Over the years I’ve met folks whose recovery looks more like a seeming endless series of relapses than any meaningful sober time. Through coaching them I’ve developed three cardinal rules for successful, long term, sobriety. Break one and your chances of success drop dramatically. Successfully incorporate these and your recovery becomes much more manageable. Here is rule number one.
You must be married to recovery, not date it. You’ve no doubt been to a wedding and heard phrases like “forsaking all others”, “till death do us part” and “for better or worse”. All those play a part in a successful marriage and a successful recovery. Many approach sobriety like a casual date. You know, “try it out and see where it goes”. “If it gets difficult I can just walk away”; wrong answer and wrong thinking, because unfortunately things get worse before they get better. As the detox finishes and you survey your life and all the wreckage, it is unfortunately only the tip. There are many things that won’t appear till a month or two down the road. When the going gets tough and the path seems incredibly steep those that are dating sobriety cut and run. Back to the open arms of their substance. Those that are married to sobriety know they are building a new life together and that this will pass. Those folks go on to lasting, meaningful lives apart from substance use.
Sometimes people encounter negative consequences for their substance use (i.e. legal, family strife etc.). Those folks tend to treat recovery as a “rebound romance”. I’m mad at _________ it has caused _________ and so I’m hooking up with sobriety to show it. They almost always go right back once the heat is off. They never intended to be faithful to sobriety. That “forsaking all others” part plays a crucial role in a marriage and your recovery. You can’t keep old using buddies numbers in your phone any more than you can keep old girlfriend’s numbers.
The “till death do us part” gives a young couple the expectation for the length of their relationship. Most married couples know the divorce rate but they, at that moment, are committing to a lifetime together. That is their mindset and, it must be ours in recovery as well. The fact is that I will never be able to drink again like I will never be able to date again. I’m married to sobriety and my wife, neither of which would be happy if I changed that arrangement. Another fact is that my life is incredibly more rich as a result of those two marriages. So if you are having trouble with lasting recovery quit dating it and put a ring on it!