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Finding Balance: the Key to Successful Recovery from Addiction

Finding "balance" is a term that strikes fear in the hearts of many addicts and alcoholics-active or sober. Manny but not all addicts and alcoholics experience extremes in their personalities. This selfishness and self-centeredness are just one aspect of this personality. Most individuals in their recovery process began to recognize that they had experienced significant loss of balance in their lifestyle. Things that once were important were placed on the back burners and new actions and behaviors came to the front as addiction took hold on our lives. Just because you stab drinking and using doesn't mean that your life automatically comes back to a sense of normality. Abstinence alone does not bring lifestyle balance.

For many in early recovery, you may often notice that even though you are abstinent from your drug of choice and other addictive behavior or simply living life in extreme seems to come to the forefront. Many of these behaviors do not seem like they are problematic at first but when they are expressed in extremes there can be significant loss of balance in a person's life. Food, exercise, sex and relationships, gambling and other behaviors if acted out in extremes can lead to further problems. It's almost as if addicts and alcoholics have little to no concept of the term moderation. Manny will begin to act out and excessive ways attempting to overcompensate such as in their work life, becoming dependent on romantic relationships, overeating or overspending. These extremes are a sign that the person has not yet healed and are using these behaviors as a way of avoiding the reality of their lives.

These acting out behaviors often times can become triggers that can lead to relapse back to the substance use. However, once the addict or alcoholic receives appropriate treatment which can mean a lot of different things (therapy, medication management, self-care, 12 step program involvement, spiritual growth and development, etc.) they are more than able to see the need to achieve a more balanced lifestyle.

Even within the 12 step program itself you will hear many slogans that encourage people to find balance in their lives. Slogans such is HALT, which and urges people not to get too hungry angry lonely or tired. Slogans such is "easy does it" and "first things first" are couple of more slogans that encourage the addict or alcoholic to seek balance. The 12 step program has known for a long time that recovery is about more than simple abstinence. It also involves making the necessary lifestyle changes that help us to achieve balance in our lives and ultimately find the happiness that we are all seeking.

Addicts and alcoholics who have been in long-term recovery generally learn that light in extremes of any nature-positive or negative-is not conducive to ongoing recovery. Learning to make changes in our life in order to find better balance may take some time but you are worth it. Recovery is a balancing act. Learning to become more dependent upon certain things like a higher power or support group is certainly important. Learning to be more independent is part of how we find balance. Learning to be responsible and take responsibility in our lives for many things and not so much for others also requires balance. Learning to say yes to certain things and know to others not only requires healthy boundaries but also requires balance.

Learning to take responsibility for one's own behaviors attitudes and actions oftentimes require some growing up. Growing up does not happen overnight it takes time. And in that time we will make many mistakes and we will get many things correct. Each step of the recovery process is another opportunity to learn, make adjustments and continue on. There will be many changes that we need to make a long this path of recovery. Some of these changes will be easy and others will be quite difficult. But ultimately we recognize that we must make each of these changes in order to ensure ongoing sobriety. We need to make these changes to ensure positive self-growth. We need to make these changes in order to find and restore balance in our lives.


For each of the following area, I encourage you to evaluate how much energy and effort you are expending using percentages of your time. Remember that the total of all of these categories needs to add up to 100.


Physical Health – This would include things like diet and nutrition, exercise and self-care activities such as rest, relaxation and recreation.

Mental Health – This might include things like therapy, learning and using new coping skills, medications and doctor visits, compliance with treatment plan.

Recovery –

This would include things such as meeting attendance, time with sponsor, service work, step work, daily routine. Building and using a support system.

Spiritual Health – Prayer and meditation, quiet time for self, helping others. May also include organized religious practices such as church.


Occupational Health – Includes time for productive work, travel, and meeting the demands of your position. (Do you leave work at work or do you bring it home with you) Also may include volunteering, or educational pursuits.

Environmental Health – This would include thing like taking care of your personal space, cleaning, laundry and other chores.


Financial Health – Time fore paying you bills, banking,, and reaching your goals. Be sure to include time that you use to avoid financial responsibilities.

Other Health – This would include thing such as interests and hobbies. Time you may use to pursue a personal goal or dream.

After evaluating your current situation, take some time and determine what life areas you might need to address in order to improve balance in your life. Understand that the one thing that you must be careful of is keeping recovery first. If you think you can simply cut back on recovery activities to better balance your life you most certainly are setting yourself up for relapse. And one thing that we will know will most certainly put your life out of balance is active relapse and return to addiction.

Once you determine the areas that you may need to make changes in it is important to set yourself some realistic goals to achieve your objective. Identify your top priorities and then determine what things you may need to do in order to achieve your desired objective in that category after you have defined areas that you need to address and identified specific actions you can take identify a list of seven things that you need to do consistently if you are to achieve this objective. I would encourage you to post a list of the seven things that you need to do on a regular basis in order to gain more balance in your life in recovery. I would encourage you to start doing these things and seeing if they make a difference in your life. Don't try these ideas just wants it is important to do them consistently if you want to find balance again

You may even want to incorporate tools such as tenant step inventory and evaluate how you did it the end of each day. Track this over a period of time and see how it may help you gain perspective and achieve better balance in your lifestyle. If you find that certain things are not helping after. A time you may want to adjust your list of things to do as your priorities may change. Understand that it is unlikely that you will do this perfectly and more than likely what times revert to old behaviors and old ways of doing things. This may cause frustration but it is important to remember that you too are human and it is simply about making progress, not about doing it perfectly.

© 3/2013 John W. Stiemke