Spring is for Rebirth: How to Start Over on Good Habits You’ve Been Neglecting
All of recovery, of course, is about starting over. But to start over means even more than giving up drugs, rediscovering a sense of responsibility and making amends to those we have wronged. As you take inventory of your life and make plans for a drug-free future, you’ll recall dreams, goals, hobbies and exercise routines that have fallen into neglect. Whether these were crowded out by substance abuse itself, or by the pressures and “musts” of life, they gave you something better to live for—and they still can.
Or, you may have been sober for a while and started neglecting the practices that were indispensable in early recovery. Support groups, regular personal inventory and prayer are frequent victims of the rationalization “I have so much else to do, it can wait.” Good eating, exercise and sleep habits are also frequently pushed aside by the pressures of “normal” life. If this sounds like your life (and especially if it also resembles your life before drug abuse), you may be on top of the slippery slope toward relapse.
Whether the good habits you’ve let slide originated pre- or post-detox, here’s how to rediscover them.
Take Every Day as a One-Time Opportunity
One popular speaker frequently asked his audiences, “If you knew you had only a year to live, what would you do with that year?” After giving them a moment to consider, he added, “Why aren’t you doing it now?”
If we let ourselves dream freely, most of us have to admit that our ideal bucket lists are too long for one year, let alone the single “last day of your life” we are proverbially urged to live every day as. So please don’t take the above principle as a suggestion to force your “big, hairy, audacious goals” to premature birth. It’s a fact of life that we can expect to either die with some goals unachieved, or spend our latter years among the “living dead” who have run out of goals and who go through the motions of life without passion or purpose. Obviously the first option is preferable, but most of humanity opt for the second by default: common opinion teaches us to slave for “success” in the hope we can eventually “enjoy” the absence of responsibility and challenge for the rest of our lives.
You don’t have to dwell on the literal truth of tomorrow’s being guaranteed to no one, but don’t use the presumption of a tomorrow or a next year as an excuse to put off your best dreams for “when I have time.” Take tangible steps toward at least one big goal every day, not just for the anticipated satisfaction of achieving it, but for the immediate fulfillment of knowing you are contributing worthwhile progress toward the world’s and your own growth.
Don’t Waste Time on Regrets
Sure, it would have been preferable if you had never let a dream or healthy habit fall into disuse, but the next best thing is to start it over without delay. Berating yourself for “failing” will not only tie up emotional energy better invested in reviving the habit, but will reinforce the bad habit of seeing yourself as a “failure” and expecting you won’t stick to the good habit this time either. Which frequently proves a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Accept that what’s done is in the past and needn’t dictate the future. Trust the experience and wisdom you have gained since your earlier lapse. Remember that lessons learned the hard way make us stronger, so we can achieve more successfully on the next try.
Know When to (Re)start Small
If you once ran a mile every morning, but the last time was five years and 60 pounds ago, reviving that habit won’t mean picking up exactly where you left off—that will only get you cramps and pulled muscles, if not worse. It may take a doctor’s advice and months of rebuilding fitness and stamina before you can once again do that mile regularly. Don’t be discouraged. You probably built up the original habit over months of conditioning. If you did it once, you can do it again.
The same principle applies to recovering any good habit, including sobriety after relapse. A stumble isn’t a permanent failure. It’s a stepping-stone to help you come back stronger than ever.