Finding Balance in Recovery

by Kelly McClanahan

Recovery is a balancing act. Learning to become dependent upon certain things and independent of other things is balance. Learning to be responsible for many things and not so much for others requires balance. Learning when to say “no” and when to say “yes” requires balance. These are just a few of the ways that balance is the goal in recovery.

Dependence upon a recovery group is important for most recovering addicts. Another balance here is to remain somewhat independent of the group think, making decisions because they are right for you, not because they reflect popular choices in your group. Learning how to become dependable yourself by doing what you say you are going to do and following through on commitments and promises to others makes a person dependable. This is a good change for recovering addicts, who never followed through in most areas while using. Also learning how to depend on a sponsor to listen to ideas that you have before acting on them is good practice. Impulsive decisions rarely work for anyone’s benefit. While a good sponsor won’t make your decisions for you, they can be a sounding board for hearing your fears, problems and solutions. Backing off from over-dependence on the opinions of others is the other side of the coin. Allowing trusted persons to give feedback is one thing. Having others tell you how to do everything is an over-dependence on others for solutions and ideas you can and should develop for yourself.

Responsibility for one’s own behaviors, attitudes, and actions is a tough area at first. Addicts are chronic “blamers” who see everyone else as the initiator/instigator/responsible party for their problems. Taking responsibility for ones’ own life is a big step into recovery. Many continue the blame game for a long time after stopping the addictive behavior. This is not recovery. Owning what is done and said and acted on is a growing up process that is a good earmark of recovery. Admitting mistakes and then stopping the behavior is a good sign of sincere desire to recover. Becoming responsible for things outside the realm of one’s influence is not. No one can take responsibility for anyone else’s feelings, actions, words, behaviors, etc. If you are blamed by another for being responsible for their feelings or for “making” them do or feel something, do not accept that assessment. They are free to choose whatever they want. Feelings simply exist, you cannot create them for someone else. Own the things that are yours and not the things that are not, this is a big balancing act. With the inflated egos that most addicts possess, it is hard for them to not take responsibility for any number of things that have nothing to do with them.

Saying “no” when that is what you mean can be difficult. If you were a chronic people pleaser who said “yes” in order to be liked, it will become a test to see how long it takes you to stand up for yourself. This is empowering and growth-producing. Many feel the need to explain their decisions to say “no” when it is not necessary. “No” is a complete sentence. Use it when it says what you really want to say. Learn to recognize how easily others have learned to manipulate you into doing what you don’t want to do. Say “yes” if you mean it. Saying “yes” carries the burden of following through with what you are agreeing to do. Remember what you are committing to and DO IT. This too will build good recovery muscles.

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work, with a specialization in substance abuse treatment. Having worked in this field for over 20 years, she is currently working on her certification as an addictions’ counselor.

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