Tag Archives: life in recovery

Tag Archives: life in recovery

Being the alumni of a treatment program is something to be proud of. You’ve made it through the ropes – you’ve spent time on your recovery, and you’re now in a position to help others, too. It’s exciting to be able to say that you now have a better understanding of addiction, and you have practiced the tools you’ve learned enough to where you’re feeling pretty balanced in your recovery right now. There is so much hope for those who have completed their program, as a new leaf has been turned. As it was once said, “Though no one can go back and make a brand-new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand-new ending.”

You’ve Gained So Much So Far

Your program has provided you with so many tools to succeed. In early 2018, researchers published a study in the journal Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly to find out the overall characteristics of alumni from treatment programs. Many had attended 12-step programs, as well as therapy. Eighty-eight participants provided information about their current status having been out of treatment, and they recalled so many benefits they received from their treatment up until that point:

  •    Most felt that their program helped prepare them for their professional environment
  •    80% felt that their program adequately prepared them for recovery-life after treatment
  •    90% stated that their program helped them academically
  •    81% of participants also stayed in contact with people from their program

Many of the alumni reported higher quality of life (QOL) scores, especially in the physical and environmental domain. The psychological aspect of their life didn’t score as high; as someone who has worked diligently towards their mental, physical, and spiritual health, you’re probably aware that the journey to recovery isn’t over – in fact, it’s a lifelong one. We can’t always predict the challenges that will come our way, and there are always new lessons to be learned. Anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions may still appear from day to day, even after we’ve spent much time working to reduce our symptoms. This is why it’s so important to continue taking steps towards maintaining recovery, even after our formal rehabilitation is over.

Maintaining Your Recovery

There are 5 key components that every alumnus needs, no matter where they’re at in their journey to recovery:

  1. Maintain Support – continue attending alumni support groups or other self-help groups to keep your mindset fresh in your recovery goals. Stay in touch with the leaders you’ve met during your program and make new connections as you continue to attend social events.
  2. Stay Involved – don’t just fade away from the recovery scene. Become a leader in your area. Find ways to step up and share your experiences with others. Develop a program. This will only continue to reinforce your recovery journey.
  3. Give Back – donate your time, energy, and money to helping others recover. Your story is a powerful one – share it. One of the main principles of Twelve Step programs is to give back, and it’s a beautiful way to continue adding fulfillment to your life.
  4. Activities – engage in activities that stimulate your mind, body, and spirit. Find creative exercises to get involved in. Try new things. Explore. Stay curious. Recovery is meant to be a journey of connecting with yourself, others, the world, and God (or a Higher Power). Embrace that through living your life fully.
  5. Structure – no matter how confident you feel in your recovery, always maintain that structure that you established during your rehabilitation program. Set yourself a schedule and plan out your activities. This will help keep you grounded, no matter what arises throughout the day.

This past year, a researcher from the University of Pennsylvania published an article titled, “Making the Hard Work of Recovery More Attractive for those with Substance Use Disorders”. He mentioned the fact that because addiction stimulates the reward center in our brain, it causes us to become less stimulated by what are naturally pleasant events otherwise. Recovery is about building that reward processing back up – to feel excited and complete over the small things in life. This is where other tools come in.

Your Tool Kit

Continue to practice mindfulness, as this is what will help you create meaningful moments that will give you lasting memories. Look around you, and key into your surroundings. Tune into your mind and body and recognize signs that you need some self-care. Spent a little time each day doing something that makes you feel completely elated and fulfilled, whether it’s reading a good book, starting up an exciting project, spending time with family, or going for a walk with your pet.

Eat healthy foods, as this will help curb cravings for sugar and other things. Get a gym membership if you can, or at least go for a few short walks a day. Exercise is going to help keep your mind, body, and spirit physically fit, which means you’ll be able to think more efficiently no matter what comes your way. Lastly, have faith. Keep that connection with God or a Higher Power and build it over time. Find others who can share your journey with you and be excited for your accomplishments. Even on your bad days, remember the good. Always remember the hard work you’ve put into this, because you’ve come a long way. Never give up.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-campus, we are made up of 2 twelve-step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers, and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.

Call us today at 1-800-646-9998 to take the next step towards your happiness and health.

Relapse prevention is a serious component for anyone in recovery, as lapse and relapse can feel like taking 10 steps backwards. Many people fear that relapse means they’re weak or that they’ve failed, and this certainly isn’t true. In fact, relapse is considered a normal part of recovery and should be taken as a lesson learned – of course, there are still strategies you can take to help prevent it from happening. Men are unique in their experiences of addiction recovery because of societal pressures, thought patterns, and behavioral tendencies. Since men and women think and respond to different situations/emotions differently, these differences must be recognized in order to work through relapse prevention in the best way possible.

Bucky Sinister, author of the book Get Up: A 12 Step Guide to Recovery for Misfits, Freaks, and Weirdos, put it this way: “Your best days are ahead of you. The movie starts when the guy gets sober and puts his life back together; it doesn’t end there.”

Sobriety can feel like the end, and in a way, it is – it’s the end of a life of addiction. It’s also a beginning, however, and that beginning starts with you finding yourself and creating a path towards health, happiness, and fulfillment in life.

It All Starts with Creating a Plan

If you’re in a recovery program, you’ll want to work closely with your healthcare team to construct a plan that you can put into action if triggers arise. Triggers can appear out of nowhere, or they may be sparked by a particular person, place, instance, thought, or feeling. Typically, it’s when you least expect it; something gets the best of you – and that’s when you become most vulnerable to using substances again. The following are some major components that need to be part of your game plan:

The Basics (with some examples to spark some thought, of course):

  •    Who are you going to call? A sponsor? Recovery leader? Peer in your program?
  •    What are you going to do? Leave the situation? Tell someone ‘no’? Turn off the commercial that’s triggering you?
  •    When are you going to do it? As soon as you recognize that you’ve been triggered, right?
  •    Where are you going to go? Do you have a safe “getaway” plan?
  •    Why are you going to do this? Can you remind yourself of the reasons why sobriety is important to you in this instance? Can you recall all of the pain, misery, and devastation that addiction brought to you and those around you?

Write your plan down and put it in your wallet if you need to, as a gentle reminder if something comes up. In the moment you’re triggered, it might harder to remember some of these steps – having an action plan set beforehand will make it that much easier to implement.

Getting Deeper into Thought

A more advanced tool used in recovery is called cognitive restructuring, and this is where you essentially talk yourself “out of” the initial triggering thought that you had. You reason with yourself and provide some logic to those emotions that are trying so desperately to convince you that you’re lonely, angry, hurt, depressed, etc. Here are some examples:

Example 1:

Instead of: “Nobody loves me. I must be worthless.”

You say this: “Yeah, I’m feeling pretty lonely right now. But I just met a new friend in group the other day, and he seemed pretty cool. I think I’ll check in with him in a bit.”

Example 2:

Instead of: “I can’t believe she/he just said that to me. I’m about to lose it.”

You say this: “I can’t control what other people say or do, but I can control my actions. What’s going to benefit me the most right now?”

It’s a different way of thinking, but it’s effective. It takes time and practice, and you’re not always going to feel comfortable with changing your thoughts to something that’s more beneficial for your recovery – that’s because you’re not used to it. Over time, we train our mind on certain thinking patterns, and for most of us, that involves some form of negativity. We may not always be able to “get rid of” those negative thoughts, but we can restructure them if they arise – and this could really help you in those moments where you’re about to be triggered.

Finding Something Outside of Yourself

The most common emphasis of 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is spirituality. Addiction is considered a disease that disturbs the mind, body, and spirit, and finding something outside of yourself is what can help ground you. Many people have found spirituality to be an incredibly powerful tool in their recovery, because God (or a Higher Power) takes that control that we so desperately try to grasp and gives us a lesson of acceptance and faith. We can’t predict what’s going to happen in our recovery, and while we can prepare for it the best that we can, we have to know that everything is going to be okay.

We have to trust that we’re exactly where we’re meant to be – and that by doing the best we can, with what we have, where we are, we’re succeeding in recovery. Relapse prevention is an important part of your path, but it all boils down to taking things day by day, one step at a time.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-campus, we are made up of 2 twelve-step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers, and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.

Call us today at 1-800-646-9998 to take the next step towards your happiness and health.

There is nothing like the story of our lives. With unique twists and turns, your story is unique to you and you only. Nobody else on this Earth has the same combination of people, experiences, thoughts, achievements, challenges, and upbringing. That’s what makes your story important – the lessons you’ve learned matter, and that’s why so many people in recovery eventually want to help others by sharing their story. Researcher Brene Brown, from the University of Houston, once described the act of storytelling so beautifully. She stated, “Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we’ll ever do.”

Our story let’s others know where we’ve been and where we are now – it gives hope for others so that they can visualize what their future could be like, and it inspires people to take similar steps towards recovery. It also reinforces the hard work we’ve been doing towards our own recovery – a study published in 2016 in the journal American Philosophy Quarterly noted that the stories we create about our lives do the following for us:

  • They serve as an attempt for us to better understand the events we’ve gone through.
  • They depict our intentions and beliefs surrounding our lives.
  • They help us change false or negative beliefs that we have about ourselves.

The act of sharing your story is a spiritual one, as you’re helping others to better themselves, and you’re also strengthening your understanding of yourself, too. If you’ve decided to take on this selfless, powerful pursuit, it’s time to construct a story that will really speak to the hearts of others.


You want to decide exactly how much depth you want to incorporate into your story. Do you feel that giving a broad, sweeping description of life events you’ve experienced could help others get an understanding of what you’ve been through, or would you prefer to talk more deeply about specific situations? From the study above, the authors called this “thin” or “thick” narrative – and it’s completely up to you to decide. We all have moments in our lives that we consider to be pivotal points – the time when we realized we needed help, the time someone held our hand while we detoxed or prayed or cried, the time when we fell so hard that we didn’t know if we’d get back up again, and more. These are the moments that you want to share with others.

Second, you want to structure your story by what seems to feel best to you – most people prefer to tell their stories chronologically, since this gives a timeline of events from what you went through when addiction entered your life to now as you live a life of recovery. This type of organization will help people follow along and get a better understanding of your life. You may even find it beneficial to create an outline.


You really want to use descriptive words to help your listeners visualize parts of your story. Here are some examples:

  • “Tears were streaming down my face that day, and that’s when I had a revelation that it was time to change.”
  • “I felt myself sinking, and I couldn’t stop the whirlwind that had become my life. I was trapped in this never-ending cycle.”
  • “I’ve worked so hard in my recovery, and it’s one of my proudest accomplishments. I’m here. I made it. Every single day that I wake up, I tell myself that I’m not giving up.”

When it comes to recovery, you want to really emphasize the struggles you’ve gone through as well as the path you’ve taken, and how it’s gotten you to where you are today. You want to show people that it’s possible to build a healthier, happier life – it just takes time, support, and genuine effort.

The Biggest Takeaways

Consider what messages you really want people to take away from your story. If you’re having trouble with this, ask yourself what your own biggest lessons have been:

  • Have you learned that sobriety gives you more memories, more time with family, and adds more fulfillment to your life than abusing substances ever did?
  • Have you come to understand that your connection with God, or another Higher Power, is one of the most important relationships you could ever have?
  • Would you say that the biggest lesson you’ve learned thus far is to keep pushing towards recovery, and to never give up?

The big “takeaway” lessons are what should be guiding your story, so that it’s apparent what has come from your journey thus far.

You may also want to talk about the perspective that you used to have before you sought recovery, and how you view yourself, others, and your life now. This is a key point that could really hit home for people – everyone has felt stuck, low, or depressed at some point or another, and your story could show them a way out of that.

In a study published in Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry, researchers spoke with several people in recovery from addiction, personal stories were shared. Here is an example of perspective that one participant gave: “We forget…we forget even a month ago how bad alcohol had affected us, how we get sick, how we become homeless, how we lose all the money….”

Lastly, be proud of how far you’ve come! Recovery is such a courageous journey, with so many obstacles to overcome. You’re incredibly strong, and you need to take a moment to give yourself a pat on the back for not only improving yourself and your life, but also in helping to inspire others to do the same.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-campus, we are made up of 2 twelve-step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers, and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.

Call us today at 1-800-646-9998 to take the next step towards your happiness and health.

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