10 Years Sober: Applying Foundations of Recovery to My Work in Prevention
By Stephen Hill, J.D., September 30, 2022
Today, September 30th, 2022, I am celebrating 10 years of recovery. Anyone who has a deep understanding of the foundations of living a life in recovery from substance use disorder knows that most of our daily practice and routines have very little to do with drugs and alcohol.
The principles of recovery serve as a guide to living an honest, healthy, and meaningful life full of opportunity and new experiences. We create relationships where we are comfortable and willing to ask for help, be helped, and help others.
This is how I built a life beyond my wildest dreams, a life I couldn’t fathom at my lowest point. As a result, it keeps me from going back and picking up that first drink or drug.
If following this guide of recovery both prevents me from relapsing and helps me succeed in all different areas of my life, then I believe we should be applying these same principles to help prevent young people from ever going down the path of substance use and addiction in the first place.
Along my journey, there are 8 key practices that have stayed with me that I make a conscious effort to apply to my life on a daily basis.
The Morning Routine
Having a morning routine helps me start my day off right because I accomplish something positive as soon as I wake up. After my morning routine I feel more focused, grounded, and motivated to take on the day. Although I don’t follow this exact routine every day, I try my best to;
- Make my bed
- Drink a glass of water
- Drink a cup of coffee
- 10 pushups, 10 sit ups, 10 squats
- Brush my teeth
- Take a shower
People, Places, & Things
Think about the people you hang out with and ask yourself why you hang out with them. Are you just trying to fit in? Do they treat you right and respect you for who you are? Are they a positive or negative influence?
Where do you go throughout your day? School, gym, work, volunteer? Are you hanging out in someone’s basement or driving around in a car using substances? Are the places you go conducive to a healthy or unhealthy lifestyle?
What are the things you do on a daily basis? Vaping or lifting weights? Drinking alcohol or yoga? Smoking or meditation? Are my actions consistent with who I aspire to be?
Building a Life Worth Staying Sober For
I did not get sober to be miserable. In fact, it was the lack of direction after a short stay in treatment that always led me back to substances. I had to create a life for myself that was worth staying sober for.
It is clear that this philosophy works for both recovery and prevention. If you build a life for yourself that you worked so hard to get, you are less likely to put things into it—drugs and alcohol—that could take it all away.
But when you are just starting out, it’s so hard to see where you can go in life. It’s important to set goals for yourself, but how do you get there? How do you achieve your goals?
One Day At a Time
The one day at a time concept was a game changer for me. It has helped me achieve my goals and reduce anxiety. Thinking about “the rest of your life” can be so overwhelming, but when you take life just one day at a time, it becomes much more manageable. But what do you do on those tough days when nothing seems to be going right?
Making a gratitude list helps put things in perspective for me. It reminds me of what is really important in my life and helps me move away from negative thinking. By writing down just three things I am grateful for, I can quickly see how good I really have it.
One of the best ways to help yourself is to help others through leading by example. When you make your actions and choices bigger than yourself, you empower both yourself and others. Today, my actions are much bigger than myself. I have a wife, daughter, friends, and so many other people that rely on me to do the right thing.
The best way to keep making progress is to remain teachable and try to learn something new every day. Every time I speak and listen to the questions and comments from students, educators, and parents, I take away something positive I can use the next time I speak.
Carrying the Message
Your story matters. Yes, it does! When you are struggling with something and open up about it, you start to feel better and will quickly learn that you are not alone. So many people suffer in silence. When you overcome your struggles and share it with others, you help people avoid the mistakes you made and give others hope. Helping other is the greatest gift of all.