Fri. May 20th, 2022

Recovering the Ability to Choose

Just think about how many choices you have and how many decisions you must make every minute of every day: What time do I need to get up? Do I feel good enough to go to work? What route should I take this morning? Should I call Janie or just let things go? How can I put enough aside to make my rent next month? How will I deal with my boss today? What should I say to my mother? Should I go out or stay in tonight?

These seem like very simple choices, but when you’re in substance abuse recovery, every decision can seem like a tough one and every choice can be overwhelming, whether you’re on your own or in an alcohol recovery center. You’ve been working your plan to get where you are today. Now is the time to be smart about the choices you have and the decisions you must make while in recovery treatment. The following tips should help you make the right decisions – or no decision at all.

Take a Step Back to Weigh Pros and Cons

No doubt, some choices must be made in a split second, but many times, you can step back, take a deep breath (or, literally, a long walk) and take a look at your choices. While in alcohol recovery, your emotions – and especially your fears – may still drive many of your decisions. Nobody expects you to be without emotion – that’s just not human. But it is possible to weigh the pros and cons of your actions. You may want to go back to a simple list that you began using at your recovery treatment center. Write down the choice, the pros, and the cons. If you’ve kept a journal or diary, you can see what your choices were then, the decisions you made, and the progress you’ve made.

Look at the Big Picture. Simplify Your Choices.

From a recovery treatment center to being at home, you’ve got to be positive about your choices, which can be simplified. For instance, you may have the choice of keeping your old circle of friends, who may not offer you the best support in your substance abuse recovery, or seeking those who are more positive and supportive. For that matter, do you need a whole new environment and a new place to start over? These are not simple choices that require split-second decisions. They are important choices that can become overwhelmingly emotional. Your choices can be weighed by considering three key “big picture” considerations:

  1. Will my choice put me at risk of relapse – or worse?
  2. Will my choice help me maintain my self-esteem and dignity?
  3. Will my choice help me stay in control of my emotions and actions?

Understand the Effects of Not Making Decisions

Making no decision at all is also a choice. Choosing not to make a decision is a good thing when it’s part of your take-a-step-back strategy. This could mean that you are in control or that your recovery treatment is simply headed in the right direction. On the other hand, opting not to make a choice could mean a lack of confidence or simply procrastination (which, for some in recovery was a problem in the first place). If there’s a reason for avoiding a decision, go back to your plan, talk it over with people you trust and make a commitment to making a choice.

Seek Out People Who Strengthen Your Circle of Support

While, at times, you may feel otherwise, you are not alone. You have people who have stood by you before and will stand with you throughout your alcohol recovery or substance abuse recovery. You know who they are: your sponsor, a true friend or close family member, or a role model who has achieved recovery. Lean on them, but understand when to lean on them. For instance, major life-changing choices require multiple perspectives. Of course, part of maintaining your own self-worth is developing your own set of priorities and strategies for making good choices.

Stay Positive. Smile

“Smile tho’ your heart is aching. Smile even tho’ it’s breaking.”
“Smile” by Charlie Chaplin, Geoffrey Parsons and John Turner

Before you dismiss smiling and the power of positive thinking, think again. Looking at your choices from a half-full vs. half-empty perspective can make a huge difference in how you see every choice and its effect on your substance abuse recovery. Every time you smile, you make a positive choice. You not only look at choices differently, but also project an aura that attracts positive people to you. Smiling is like any other exercise. The more you do it, the better it feels – and the stronger you get.


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