The Simple Secrets of a Successful Recovery

Addiction recovery can easily become overwhelming. There seems to be so much to learn; so much to do, so much to feel. It can often be a long process, but we may not recognize that most of the work that needs to be done is centered around just two simple goals.

Humans have a knack for making simple things complex. It’s nothing new. Almost 2,500 years ago Confucius, the Chinese teacher and philosopher, recognized this and proclaimed “Life is simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” Unfortunately, it hasn’t gotten any better in this fast-paced world we live in today.

We try to come against it. We talk a lot about “downsizing” and “simplifying.” Even the current Tiny House movement embodies the yearning to make things simpler and easier, but it seems that few can escape this innate tendency.

Like the rest of life, recovery seems so complicated at times as we are navigating slips, white-knuckling, seeing our small victories annihilated by big relapses, negotiating the fine lines and asking difficult questions. Will the answer be found in digging INTO my past or getting PAST my past? Is it a disease, a choice or plain old sin? Should I work harder or surrender more? We drive ourselves half crazy trying to figure it out. Where should we put our focus?

Albert Einstein gave us some good advice when he said “everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

Where is the line? We don’t want to oversimplify the process and risk rendering it ineffective. It’s likely that the answer reveals itself in another quote from Einstein. He said “If you can’t explain it simply you don’t understand it enough.” His words seem to infer that all things are simple if you get to their core.

Years of recovery experience, both our own, and in helping others, have made it clear to us that achieving a successful recovery is highly contingent on addressing two very basic needs:

  1. Increased connection
  2. Healthier life strategies

We were created to be communal beings. God said the greatest commandment was to love our God, and the second was to love our neighbor. To be at our healthiest and most satisfied with life, we need to develop strong and deep connections with God, our family, supportive people and, even ourselves.

We need to fight against all the distrust our life experiences have created, learn how to find safe-enough people, and risk getting to know them and letting them know us—not just our good parts, but also the deepest most secret parts of us. It is in and through these honest and transparent relationships, that we can finally become the authentic person God intended us to be.

Addictive behaviors help us avoid the difficult situations of life. They become the way we deal with stress, anxiety, rejection, sadness, conflict and boredom. To permanently say goodbye to our unwanted behaviors we have to learn how to resolve negative emotions in healthier ways. As we become increasingly able to reduce stress and anxiety, navigate conflict, and get passed our hurts, we are less drawn to our old ways of coping.

If we make the mistake of confusing simple with easy it can set unrealistic expectations that sabotage our progress. It’s important to remember that, even when we have a clear focus on the goals, there are still habits to unlearn, beliefs to be challenged, questions to be answered and unhealthy relationships to sever.  It will take time.  It will not always be easy to replace our old solutions with better ones. We will get tired—we may even feel like giving up at times. But, bit by bit, as we surrender our old ways, and allow God and others to help us establish new patterns, it will become easier and we will finally begin to experience the freedom that has previously eluded us.

“Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your way. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.” — Proverbs 4:25-27 (NIV)

Which is harder for you—Forging deep connections with God and others, or adopting healthier ways to address the hurts and struggles in your life? Please share, below.

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