Recovery is essentially hundreds of decisions you make every day that add up to sobriety. Which way you choose to walk home, whether or not you choose to call a friend in recovery, what books you read or don’t, whether or not you attend a 12-Step meeting – all of these play into your state of mind and your stress levels, which in turn, impact your ability to stay sober.
The good news is that, like everything about recovery, you don’t have to worry about the big picture in terms of long-term sobriety if you practice mindful and aware decision-making. That is, rather than making compulsive or impulsive decisions, you can choose instead to think through the next choice in front of you –only that choice – and determine how it will affect you. Though it may seem tedious at first, it can save you a ton of time later on and help you to stay sober at the same time.
But how do you know if the decision you are making is the right one? Here five ways to recognize when you may be headed down the wrong path:
- You experience anxiety. If you are worried, unable to sleep, or overly fearful about one of the options in front of you, it could be your own way of warning yourself off from a potentially risky situation. For example, if you are trying to decide whether or not to move in with someone you met in sobriety and you feel anxious about the choice, it may be better to wait until you get to know the person better and feel more confident.
- You often find yourself trying to get out of something you have committed to. You may have already made a decision to commit to something and are feeling that it may not have been the right decision. For example, if you took a job that is very stressful or causes you to come into regular contact with someone who is often under the influence, you may often call in sick or look for ways to cut out early.
- Your choice would move you further away from your dreams and/or recovery goals. It’s the little steps we take each day that can get us closer to the lives we envision for ourselves – or further away. For example, if one of your recovery goals is to manage chronic pain by getting and staying at a healthy weight, and you have to make a meal choice between a quick one that is unhealthy or one that is healthy but takes a little longer to prepare, you will be moving closer to your goal by opting to invest the time and energy necessary to take care of yourself now, in this moment. By doing so, you can help to ward off the fluctuating weight that contributes to chronic pain that, in turn, can contribute to relapse.
- Your choice would cause you some kind of physical ailment. If your choice could potentially cause you to develop a physical ailment, it can be a grave concern in sobriety. Take, for example, something that sounds like no big deal: brushing and flossing your teeth before bed. If you are staying up so late that you are too exhausted to prioritize this practice, you could develop dental problems that require serious intervention. Think dental work has nothing to do with sobriety? Think again. Many people in recovery report that they relapsed after being given a short painkiller prescription after a root canal or when a dentist decided to use nitrous oxide to help them get through a cavity repair.
- Those who truly have your best interest at heart are concerned about your choices. This doesn’t include the so-called “concerns” of those who would judge you for your choices, but the people who have been with you for years, watched you struggle with addiction, and are familiar with the challenges that can disrupt your course forward in recovery. When these people have concerns about what you are choosing – or not choosing – in your life, it may be a good idea to consider other options.
What decisions are you making right now in your life that may be inhibiting your ability to stay strong in recovery? Are you ready to start looking at the little decisions that could make a big difference?