“I’m going to rehab.”
These words aren’t often announced with enthusiasm. For those who have been there, it was often a last ditch effort—a cry for control when none could be found within. It is a brave step, an essential step. Unfortunately, it is a step linked with a label: addict, alcoholic, junkie, fiend, what have you.
Since rehab carries such an undeserved negative stigma, it is not something you might admit in polite company. As such, its principles and practices are generally kept secret from those whose demons don’t come from one of the more familiar vices. For individuals on a perpetual quest to better themselves, this is bad news. We are aware that there is always some facet of ourselves to work on, and we can (and should) take joy in that fact (right guys?).
In the interest of self-improvement, let us take a look in the mirror and consider the help that is available to us. Here are five standards from rehabilitation center programs that can be applied in our daily lives.
1. Take personal inventory.
As the “Big Book” says in the Alcoholics Anonymous program (AA): make “a searching and fearless moral inventory.” We do this by looking at our life and the situations we have found ourselves in, analyzing both what you have and what you don’t. The hardest part of this concept is to be honest. Now, the “Big Book” focuses this inventory on your life as an active alcoholic in an attempt to grapple with the alcohol addiction. However, this can (and should) be applied to everyone’s life on a regular basis. The process has even been likened to the business practice of taking a regular inventory noting that a business that does not take regular inventory tends to shrink and often goes bankrupt.
The keys to this inventory are fact finding and fact facing. Whether an addict or just a bloke with a stressful job, things get us down. If we can account for them and take stock, we can deal with the situations life presents us. If we don’t, they might fester and grow without us even realizing. Anger and resentment toward people and situations often crop up in an honest inventory, as does fear. These are common struggles in our lives that can be harmful if not dealt with. Have we been selfish with our loved ones? Do we get jealous where we should trust, and what causes this? Everything is fair game when you take a personal inventory. Constructing it honestly will give you a better view of how to feel about your present situation, which can elucidate our current feelings and behaviors. And remember that we are in process—a work of art not completed until our final breath—so we should not get down on ourselves for our past transgressions, but strive to improve.
2. Maybe you should you and love yourself.
Or embrace yourself and forgive your shortcomings.
Regardless of how hard we try or how committed we are, we can’t be successful 100% of the time. Rather than beating ourselves up about it and giving up, it is important to acknowledge, accept, and continue. If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. This is a common phrase, but often we are impatient individuals expecting results fast and the first time around. We do not take kindly to failure and often let the first failure bring us down, which hinders our subsequent attempts. Wouldn’t it be better if we learned from our failures and used them to inform the second (or third, or fourth) attempts? After all, if we really want something, we should strive until we achieve it. We are worth it.
3. Appreciate the small stuff.
We are sometimes so busy with our lives and goals that life itself can sometimes feel like a race. We live day to day chasing after some ultimate goal, forgetting that there is an infinite amount of pleasure waiting in every moment. Rather than placing pleasure as an end result (chasing the dragon, so to speak), take a second and realize that these moments are all around you and can nourish you on your journey. A tasty cup of coffee, a particularly splendid sunrise. When you get up to put in your hard work early in the morning, take a breath and look around. Notice those colors, nature’s work of art. Hear the morning birds chirp. Things are already pretty damn good if you take the time to notice.
4. Get a sponsor.
Or at least a good friend.
I, personally, don’t know how much stock I take in a “sponsor” in the way a lot of rehabilitation programs seem to define it. But I do know that having a mentor or friend with experience can be vital. Like the grandfather who has seen it all and smiles to himself as you tell him your life is falling apart, perspective is a powerful thing. Even a regular conversation with someone with a perspective different than our own can help us view situations differently. And if you need someone to vent to at three in the morning, who better to seek out than someone who might know where you are coming from? Or at least won’t throw you out into the cold night alone.
5. Take time to be selfish so you can afford to be selfless.
Sure, it is great to put others ahead of yourself. And do this, please! But in times of personal trouble or struggle, remember that we are no good to anyone if we are not in a good state ourselves. We may mean to help out a friend, but if we do not have the capacity for it at the time, we will be doing no good for that friend or any others.
“Don’t confuse self-care for selfishness.” This might be the hardest thing for a “natural giver” to learn. But good habits yield great results. Once we begin to tend to our own needs, we will notice a greater yield from our efforts to aid others.
None of these ideas are revolutionary, and most are obvious and self-explanatory. What is interesting, however, is how these tips apply to everyone’s life, regardless of your situation. Even in a life that you may think is without its vices, following these tips will bring positive results. You have one life. Give it your best shot, even if it means a little rehab.