advanced recovery

You made it through detox. You made it through rehab. And you made it out of the halfway house. PHP, IOP, OP, Aftercare. You made it through 'em all. You've made meetings, got a sponsor, worked the 12 Steps. In fact, you're still working the Steps. You feel good about yourself. And you should. You're solvent. You're serene. And you're sober. You're doing well. Better still, you're doing good. Why? Because you're in advanced recovery.

What is Advanced Recovery

Like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's infamous view on obscenity, advanced recovery is in the eye of the beholder. We know it when we see it. Or, more to the point, when we feel it. It may take as little as a year of sobriety. It may take as long as a decade or two. Whatever the duration, we know we're in advanced recovery when we see and feel that recovery has not only restored us to sanity, but has also given us a life beyond our wildest dreams.

Here are five facts about advanced recovery:

Relapse is Ever Present

Too often addicts in advance recovery begin resting on their proverbial laurels. Having come so far and achieved so much they believe they've got addiction licked. Consequently, they let their guards down. They stop working their program. Or worse, they think they can get away with a drug or a drink. And every addict knows what happens from there.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says relapse rates among addicts and alcoholics range from 40-60%. While highest in the first two years after treatment, rates can still be as high as 25% for those with five or more years of sobriety.

Fret not though, for there are measures addicts can take to prevent relapse. A strong 12 Step program for instance. NIDA's findings suggest that weekly or more frequent 12-step participation is strongly associated with drug and alcohol abstinence. In fact, NIDA believes weekly or more frequent 12-step program participation to be a most effective and inexpensive aftercare resource for addicts and alcoholics alike.

Even relapse can be effectively addressed. Don't consider relapse to be a failure of either treatment or a person's program. Rather take it as a sign that the addict or alcoholic needs additional support. Some may benefit from a self-help support group or a 12 Step sponsor. Others may want a "booster session" with a therapist or in a drug rehab program. Many might want to choose a combination of all of the above. Whatever the case, knowing your relapse triggers, staying focused on your recovery, and reaching out for help can quickly get you back on track.

Giving is Receiving

Helping others is one of the most important parts of recovery, as well as a fulfilling life. For addicts and alcoholics, service combats problematic patterns such as isolation, narcissism, resentment, and relapse. It also helps build empathy, self-esteem, and a sense of purpose.

Here again the 12 Steps come in. Studies show that 40% of addicts and alcoholics who helped other addicts and alcoholics were able to avoid drugging and drinking for the year following treatment. Conversely, only 22% of those who did not help others stayed sober. Further studies also show that addicts who helped other addicts report improved self-image and lower levels of depression. The 12 Steps recommend that people in advanced recovery do everything they can to help other addicts. Sometimes though simply volunteering in the community or helping a friend or neighbor in need can also do the trick.

Sobriety Can Be a Blast

Stability and routine often sounds outrageously boring, especially to the active addict and alcoholic. In advanced recovery, however, those things create a foundation upon which you can have some real fun. Instead of spending exorbitant sums on drugs and alcohol, why not take a trip or go out for a nice dinner? You'd be surprised at how far you can travel and how fine you can dine when you're not supporting an addiction. Or perhaps pursue hobbies or other interests. What about that classic car you wanted to restore, or that pool deck you wanted to build or that boat you always wanted to learn to sail? Most addicts and alcoholics have spent years wondering 'what if.' Now they've got the means, the time and the wherewithal to say 'yes, let's.'

Of course not everything fun thing costs money. Public parks and beaches are open to everyone. And most public parks and beaches host an array of sober activities, from volleyball and snorkeling to bird-watching and star-gazing. And if those don't interest you, and you're still finding advanced recovery to be rather ho-hum, try re-evaluating your personal life. How often are you going out, exercising and meeting sober people? When was the last time you tried something new, or revisited a pastime you used to love? If you're insufficient in these matters, chances are you won't find sufficient fun in recovery.

Being Sober is More Than Merely Not Drinking or Drugging

Some addicts and alcoholics think advanced recovery is merely not using drugs or alcohol. That thought would be wrong. These folks are known as a dry drunks. And they tend to be just as miserable in advanced recovery as they were in active addiction. Why? Because recovery is more than simply completing addiction treatment. And it's certainly not just abstaining from drugs and alcohol. Rather recovery is a series of sound decisions made day after day, year after year. In other words, it's a way of life.

Yes, sober means abstaining from alcohol and drugs. But it also means being earnestly thoughtful, unhurried and calm. It's a character marked by temperance, moderation, or seriousness. It's also refraining from excessive or extreme qualities of fancy, emotion, or prejudice. A sober life is an upright life. A life lived with integrity and purpose. If you've done the emotional, psychological and spiritual work necessary for advanced recovery, you should have little problem living a full and sober life.

Life Can Be Great Again

This really isn't much of a surprise. Not to those who are truly in advanced recovery anyway. We know. Life can be great again. What's important for the newcomer to remember, is life will be great again. It's written in the 12 Step promises of Alcoholics Anonymous. And it's also written in the stars. Indeed, with the Big Book in hand and one's eyes on the skies, everything is possible.

Got a dream you sacrificed for drugs? Got goals you set aside because of alcohol? Now that you're clean and sober, you've got a chance to realize both. It might not be easy. And it probably won't happen overnight. But it will happen. If, that is, you're truly ready and willing to commit to long-term recovery.

We at Recovery Boot Camp know this, because we see it every day. We also live it. Each and every one of us. And whether we’re two years, 10 years, or 30 years into recovery, we all take joy in advancing it. After all, advanced recovery is what made our lives what they are today.

Get Help Today

Get Help Today Sticky RBC