The other day I heard someone complaining about Millennials again, and I was like, “What is a Millennial and what do they do?” So, I did some research. A Millennial, as defined by the Pew Research Center, is anybody born between the years 1982 and 1997. That means that if you are old enough to get into a bar, but not old enough to call yourself old, you’re a Millennial. They use words like fam, woke, salty, swerve, thirsty, basic, bae, fleek, fire, ratchet, lit, turnt, slay, and adulting. They have taken their fair share of “selfies” (especially at the gym), had disappointing experiences on Tinder, know that Molly is not just a girl, and they may still not know what they want to do with their lives. It may be weird enough to just grow up in this generation, but it is even weirder to get sober in. I should know. I grew up smack dab in the middle of this generation, and I have been active in the recovery community for the last 10 years.
Just like making the decision to own a car, there are a few key things you should know. If no one ever told you that you need to change your oil, your car may seize up and die within a matter of months. If no one ever told you that you need insurance, you may wind up with a ticket, or worse yet, a junked car that you have to pay for. There may also be things you need know, such as what to do after an accident or how to change a tire. These are all things that you really should know before you get behind the wheel of a car. Being in recovery also presents its own set of challenges ,but unfortunately, there is no instruction manual. Here are 5 things that you should really know as you step into your journey of Recovery:
Stick with the Winners
Just like the car analogy, you should know that your recovery community is not perfect and that parts of it will break down at some point. I was once at an outside meeting while in rehab, and a guy told me something that I will never forget. He said, “A third of your friends are going to stay sober, a third are going to relapse, and a third are going to die.” Luckily, this guy had no idea what the hell he was talking about, but he did get one thing right: Only about a third of people will stay sober after treatment according to the most recent study by the National Institute of Drug Abuse. All your bros in recovery might claim to be “Ride or Die” during their stay in rehab or sober living but, the statistics would say otherwise.
Solution: In early sobriety, expand your friend group beyond those that are also in early recovery. Find guys that have been sober for several years and stick with them as much as possible. Pinpoint a solid sponsor who has a life that you want and who is available to speak with you on a weekly basis.
Unhealthy relationships are the #1 offender
Some people in the program may say that resentments are the #1 offender, but where do those come from? Relationships. Just because you got sober doesn’t mean you became magically good at romance. In fact, early sobriety is probably the worst time to jump into a relationship. And, I know, that chick you met in rehab is so gorgeous, so cool, and really gets you. I’m not saying that it will never work out but, think about the reality. The odds are stacked against both of you that you will get in an addictive love pattern and bring each other down. Keep in mind that your “still addictive brain” is trying to find anything it can get its hands on to alter its state and go 0-100. Love and sex can easily become your top priority if you remain unaware. Just like driving a car, speeders will get caught eventually.
Solution: Get on Google and find a Men’s-only meeting that you can attend on a weekly basis and attend a few Al-Anon meetings. If you find yourself spending an exorbitant amount of time on Tinder or “Nextflix and chilling”, get really honest with your sponsor and come up with a game plan to re-engage in your Recovery.
You need a “Recovery Budget”
This is the “maintenance” piece of your sobriety. Many relapse stories begin with the admission that they stopped going to meetings, they stopped calling their sponsor, and they stopped working on their Recovery. It’s easy to stop showing up to things when you have no skin in the game. You need to set up a type of an accountability that takes into consideration your future unwillingness and discomfort because both of these things will happen. Just like a car, you need scheduled maintenance by a trained professional. Otherwise, you could be unknowingly driving around a broken car that is getting worse by the day. Sponsors and community are important too but, there is a certain perspective a trained therapist/coach will offer.
Solution: Schedule at least one therapy/coaching session a month so that you are guaranteed to keep in touch with a trained professional. If you don’t think you have it in “the budget”, use it as motivation to cut out some of your unhealthy habits or ask for help.
Work on ALL of your addictions
Addiction is like a game of whack-a-mole. When you finally nail one down, it tends to pop up somewhere else. Some common cross addictions that present themselves or remain after getting sober are porn, nicotine, caffeine, food, and gaming/TV. Even if you feel like some of these are just low-grade compulsions, coping mechanisms or bad habits, they still keep you in the addictive cycle, consume your time, and prevent you from getting what you want. If you were to fix some parts of your car but, ignore other parts, it’s going to greatly affect your car’s performance. It is worth your time to look at ALL aspects of your life to try to improve your mental, spiritual, and emotional health. In the end, it becomes the easier and softer way.
Solution: There are plenty of self-help apps out there that will help with whatever you are working on. Some of them are HeadSpace (mindfulness work for anxiety/depression), Fortify (porn), and LiveSrong (nicotine). Of course, nothing beats getting honest with people who understand, creating a game plan, and increasing support until you see results.
It gets better
There is no creative automobile metaphor for this one. Cars don’t get better over time, but recovery does if you adhere to the aforementioned solutions. There are amazing changes going on in your brain every day and staying on a path of self-improvement with a strong support network will cultivate these changes exponentially. Every difficult situation that you survive in recovery will make you much stronger than if you “numb” out through your addictions. You fight this thing every day and that makes you a warrior. You inspire others with your courage whether you know it or not and you are not alone. This is a fight worth fighting and life will get better if you stick it out.
Solution: Give yourself a big hug for what you accomplished today and allow that love into your heart. Don’t make relapse an option and, if it happens, get back on the horse as soon as possible. It’s not the end of the world if you’re still alive. You are part of something much bigger and every day that you win the fight, no matter what else happens, you send your inspiration out into the world.