By David Joel Miller
You need all your recovery tools.
Each activity calls for their own special set of tools. Most men have a bunch of tools in the garage, carpenters and mechanics have humongous collections of tools. Cooks, good ones and otherwise, all seem to have a variety of tools at their disposal.
Why then do recovering people think they can get by with one or very few tools?
Some counseling or medication may get your depression, anxiety or addictive behavior under control but what will you use to prevent a return of your symptoms?
Some people can get away from substances, alcohol or drugs, by just quitting. Unfortunately, they often find they are dry but not really recovered. We call that being a dry drunk.
Some people function in spite of their anxiety or depression. They will themselves forward until that stops working.
Others think that given a sudden religious experience they are now cured and will not need to work on their recovery anymore. I am not discounting religious or spiritual experiences as a source of recovery, but anyone with a successful recovery is apt to tell you that embedded in their religious or spiritual practice are some other recovery tools.
Here are some of the recovery tools you might consider including in your recovery toolbox.
Support system – Family and friends.
Peers in a recovery program, fellow church members, and friend’s relatives, all can be important parts of a recovering person’s support system. You need more than one kind of support to make this work.
The key is to find people who are positive support system members.
Members of a recovering person’s support system need to be encouraging, see the best in the recovering person. They also need to understand that it is the recovering person’s journey, not theirs.
Honest, support system people, there is nothing you can do to make someone use drugs or drink. Stop walking on eggshells. There is also nothing you can do to keep them clean, sober or happy. You can encourage but the journey is theirs.
What you can do is be there for them. Expect there to be struggles and take good care of you. Letting the recovering person get away with things is not the same as being supportive.
Peer support groups and sponsors help.
Peer groups, especially 12 step groups have a long history of being helpful in maintaining recovery.
Consumer groups, while harder to find, can be very effective as a form of support.
Having a sponsor can also be extremely helpful. Sponsorship the way it is practiced in many 12 step groups is a whole lot less mysterious than many outside the groups make it sound.
You find someone who has recovered by completing a process of recovery and you get them to spend some time with you telling you how they did it. In twelve step groups the process they use are the 12 Steps, so you want a sponsor who has actually “worked” the steps.
Other supports – Pets and Professionals.
Why did I put pets and professional together? Should you see a counselor or get a dog? Or cat? I am hoping you try both.
Both these groups give you something called “unconditional positive regard.” Meaning they should be in your corner no matter what, liking you as a person even when they want you to change.
With pets, we call this unconditional love. The dog comes over and licks you no matter how you are doing. They will, however, want you to get up and play even when you are depressed.
Guess what, playing with that dog, taking them for a walk will help your depression. And it may also take your mind of those cravings.
Counseling is a recovery tool.
Both group and individual counseling can be very effective. Group because you can hear how others are going through the same things. The verdict on on-line groups is still out, I suspect that as a part of your recovery tools they could be helpful. Just make sure you don’t try to do any heavy cutting with a hammer or a spoon.
Medication can be very helpful.
Mostly medication is useful for mental health issues. So far we have not found a drug that makes you clean and sober. Some are used to help reduce or manage the cravings. Lots of people stop using street drugs and then discover that they have severe anxiety or depression. They just never noticed this while getting high. For these folks, some psych meds, correctly used can be helpful.
Some people tell me medication has saved their life. Once the doctor found the right meds they began to have a good life.
Others tell me or write on the blogs, that the meds were worse than the disorder. Be careful about stopping meds suddenly. There can be side effects and withdrawal symptoms. But if your meds are not working or are causing other problems that are intolerable, please talk with your doctor. There are lots of things that can be done most of the time.
Meds by themselves, in my not so humble opinion, are not the whole answer. No pill will solve all your life problems. The med may allow you to face life again, but you still need to do the recovery work.
You need all the recovery tools you can get.
Self-help –self-expression – journaling etc. pictures, collages, music.
Self-help books, Journaling and other ways of expressing yourself are helpful. If you find you can’t write in a journal, try drawing pictures or composing songs.
Jobs – Paid or volunteer.
Something about having something to do and somewhere to go that is a huge boost to your well-being. Has someone told you that for you, work is not an option? Do not be so sure about that. In the first stages of recovery, you may not be ready for a 40 hour a week job. Still, that should not keep you from doing something.
If you go to meetings, make and pour coffee. Take out the garbage. Volunteer to help someone else. Something as simple as calling another recovering person each day (or emailing, blog posting, etc.) can get you back in the life game.
Supportive relationships are a big help in recovery.
By relationships, I do not mean only the romantic or sexual kind. Invest time in working on all your relationships.
In another post, I talked about being sure that your relationships are healthy. If they are not, consider how you could work on them to make them healthier or do you need to end some unhealthy ones.
People who have healthy relationships, others that care about them and encourage them, are more likely to stay sober and much less likely to end up in a psychiatric hospital.
I need to wrap this up. Relationships could easily be the topic for many posts or even a whole blog.
So how many of these recovery tools are you using? Are there any other things that I missed that work for you?
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books