One of my favorite summertime reads is The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. This wonderful story, narrated by an incredibly intelligent golden retriever named Enzo, ostensibly is written as a fictional novel having nothing to do with addiction or recovery. That said, the author has filled this novel with many parables and morals applicable to the personal journey of any individual in recovery. My personal favorite lesson from the book is that “we manifest what is before us.” To me, this simple phrase summarizes our path to finding wellness and happiness in recovery.
By the time many of us come to realize that we are “sick and tired of being sick and tired” and are willing to do “whatever it takes” to live a life in sobriety, we have developed many bad habits and have lost sight of many good habits. Choices have been made. Our decisions and actions have led to unmanageability and negative consequences. All paths have led to the moment in time when we arrive at a crossroads with a decision to make: continue on the same path of addiction or stop, change the direction you’re headed in, and turn toward a life of recovery.
Looking back on my own struggles with addiction and the ultimate consequences of my behaviors, I see how I manifested the loss of everything I held important – including my freedom. My own crossroad lay in a jail cell. Today, I am grateful that in that moment I took the opportunity to manifest an alternative future.
There are many ways we can manifest a future of happiness and health in recovery. As addicted individuals in recovery, each time we are faced with any decision there is an element of manifestation toward recovery or toward relapse. The choice is ours to make. This unconscious process of recovery thinking is ever-present but becomes more and more “automatic” as we learn to practice new, healthy, recovery-driven habits.
If you took a poll of individuals with long-term sobriety and asked about their “recovery” habits, chances are some recurring themes would become apparent. These basic practices are a really good starting point for manifesting a future in recovery:
Practicing rigorous honesty is the cornerstone of a life in recovery. This habit can be particularly difficult for us in early recovery. We are so accustomed to lying, manipulating, avoiding consequences, and living in denial that choosing to be honest with ourselves and with others can be challenging. Still, with due diligence, determination, daily self-inventory, and an element of humility, we can become better and better at maintaining integrity in all our affairs.
Practicing rigorous honesty is directly linked to our self-respect. Each habit relies upon the other. When we are comfortable with ourselves, have a sense of self-worth, and truly believe that we deserve to find happiness, we are able to find the humility so vital to being honest with ourselves and others. With self-respect, we are able to let go of false beliefs and assumptions and stop worrying about what others think of us. We are truly able to focus on ourselves and affirm our commitment to wellness.
Demonstrating generosity of spirit not only supports our self-esteem – it is essential to maintaining recovery. The concept of “paying it forward” has long been integral to the 12 Steps. While the sponsor/sponsee relationship is a prime example of the value of this practice, it does not end there. Simply doing our best to be available to support others provides us with spiritual strength.
Attitude is everything. Choosing to be optimistic does not come naturally to any individual battling addiction, but it is a habit and as such can — with lots of practice — become second nature to us. Choosing to find solutions and positivity in situations that take us by surprise can be an enormously powerful relapse prevention technique.
Without a doubt, gratitude is the foundation of sustained recovery. When applied with optimism and generosity of spirit, gratitude provides us with the ability to truly know what is important, to dispose of our ego and selfishness, and to focus on really understanding the impact that each of us has on the universe around us. That focus directly feeds into honesty and self-respect.
As you can see, each of these habits supports the others in a continuum of positivity and recovery-driven thinking. If we are to manifest a future enriched by recovery, we can benefit from practicing these simple yet important habits.