The 7 Habits of a Successful Recovery

Habits, steps, or whatever works for you. I didn’t call these steps on purpose. They are not a lineal progression towards a single goal more like luggage on a long journey. They are habits that are meant to be used together, in unison, all at once. You are a whole person and though there is a place for the steps they are a linear change to get you on the road, the need is to change the person and develop a new set of habits to keep you to the path. These habits don’t replace any other program but will work well within them to help strengthen them to give you the tools to successfully achieve any of your goals.

Habit 1 – Be Proactive – Take back control of your life, Recover with a purpose. There has never been a promise made by any group, organization, or religious faction that said recovery will be easy or simply happen to you. If you want it, you will have to work for it.

Habit 2 – Begin with the end in mind – Be clear about your roles and the goals in your life using recovery as a tool to get there. The statement “Beginning with the end in mind” sort of confuses the idea of living one day at a time. When we live with the thought that all I have to do is remain sober today and tomorrow will take care of itself we only see half of the truth. This is one of the most misunderstood ideas in recovery. We live for today but set up tomorrow for success. This means that here is planning and preparation for a successful recovery. Let me pause here to make a definition. When I say recovery, I like it best the way Russel Brant phrased it “Recovery is recovering the person who you were meant to be”. Not recovering who you were before, we are moving forward remember. Live for today, plan for tomorrow, as for yesterday; let that shit go. (Pardon my French.)

Habit 3 – Put first things first – Prioritize your recovery. This is the Habit where we do the majority of the work. In the 12 steps we focus a lot on putting your life right through making amends. That sets the floor for you to build on and make your life more of what you want it to be. Now we have another major taking ahead of us; creating the framework so that we do not return to the unwanted behaviors. This takes making some uncomfortable priorities. If you ever went to a 12 step meeting one of the things that they talk about changing the people, places, and things in your life and if nothing changes, well nothing will change. We will talk relationships in a second but here we are talking about looking at everything and setting recovery as the perspective that you review everything by.  Look at the people around you, the places you go to, the thoughts you have. Are they beneficial to moving on into a world where recovery is something that you hold dear and fight for? Are they remnants of an old and unhealthy you, the one that you are trying to change?

Habit 4 – Think win-win – Develop relationships that build you up, not keep you in an unhealthy mindset. The people you choose to be around will have a transferable effect on you. It is sometimes said that you will become the 5 closest people to you. This means you become in tune with those you choose to be around. Think about that, you want recovery but hang around those, even family, that remain in their disease. Not much hope for success on that one. Try to be around people that you want your life to look like. This goes back to priorities. Don’t think it is easy to do, cutting ties because they are not healthy is a difficult thing to ask for, especially if the people that keep you down in your unhealthy lifestyle are family members.

Habit 5 – Seek first to understand, then be understood – Learn better communication. I feel discounted when people do not recognize that my recovery is precious to me because I am trying to get better and that is hard for me and hurts. See what I did there? I owned my part and feelings and recognized that my feelings are in response to what is happening not forced on me by the situation. There can be situations that will lead you to feel a certain way and a choice of how you will respond to those feelings. You don’t control your emotions, contrary to popular belief. You own the response. When I feel hurt by something, I choose to either confront that or shrink away but either way I am in control, even if I don’t believe that I am. When we communicate our feelings and needs without the need for approval of the other person, we take control of our lives back.

Habit 6 – Synergize – Find the best solutions together with a group of supporters. An old African proverb “If you want to run fast; run alone. If you want to run far; run together”. There are very few people that will ever be able to recover alone. This is not a solo sport and you can’t win against the opposing team if you’re the only player. PERIOD. The vast majority of people believe that they are able to recover alone and fight the very idea that it takes help, support, and vulnerability. Unfortunately, this is something you will just have to get over. I am sorry of it makes you uncomfortable but this is the cold hard fact. If you want to try, I wish you the best of luck and if you succeed, congratulations you are one of the few. If you fall down, remember many have tried and few have done it alone. I said many times before, recovery is a journey with a million tiny decisions and paths, if you try and fail, don’t give up; try another way. When Thomas Edison invented the light bulb he was unsuccessful 99 different times before finally creating it. When asked about the failed attempts and why he never gave up, he replied I didn’t fail, I was simply successful in finding 99 ways NOT to create a lightbulb. When we fail in our attempts, learn from them and be happy you just found something that wasn’t successful and you never have to make that same choice again.

Habit 7 – Sharpen the saw – Look after your recovery, it is something special that needs to be prized. Consistently look at your life and make adjustments. Few things you do today is set in stone for tomorrow. That’s the wonderful thing about having a tomorrow, it’s like the magical ability to hit the do over button every morning. This is in line with Step 10: “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.” Once you plant the seed, it will begin to grow but if you don’t tend the plant it will die and will return to the state where there was no seed in the first place. This is like recovery, when you start to walk the path you will change but if you choose to return to where you were that change will die off and you will return to where you were before you made the choice to try to have a better life.

These steps were adapted from the original “Seven Habits of Highly Successful People”, 1989 by Stephen Covey.