First of all, acknowledge that you’re not perfect and then forgive yourself for messing up. Recovery is a process, with many stops and starts. If you recognize that, you’ll be better able to move on after a setback rather than getting mired in it. If you would forgive others for being human, you should do the same for yourself. Then get started on moving forward.
The next thing to do is to make a plan for your recovery. Think about your next steps and write them down, making specific action plans for what to do next and what to do after that. The more specific you are (ex. “work out three times a week for at least 30 minutes each” versus “get more exercise”), the more likely you are to stick with your goals. And make them doable, in small steps, to get started. The longest journey starts with the first step. If your action plan is made up of generic, vague goals, you’re not likely to begin. Make a list of what you want to accomplish and then break each item down into small, workable actions. Then start with the first one… you get the picture. Success on a small, first step will give you the energy to move on to the next one and each success will propel you forward.
It helps if you have an accountability partner. Do you have a buddy willing to work out with you? Getting fit is a great way to avoid bad behaviors, so exercising more with a friend is a win-win where you get stronger both emotionally/socially and physically. Getting out of the house to work out or enjoy nature also puts you into fresh air and situations where you’re more likely to socialize, all of which can help you feel better. The better you feel, the more likely you are to continue these actions rather than wallowing alone at home.
Getting out and being active creates a cycle of activity that improves your mood and your body, which again allows you to more easily move forward in your recovery. The better you feel emotionally and physically, the easier it is to resist temptations that come your way. And the more you socialize with people who support you, the easier it will be to recognize that you’re worthy of that support and of being well. If you can, travel someplace new. Going somewhere you’ve never been is an excellent way to literally look at your life in a new way. It’s a great perspective changer as you realize that you’re very much like everyone else and they seem to be okay. You can be too.
One thing you might consider is starting a pet sitting business. Science has proven that pets, and dogs in particular, can elevate your mood and help you develop healthy behaviors. Dogs need walking, so you get outside and exercise more. They need petting and stimulation so you pay attention to something other than yourself. And they draw others to you like magnets when you’re out with them. Pretty soon, you’re socializing and exercising and receiving unconditional love from them. What could be better? Whether you’re depressed, anxious, or just unhappy with where your life is, having a dog around can help you feel better.
The reality is that we all mess up. Some of us do it more spectacularly than others, but everyone does it. It’s part of life. When you’re on the road to recovery, the greatest thing that you can do for yourself is to keep walking. Your path is your own, and it will take you wonderful places if you let it. Keep going.
-Written by Adam Cook