Recovery Tools

Aspects of Treatment: Staying True to You

Staying True to You-Living Your Best Life

Becoming the best that we can be, living the lives we are meant to live, we begin with the process of change.  When we make the decision that

we are not going to use alcohol or drugs, we go through stages- these are referred to as:

The Stages of Change

  • Pre-contemplation (not thinking about changing behavior)  This is when we are still actively using, and not really thinking about making any changes in our life.  Maybe a family member or a loved one has voiced a concern, maybe your boss has reprimanded you for being late to work again.  In this stage, you aren’t concerned about,  or caring to acknowledge, that there might be a problem.

  • Contemplation (considering changing behavior)  In this stage, you acknowledge that you might be drinking or using too much or inappropriately.  You might be contemplating stopping drinking or using for a while, or switching brands or drugs.  In this stage, you are thinking about making changes, maybe feeling some guilt.  But you aren’t quite ready yet to make that commitmenPreparation (occasionally changing behavior)  It is during this stage that you begin making some changes.  You might try stopping drinking or using, or switch brands or types of drugs.  You might recognize that you need a medical detox or treatment and have started researching different options.  You might attend community support groups such as AA or NA; you are preparing yourself to stop using, you may or may not have committed to recovery, but you recognize things need to change. 

  • Action (practicing the healthful behavior on a regular basis, resulting in major benefits)  In this date you have committed to not drinking or using drugs, and you are abstinent.  It is in this stage that the core skills of recovery truly begin.  Learning about relapse prevention skills, identifying triggers of use, making changes in who you hang with, where you go, even how you shop.  You might be learning about food choices to support your recovery, paying attention to physical fitness and addressing medical and dental issues that might have been ignored.  Many people in this stage are active in 12 step groups or treatment facility groups, or both, and identifying new people who will support you in recovery.   In the 12 step groups, they call this stage, where you are feeling positive and hopeful for your new life, the “Pink Cloud”.  Life seems possible.

  • Maintenance (continuing the behavior after 6 months of regular practice).  This is the stage that this page is devoted to.   After a time of abstinence, you begin to get back into the groove of your life.  The common time frame is around 6 months to a year.  It is during this phase that post acute withdrawal symptoms are really felt.  (There is a link to this page on the bottom).  This is also the time where many people begin to falter in recovery.  

On the Path to Becoming You

When the novelty of new recovery has worn off, and family and friends who have not been in a recovery program expect you to be ‘over it’,  you really begin to look at yourself.   You might not feel as great as people expect you to feel, even yourself.  You might be feeling guilt and shame; you may still have some looming legal issues pending.  Many of us experience nightmares and using dreams, leaving us unsettled and anxious.  You may feel like you are looking ahead  into a life that you have no idea how to live in sober.    This is when you must learn to be you.   Many of us ask ourselves; “Who am I without drugs or alcohol?”

In our addiction, drugs and alcohol defined us.  We spent an enormous amount of time shaping our lives around the substance-getting it, recovering from the effects of it, hiding it, hiding our use, planning for it; in addiction, everything we do is shaped by our use.  We figure out how to travel with it, attend functions with family or business with it, how to pack it so it’s not found out, we plan for times when we think it won’t be accessible, we figure out how much we can use to ‘get by’ in the lean times.  We choose activities and venues that are conducive to use over activites that are abstinent.  We live, eat, breathe our use.  And then we stop.

Defining You

In active addiction, alcohol and drug use defined us.  Regardless of our functioning level, how we acted, what we said, the inconsistencies of our moods and attitudes were defined by our drug.  Without alcohol and drugs, without having the ability to turn to a substance to escape, experience ‘joy’, cope with adversities and trials of life, we have to rely on us.  We have to get in touch with us: what motivates us, what our values are, what our strengths are, and especially, how to love ourselves again.  Can we even trust ourselves?  

The answer is Yes, you most certainly can. 

Remember this:  You are No Longer defined by your use of alcohol or drugs. 

You may still have some consequences of use left to deal with, such as health problems or legal issues, but You are a new person, and can

remain so, if you choose.  The rest of your life is the journey from where you are right now to where you want to be.  

   Defining Yourself

We tend to look at ourselves and other people in two ways:  Who we are and who we are not.  The list seems always to be longer when we define who we are not; it is definitely easier to talk about the negative rather than the positive.

This exercise focus is on the positive.  The negative aspects of our addiction and alcoholism are in the past.  We do not have to act or  think under the influence anymore.    Let’s discover you!

Attributes:  An attribute is defined as a quality or characteristic of a person.  Real life individuals possess various attributes.  Below is a list of positive attributes and three blank spaces.  Fill in your own in these spaces.  Circle all that apply to you, ones people have told you that you possess, ones you displayed before alcohol and addiction invaded you.  And even, ones you hope to possess.  


Achiever Exciting Meditative Personable Responsible
Adaptable Flexible Mediator Pleasant Sensible
Ambitious Focused Modest Positive Sensitive
Authentic Forgiving Motivated Practical Sincere
Balanced Generous Organized Proactive Skilled
Cheerful Genuine Original Productive Solid
Consistent Helpful Outgoing Professional Sporty
Cooperative Humble Particular Quality Thoughtful
Courageous Insightful Passionate Quick Trustworthy
Curious Interesting Patient Racy Understanding
Dependable Inventive Perceptive Realistic Warm


 1.  Now, use these attributes in sentences about yourself.  Act like you are introducing yourself in an interview-remember-this is not boasting.  This is who you are!  


Hello, my name is Tina.  I am responsible, compassionate and genuine.


 a.  ________________________________________

  b.  ________________________________________

  c.  ________________________________________

  d.  ________________________________________

  e.  ________________________________________

2.  When you look at these, do you believe them?  Are they accurate about you?  Why or why not?


Many people define their life in the episodes of life-single, married, divorced, have kids, don’t have kids, grandparents.  These are not definitions of you-they are simply stages of your journey, like addiction.  

Addiction does not define you either,  any more than the term mother or father, or cancer survivor or diabetic.  These are factors that shape you, but not who you are.  They are circumstances of your life, which can change or be changed by other circumstances or events.  


Definitions of who you are are found in how you are -how you respond to life.  Your attributes are on display through your behaviors in response to circumstances in your life.  Look back on your attributes-do you see yourself  there in your response to life events?  (Hint-try not to count the behaviors of addictive addiction- That is not who you are!)  


a.  How do I respond to others who try to belittle me?  Do I get angry or sarcastic?  Do I walk away?  


b.  How do I respond when life gets difficult?  Do I give up?  


c.  Do I support other people’s growth or try to bring them down?


d.  How do I love people?  Do I wait for them to love me first?  Do I decide if people deserve my love or if I deserve theirs?


e.  Do I inspire hope and encouragement?


f.  Do I feel defeated by circumstances or accept them as part of my journey?


g.  Do I seek to understand?


h.  Do I excuse mistakes or condemn them?


i.  Am I capable of forgiveness?


Hint:  Forgiving does not mean saying that the hurtful behavior was OK and lets forget it.  Forgiving means accepting that the behavior happened, accepting that it cannot be changed, and accepting what is done is done.  It means that you are done reliving it and thinking about it.  You will not be held hostage by the thoughts of it.  That’s it.  Sometimes the hurts are so terrible this seems impossible.  But it is possible, and vital to you.  

3.  Look back at your answers from a – i; do you like your answers?   Why or why not?



4.  Did you know you can change these?  That anything you don’t like about how you respond to life is in your power to change?


This is how you reinvent yourself-you take what life throws at you and you learn from it.  You think back at the end of the day and reflect on what happened, what you liked, loved or didn’t feel proud about, and you learn from them, and make changes.  It is a journey.  It is your journey.  And it is not conventional-you are unique and beautiful and are just exactly where you are supposed to be on your journey through this life.  


5.  What are your thoughts about this?

Final Thoughts

In your recovery journey and reinventing yourself, avoid traps of thoughts that try to undermine you and your recovery.  Do Not let yourself begin to regress and believe lies about you.  Write a positive thought about each one of these affirmations.


a.  Your past does not define you!


b.  You are Not your mistakes!


c.  Do not let others label you and do not label yourself!


d.  Your job does not define you!  Jobs come and go-there is only one you!


e.  What you drive, your house, apartment, or stuff does not define you!


f.  Money does not define you!


g.  What you accomplish does not define you!


h.  Where you come from does not define you!


i.  How old or how young you are does not define you!


j.  Your height, weight, gender, color, nationality, or race do not define you!