“A bridge of silver wings stretches from the dead ashes of an unforgiving nightmare
to the jeweled vision of a life started anew.”
― Aberjhani, Journey through the Power of the Rainbow: Quotations from a Life Made Out of Poetry
A common misconception post-rehab is that we have complete control over our lives. No one told us that we did, we just force that idea upon ourselves. If I just create enough structure. If I just plan out every detail- then I will stay on track. This is not reality.
I tried living an ideal recovery life. You don’t know what that is? Well then I’ll tell you! It is doing everything that you have ever learned that helps you prevent relapse. I took all professional recommendations such as attending a meeting every day, exercise, step work, individual therapy, family therapy, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, and Neurofeedback. Every minute of my life was structured, planned and organized. I followed ALL the rules. See, programs such as inpatient/ residential treatment and even outpatient therapy pumps you full of goals and rules for a successful recovery. Let’s review some of them:
1) Do not date
2) Do not change too much at once
3) Go to meetings
4) Do not go to places that may trigger you
These are just some of the examples of what we are told by therapists and counselors. We are supposed to live a life of structure. What happens when we go off track?
I used to teach middle school and I remember there was one particular day when I was having a hard time with my kids. So I went to a superior with a lot more experience than me. She looked at me and asked me- “are you a rule-follower or a rule-breaker?” I immediately responded “rule-follower” thinking that I’d be an idiot to tell my boss that I am a rule-breaker. Well, that was the wrong answer. She began to explain to me that sometimes rules are meant to be broken.
Now I am not saying that these rules are meant to be broken. I am saying that I, personally, am a new found “rule-bender.” After my eye-opening rehab experience I left with a lot of information and A LOT of “don’ts.” I began to dip my toes into a new unconventional program tailored to my needs.
I always put my recovery first which is why I decided to stay in sober living to maintain accountability. But I started to spread my wings a little. I dated, I started a Master’s Program, I looked for jobs, sang karaoke and I immersed myself into new things. I even became a certified Barre Fitness Instructor just to say I did it.
Then I traveled. I was in situations that may have been considered unsafe for people in new recovery. But I faced those scenarios with those tools I had learned in my treatment center. I made smart decisions. I planned ahead. I self-talked myself through sticky situations and I conquered. The idea is that not all recovery looks the same and sometimes we are either forced off the track or we choose to create new pathways. Either way we should be prepared.
Going into this, it’s imperative that we understand the realities of relapse, and if at any moment you forget how serious this disease is please quickly find that road again! We fight a progressive disease that aims to destroy us. However, this should not mean we can’t live an adventurous lifestyle. Practice some mindfulness and mediation and find out what your true callings are. Then follow them.
Don’t let your addiction be the excuse for not accomplishing your goals. I suggest that you use the tools you’ve learned and keep that alert mindset to guide you. Have those rules in the back of your head and remember why they are there. Most importantly, embrace new found philosophies such as building your own track and finding purpose that will expel you away from the triggers in your life. Remember that passion and purpose lead to fulfilling accomplishments. Most importantly- always treat your recovery well and be safe.