One of the most enduring myths about recovery is that recovery involves nothing more than the removal of an addiction from your life. In other words, many people expect that in sobriety, their lives will be much the same as they were when they were using.
When I got sober, I wanted my life the way it was before—only without the alcohol, the drugs and the despair. I wanted the same friends, the same hobbies (to the extent that I had any), the same world.
It doesn’t work that way.
Experts in addiction are unanimous in their view that for an addict’s recovery to be successful and enduring, the addict must do more than simply stop the addictive behavior. A whole host of behaviors will have to change, as our addictions infect virtually every aspect of our lives. It was only once I had been sober for many months that I realized how many of my hobbies and pastimes were linked to my drinking and using.
If you want a different life, you need to do more than remove an addiction. You need to add new habits and start trying new things in sobriety. Those new habits should support your recovery by changing your old addictive mindset.
For example, I started running early in recovery. I quickly realized that if I wanted to do this successfully, I needed to get up early in the morning to give myself time to log miles. And if I wanted to be able to get up, I needed to go to bed earlier—which in turn meant saying no to going out late and getting myself into potentially slippery situations.
So the single decision to take up running didn’t just impact the 45 minutes a day I spent jogging. It shifted my entire mindset.
The new habits and pastimes don’t all have to be physical. It matters less what you start than that you start something new. Any new healthy habit, be it running or yoga or starting an anime collection, will shift your mindset. Any new habit will become something you enjoy in your life that you don’t associate with your old using days.
One day at a time, our lives change. Those changes are all the more enduring if we change how we fill up our days.