follow a program

Early recovery starts after you have created a good support system, have truly given up your addiction, and have started to invest your time and energy into a recovery approach of your choice. Now you are on your way!

Once you start early recovery and set yourself up for success with a quality foundation to deal with urgent issues, it’s time to continue building. As you lower your defenses and open up your head and heart, you’ll make the mental-emotional shifts that will expand Your Recovering Future. Your life should start to feel easier, more stable, and more hopeful. When you walk your talk, your results will deepen your belief that you can do this.

Recovery is a major life transition. You’ll need to adjust your negative beliefs, attitudes, perspectives, and assumptions about yourself, recovery, and the world. As a result, your life and your future will change. Transitions are stimulating, yet they can be more positive than negative, depending on how you relate to them. By now, you have had many experiences that show you that you can do what it takes to recover! Breathe, Deeply and Slowly!! Relax and Focus on what you can do to get what you need and want!

healthy behaviors
Recovery is unpredictable, unsettling, challenging, and exciting. It’s yours for the asking, to be created as you choose. Many questions will arise during recovery; don’t be afraid to ask them. These may include:

  • What will life be like without using?
  • What will I have to give up?
  • How will I deal with everything?
  • Can I really do it?
  • Am I strong enough?

As in life, recovery can be represented as a glass that is both half empty and half full, meaning there are negative and positive aspects. If you choose to dwell on the half empty glass, you’ll be more aware of the negative. If you focus on the half full glass, you’ll be more aware of the positive. What you think about most frequently and intensely is what you bring into your life, so focus on the positive while recognizing the trials ahead.

life offers challenges

Expect that you will be challenged

You might become stuck at some point along your journey. If things become difficult and stay that way for months, it is an indication that something needs to change. You’ll want to actively explore the possible reasons for the difficulty you’re having and deal with them. This doesn’t mean that you will get immediate insight and relief. It means that action is your best response for desired results. You may face a problem that you can’t do anything about right now. In this case, you will need to grow past it or live with it.

As you embrace your recovery and grow, you’ll find your life improving in many ways. Your momentum will increase, and you’ll have more opportunities to improve who you are and how you live your life. This can feel scary and stressful, or exciting and desirable. It all depends on you and your approach. Eventually, you will be able to do the things you once only dreamed of, or never dreamed of!

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recovery summary

Your recovery is too important to “try” to do it. You either do it or you don’t; there is no try.

You have to make a choice to enter recovery and then stick with it until it’s solid – or face the negative consequences that you know will come if you continue your addiction.

In this immediate recovery summary, you need to:

  • Breathe – a lot
  • Stay aware
  • Get a medical exam
  • Abstain or maintain (with maintenance addictions like food) and stabilize
  • Detoxify your body (drugs, sugar, processed foods)
  • Use recovery reminders like the Red Dots (or lights)
  • Consider amino acid supplements (or compounds), a pro-recovery diet, and a nutritional evaluation
  • Choose to trust and accept the help of valued others
  • Evaluate your needs and look for solutions
  • Choose/commit to a desirable recovery approach
  • Build and use your positive support group
  • Build and maintain your foundation for recovery
  • Start filling your tool box with tools and strategies
  • Look at and deal with only necessary issues
  • Let go of negative practices that lead to addiction
  • Focus on positive people, places, things, situations
  • Make sure you are taking care of yourself
  • Balance your recovery activities and family needs
  • Open up and let down your defenses
  • Let go and grieve the loss of your loved addiction; be reminded to practice deep breathing – a lot
  • Open up to your Higher Power

Begin to create and live Your Recovering Future

Stay focused on your desire for recovery. To decrease the potential for relapse, be aware of old patterns and cravings. You must accept the inevitability of change and the reality that little or nothing worthwhile happened while you were under the influence of your addiction, especially in the end.

Know or choose to believe that Your Recovering Future will be a lot better than your past, even better than you thought it could be.

You can do this!
One Step at a Time!

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design a program

At some point, you may want to know about your addictions, how addiction works, its effect on brain chemistry, and how genetics play a part.

You may be curious about what drives you to use and how using appears to meet your needs. That knowledge will give you a whole new perspective about your addictions. Yet, in the early stages of recovery,  education and learning how to develop and maintain your recovery is a higher priority than the science behind addiction.

Defining Your Personal Recovery

Defining your personal recovery is necessary so you’ll know how to navigate through it. Just like you’d chart travel plans for a personal trip, writing out your recovery plans can increase your motivation and commitment. What’s the structure you’ll use to create your recovery course? When will you start it?

Developmental Stages of Recovery

There are various theories about the number of stages of recovery and a case could be made for all of them. I’ve chosen to simplify this for you. Your level of willingness will affect how easily and quickly you proceed through these stages and move into a recovering lifestyle.

Most people’s recoveries are not smooth or simple. Yours may be a challenging and complex journey. It may sometimes go sideways and backwards. It can feel like you’re in a maze. If you keep going, you will move through all four of the developmental stages of recovery.

They are:

  • Withdrawal and Detox: (drugs, alcohol, and sugar Physical cleansing of your system from toxins; the development of new behaviors.
  • Abstinence & Immediate Issues: Building stability through the use of this book and other resources without turning back to your addiction to numb out.
  • Foundation Building: Learning new ways to interact with life’s problems through education.
  • Awareness & Lifestyle: A shift in attitude, spiritual practices, and behavior that leads to new way of seeing yourself, others, and the world.

The Healing Environment

A healing environment is a psychological place that nurtures your health, growth, and potential. It is a place you feel safe enough to relax, open up, and do your recovery work – a place to deal with your life as issues come up and challenge you. In a healing environment, you’ll have the education, resources and support to deal with these challenges, if you choose to.

It’s vital you feel you are in a healing environment with your self-help and treatment groups and your support team. If you have concerns, talk to trusted others.


Your anonymity, meaning the code that your personal information will not be shared outside your recovery group, is not guaranteed, especially if you’re publicly known. Don’t share in a public meeting what could result in severe consequences for you or others; instead, discuss it with your mentor, a close friend, or a professional.
Generally, people will keep your personal information confidential, but people are human. Sometimes even mature and responsible people make the mistake of breaking a confidentiality.

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secular programs
Secular programs do not deal with religion or spirituality, nor do they make judgment on faith-based programs.

Many programs are a good match for those whose faith-based program isn’t available, those who don’t want to explore the spiritual part of life during recovery, and those who don’t believe. Well-rounded treatment  include secular and faith-based programs.

Life Ring: The “Three-S Philosophy” of Life Ring is shorthand for their principles of Sobriety, Secularity, and Self-Help.

It encourages its members to practice abstinence from drugs and alcohol. Their motto is: “We do not drink or use, no matter what.”
Spiritual beliefs remain private; it supports secular recovery with reliance on human efforts.

They hold self-help workshops in which members build their recovery plans.

Rational Recovery offers instructional guidance on self- planned recovery from drugs and alcohol through books, videos, and lectures. The program is based on permanent abstinence, self-reliance, and cognitive therapy. The founder is against meetings, yet meetings based on RR’s material and run by individuals may exist.

Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) is a self-help organization for atheists recovering from all addictions. Its philosophy is that recovery is achieved through self-reliance. The program is a simple, rational focus on achieving and maintaining recovery.

Religious, spiritual, agnostic, or atheistic beliefs are seen as separate from recovery. Otherwise, it is similar to AA, as the meetings are anonymous, recovering birthdays are celebrated, and recovery is viewed as a one day at a time process.  Similarly, there are also groups for family and friends, similar to Al-Anon.

Sober24 offers free self-help support groups to people who want to abstain from addictive and compulsive behaviors. Cognitive, behavioral, and educational methods are used to change beliefs and attitudes that can lead to negative, addictive behavior. The site has online recovery meetings, a message board, Internet discussion groups, a meeting list, and recommended readings.

SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training) is a non-profit, self-help organization that offers tools and strategies to those seeking abstinence from addictive behaviors. Most noteworthy, this program uses a science-based approach which incorporates motivational, behavioral, and cognitive techniques that foster recovery.

Women For Sobriety is a secular self-help organization that helps members achieve sobriety and sustain ongoing recovery from addictions. Their New Life program is based on personal development including positive thinking, meditation, group meetings, and good nutritional practices. Additionally, the meetings provide an extremely nurturing environment; most meetings are small, intimate, and supportive.

Furthermore, an extension of Women For Sobriety, Men For Sobriety is a sobriety group for men based on the same format.

The UpSpiralLife Group

12 New Steps for the New Millennium:  The UpSpiralLife Group has a specific format to encourage NeuroPositive living. The 12 steps outlined within the program cause new positive brain circuits (neuropathways) to grow, forging a strength-based, mental-emotional superhighway that promotes personal growth and well-being. Although designed for normies (non-addicts), the program is very effective for people in recovery when used along with primary treatment or aftercare. This program is based on powerful, cutting-edge knowledge offered by the Applied Neuroscience Institute. Because it is new, meetings are limited, although teleconferencing groups are available.

Online Services

There are many online resources for recovery, and more are constantly in development. No matter where you live, online communities help you.

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Faith-Based Programs

Faith-based programs are constructed around a spiritual or religious path to recovery.

Christian churches and religious institutions often host 12-Step groups. Some offer their own religious or faith-based addiction recovery programs; these are usually outpatient programs and are run by a member of the church. There also are religious-based (usually Christian) programs not run by specific churches; these are both residential and outpatient.

Celebrate Recovery is a Christian 12-Step program that emphasizes Jesus as the only Higher Power. It sees all hurts, hang-ups, and habits as one issue, and no declaration of being an alcoholic is required.

In addition, the Salvation Army is a residential program based on Christian doctrine. They manage charitable businesses to help people in the community.

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SELF-HELP PROGRAMS – 12-Step Programs

12-Step Programs

There are many 12-Step programs all over the world based on the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) model, which has a long and substantial history.

This psycho, social, spiritual program has much to offer. These 12-Step programs offer support and guidance from others in recovery. They provide a recovery structure which can be adjusted to your schedule and needs. Both the program itself and the social, emotional, and logistical support are important.

The only condition for membership into a 12-Step program is a desire to stop your addictive behavior. They have no affiliation with other groups, and their only focus is recovery. Many people will find it desirable or necessary to regularly participate in the program. Anonymity is expected.

Serenity Prayer

There are over 200 different AA-based programs all over the world for people attempting to recover from various addictions and mental health issues.  A few of those programs include:

  • Al-Anon is a 12-Step based program for the families and friends of alcoholics and other addicts. A similar structure to AA, it is centered on the addictive quality of codependency.
  • Alateen is Al-Anon’s program for younger members.
  • Nar-Anon is the same program as Al-Anon but for the families of people addicted to narcotics and other drugs.
  • COSLAA and COSA are programs for families of sex addicts.
  • Codependents Anonymous (CODA) is a 12-Step program for people who share a common desire to develop healthy boundaries, a positive self-image, and functional and healthy relationships. CODA is influenced by psychology and specific concepts of family systems.
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self-help programs

Self-help programs are those ran by members of the recovering community or led by those who have undergone recovery, such as 12-Step programs.

Whether you make use of self-help program along with a professional program or as your only program, they can be quite valuable. The community support received from self-help programs is important, though they do have their limitations.

There are low or no-cost self-help resources available seven days a week, offered at various times throughout the day. Many different groups are held in churches, hospitals, sober and community centers, and police stations a round the world. In addition, there are a lot of self-help resources on the Internet.

Working with peers who have similar issues and who will give you support may be more desirable than working with a professional. You learn together, grow together, and hopefully form satisfying and rewarding friendships that last for life. As most self-help programs are ran by recovering community members, there will be variations in style. Try new meetings until you find the ones you like.

Note: Be very careful of advice from rigid, enthusiastic people who are absolutely certain they know what’s best for you; they can be quite convincing. Even if their advice has value, it may not be right for you or offer you a complete answer.

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Age, Gender and Other Issues - Women


Women addicts deal with the same issues as men, yet women experience a double standard with most addictions. They face harsher social stigmas and stereotypes than men do, causing them to suffer more. For instance:

  • Women should drink like a lady.
  • Women sex addicts are whores; men are just men.
  • Women food addicts are fat, while men are hefty.

Women who use sex to support their addictions experience extra shame, self-hatred, and guilt, which may cause them to hide their addictions for years. This is one example of how women have a tendency to feel sensations and emotions more than men do.
Biologically speaking, women and men are different but equal. Women produce less serotonin and endorphins than men, which is one reason why they experience such extreme emotions, and why they are more prone to mood issues like depression. Women also don’t make enough enzymes to process large amounts of alcohol. This can put women at a higher risk for liver disease.

Men don’t stay with addicted women as often as women stay with addicted men. Therefore, women may not have the same emotional support as men, may be limited in their financial resources, and tend to have very realistic concerns, especially about their children. These factors may keep a woman stuck in her addiction and in her dysfunctional (sick) family system longer than she wants. As a result, a codependent spouse may be in denial about their partner’s addiction.

Age, Gender & Other Issues - Women

For women in recovery, at least part of the chosen program structure needs to be female-oriented so that a feeling of safety and understanding is achieved. Women addicts need to involve themselves with positive recovering women to act as role models and who offer support in learning to identify and deal with women’s issues.

In recovery activities, women need to refocus on themselves.

Generally, women are more motivated towards recovery for the sake of their children than men are. Yet, women still must recover for themselves first. Similarly, recovery is not a time to worry about looking good or taking care of others. It’s a time to heal.

Women addicts often have a poor sense of self, defining themselves by the external roles they play, such as by their role as mother, wife, or employee. They need to increase a positive self-identity by focusing on the “Who am I?” aspects of themselves that they value. In addition, they need to work on developing self-assertiveness, self-empowerment, and self-esteem, then putting these new traits into action.

Trauma: Many women addicts have experienced emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. If you are among them, your program must address these issues once you have built some solid recovery. If past trauma is blocking your recovery, then you must contain it until you are stable enough to deal with.

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Age, gender and other areas - Seniors

Seniors with drug and alcohol addiction (the silent epidemic) is quite common, and it often involves prescribed medication, maybe one or more pills that have been abused for many years without a problem.

Medication misuse by seniors can be abetted by boredom, isolation, lack of connection to other people, or limited options, goals, or the desire to achieve. Furthermore, mood swings, chronic depression, and thoughts of suicide can coincide with addictions.

If you’re a senior addict, instead of obsessing over what you don’t have, focus on the time, maturity, and experience you do have. You are a valuable resource. Find a way to help a person or an organization; even tasks as simple as babysitting for a single mom, listening to someone who needs to talk, or answering the telephone for a community group are ways to give and, in turn, receive. Activities that use your strengths are the best ones. Your life isn’t over unless you choose to let it be over. Get out and live to the fullest.

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Addicts deserve to be in a treatment program with diversity, where the staff is sensitive to their personal issues and where they respect the community that the addict comes from.


Lack of understanding of a specific person or community can generate negative attitudes and make an addict feel less welcomed into recovery. This increases the potential for dropping out, social isolation, returning to social using, and eventually, a return to addictive behaviors.

Sexual Identity and Gender Orientation Issues: The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community has unique treatment issues. Negative attitudes toward LGBT individuals can still be detrimental to recovery. If you belong to the LGBT community, find a treatment program where the staff is sensitive and knowledgeable about LGBT challenges. Should staff try to deny your reality, or convert you into a mainstream or a religious reality, seek help elsewhere. The staff needs to be comfortable dealing with your unique emotional, family, and medical issues.

What if you feel you’re not able to openly acknowledge your sexual or gender identity? You must do what it takes to come out, at least to those closest to you, or find peace through healthy diversion, spiritual or therapeutic work, and self-acceptance.

First of all, you should be able to locate desirable treatment services in urban areas. Peer run support groups are an option.  Hence, keep looking until you find what you need.

Other areas of diversity

Race, Culture, or Nationality: A large part of community is based on race, culture, and nationality. A few examples of how these communities play a part in recovery include:

  • Cultures that use a pub as a social center
  • Taboos that disallow leaving a family, gang, or tribe
  • The cultural shame of admitting you have a problem for which you need help.

Furthermore, if you can’t find the support you need within your family or community, go outside of it. The worst likely outcome would be emotional upset or the need to separate from toxic family and friends. This is hard, so ask for support from someone who’s already found outside help. Don’t worry about being accepted by others. Most people will naturally accept you once they get to know you personally.

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Wake Up and Thrive – Move beyond your addiction and become who and what you really want to be!