Most people finding their way into recovery are familiar with 12 step meetings. Is just attending 12 step meetings enough to stay sober though? What does it actually take to stay sober as a young person?
Meetings Play a Part
Last week, we talked about the importance of 12 step meetings for young people in sobriety and discussed why frequent attendance is crucial. So by no means are they not a big part of recovery. To recap, the fellowship that they provide gives young people a healthy new community to plug into and replace the previous negative influences they have had in their lives. 12 step meetings also provide a convenient springboard for many of the other things that are necessary in order to maintain recovery as a young person. Service opportunities, helpful insight and a positive way to spend the evening time are all provided through 12 step meetings.
A Total Life Change
The reality though, is that if attending 12 step meetings is the only change made in a young person’s daily life, their chances of staying sober are very slim. There are a lot of other pieces that go into the bigger picture in order to maintain recovery. Recovery is not so much about simply removing drug and alcohol from the picture as it is about restructuring the way that someone behaves, thinks, and copes with their struggles. Making these more fundamental changes to character and the way that we do things as young people is much more crucial to remaining sober. There are a few key elements that should not be neglected in any young person’s life in recovery.
A Clean House
One of the most basic changes that young people have to begin with in recovery is getting their house in order. This concept has a few different meanings. In early recovery though, it primarily refers to exactly what it sounds like – removing physical clutter and attending to the basics like personal hygiene. Many that started drinking and using drugs at a young age never picked up or paid attention to many of the basic skills that normal people find second nature. Learning how to start making the bed in the morning, putting the cap on the toothpaste, doing laundry, keeping dishes out of the sink and generally keeping the home in order goes a long mind to reducing mental clutter and allowing young addicts to feel good about themselves. The other meaning of keeping a clean house refers to the internal work that comes through the 12 step process. Keeping ourselves clean emotionally clear of clutter is a lot easier when our outsides are also clean though.
That emotional clutter is often created through things like shame and guilt. Character change is just as important when it comes to maintaining recovery as the initial decision to stop drinking and using. Principles like integrity, selflessness and faith all have to find their way into the life of someone in recovery if there is going to be long term sobriety. As young people getting sober, we have to learn to stop lying, become willing to do things that are often uncomfortable, and be willing to turn many of our desires over to something greater than us. Making these changes starts to remove the emotional clutter that weighs us down. When honesty becomes a priority, the standard of shame and secrets that defines an active addict’s daily state begins to shift to one of self-esteem and self-worth.
The Importance of Service
As these changes are made in an individual’s life though, it is equally important that they begin to give back to others. 12 step meetings are an excellent avenue for being presented with opportunities to do this. There are many other ways to be of service than just with newly sober addicts though. Once in recovery, we have a myriad of chances to begin being of service within our families, the workplace, and society at large. Looking for ways to help provide for others rather than take for ourselves further builds the self-esteem that is so necessary in order to maintain recovery. As active addicts, we live our lives as “takers”. Once in recovery, it is about shifting that mode of living to allow ourselves to become “givers”, constantly seeking what we can offer the world around us.
The Only Thing You Have to Change is Everything
So while meetings are important in recovery, the reality is that we have to change every aspect of our lives and character if we want to enjoy a quality of life and avoid returning to drugs and alcohol. If we can not find peace and contentment without turning to drugs and alcohol, it becomes very difficult to maintain recovery. Once we find ourselves feeling good without the crutch of using though, recovery becomes exciting and at times can feel effortless.