally. This extra time is an excellent opportunity to work on self-improvement and kick your day off with positive vibes. (Just make sure to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night or else you’ll feel drained and tired!)
8. Get out of your comfort zone.
Getting out of your comfort zone is difficult because it’s…well…uncomfortable! But it’s an important part of growing and changing and it will ultimately empower you to take on new challenges in life as you gain confidence. You don’t have to do anything crazy to get out of your comfort zone. It can be as simple as making an effort to build a new friendship, trying a new activity that you normally wouldn’t do, or speaking up at your next AA meeting or group counseling session.
9. Identify areas of improvement.
No matter who you are, there’s always room to grow and improve. Talking with your sponsor and counselor is a good way to discover things about yourself that you may be unaware of. Work with another trusted individual to target these areas of improvement and identify effective ways to improve or overcome them.
10. Set big goals.
As important as it is to take baby steps when you’re focusing on self-improvement, you also don’t want to be too scared to set big goals. Be realistic but brave as you think about the goals you want to achieve. Consider what will make you feel good to achieve and work with your sponsor and counselor to create a plan and get it done.
11. Recognize your hard work.
Whether you achieve goals or not, recognize and celebrate your hard work! Even if you’re not exactly where you want to be right now, all the time, effort, and work you’re putting in is paying off. Your friends, family, and loved ones are also likely seeing your efforts and should be there to support you as you keep up the great work. Don’t give up just yet. You’ve come so far.