Addiction is a disease of immoderation. Shrouded in utter chaos, the afflicted individual devotes his or her days to a devastating cycle of obsession and compulsion. Every waking moment revolves around seeking, obtaining, and using. Whether the addiction pertains to alcohol, drugs, sex, love, or money, it entirely consumes the involved individual to the point of extreme disparity. Nothing else matters. Friends, family members, career objectives, self-care… everything falls to the wayside as the addicted individual loses more and more of himself to the insatiable hands of the disease. Needless to say, the idea of balance (of any kind) is entirely elusive. Addiction is a disease of imbalance – of disproportion and extremes.
When an individual who has spent so long living in immoderation first enters into recovery, it is likely that all of his time and attention will be dedicated solely to, well… recovery. If he enters into an inpatient treatment program, he will experience nothing but deep, therapeutic work and healing for (hopefully) a minimum of three months. In most cases, he will then transition to a sober living house, where he will be surrounded by like-minded men, all working towards similar personal goals. For the first year or so of his recovery journey, he will be completely submerged in the lifestyle. He will befriend other sober men and women, develop a daily routine structured around meetings and stepwork, and meet regularly with an individual therapist. Eventually, of course, he will need to make the final transition back into independent, day-to-day living. He will need to find a place to live, a job, become financially stable, and learn to incorporate his own personal recovery routine into the daily mix. This is where balance finally comes into play. This is where things get tricky.
From Immoderation to Balance
Finding balance is tricky for everyone, not merely for those in recovery. The world today is very high-speed; most of us have quite a bit going on, between our careers, family lives, social lives, and financial commitments. It can be difficult to stay afloat in today’s society – let alone get ahead. And every once in awhile, it is normal to slip into a state of imbalance. Perhaps we have a deadline to meet, or an important bill to pay. We spend a week or so focusing all of our attention on one specific aspect of our lives, and other aspects of our lives suffer as a direct result. Perhaps we fall behind at work, and begin sacrificing our personal care routine (balanced breakfast, daily yoga class) for long hours at the office. Whatever the case may be, we are often able to bounce back into a balanced lifestyle once the deadline has been met.
For us recovering folks, however, the luxury of occasional discrepancy does not apply. Not early in the recovery process, at least. In order to maintain a strong spiritual foundation and refrain from using all mood and mind altering substances (or engaging in whatever self-destructive compulsion was keeping us sick), we need to practice recovery as a daily reprieve. Of course, we will find our own personal reprieve through much trial and error. Some of us may need to attend a meeting every day, some of us may need to attend a meeting every week. Some of us may need to bolster our recovery with a spiritually inclined activity, such as yoga, while some of us may choose to meditate in silence at the start of every day. Balance is personal, and just like recovery, it is completely contingent upon progress – not perfection.
First of all, it is crucial to keep in mind that balance, like recovery, is an ongoing process – not a final goal. Leading a balanced life does not entail living in a constant state of contentment and serenity. Rather than attempting to stay balanced, try to think of balance as something you practice on a daily basis – every time you fall of the beam, you hop right back on. Falling is a good thing, because it means that you were trying! Secondly, do what you can to prioritize. Re-examine your priorities regularly, for they are likely to shift around quite a bit (of course, recovery should probably stay somewhere near the very top of the list at all times). Set specific, short-term goals for yourself. Rather than telling yourself, “I will stay sober forever,” for example, tell yourself, “I will stay sober today.” Breaking your objectives down into short-term and attainable goals will help you maintain balance and build self-esteem. Again, focus on the process rather than the end goal. And finally, try to keep in mind that both successes and failures are part of a balanced life. Acknowledge your accomplishments while learning from your mistakes.
How do you maintain balance in recovery? Please feel free to share!