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Saying “no” to addiction isn’t easy. Long-time sufferers understand that recovery is more than merely saying “no” to our poisons. It is a lot more complicated than merely building willpower, which is something a lot of people fail to understand.

At its core: addiction is a disease that drives us to use or drink. Whether it’s a coping mechanism or an obsession, addiction can be managed – but not cured. Addiction cannot be cured. But it can be held at bay for a lifetime with the right, success-themed mindset and powerful core choices.

But it is a war, there’s no doubt about it. Recovery is a battlefield that gets so incredibly hard to fight through. Here are five ways that make the battlefield less dangerous and never-ending.

1. Be Kind (And Tough) With Yourself

There’s no doubt about it: this is an extremely hard path. There are some people who never put down drugs or alcohol; maybe you know some. The recovery from addiction process is a long, winding road – cliché, and insanely true.

That’s why, before we get started on building our strength, develop perseverance, and effectively manage addiction like a CEO… It’s important to lay down some fundamentals first.

One of those fundamentals is this: be kind to yourself. Beating yourself up for past mistakes, or not fulfilling on promises you may have made… hinders your progress. (And that’s what we’re after, right? Progress. Evolution. Results.) You may even beat yourself down for making good ol’ fashioned screw ups… in which case, you need to seriously stop it.

Because it’s not about how many times you screw up – that’s not what matters. What matters is how you fix your messes. Be kind to yourself during these times; be gentle with yourself.

That doesn’t mean treating yourself like a precious, fragile snowflake. It means not letting “the dark thoughts” win; the type of thoughts like “I’m no good”, “I can’t do this anymore”, “I’m not going anywhere and I’ll never be anybody.”

Recovery isn’t a process, it’s a ride. What are you going to make of this ride? One of the best ways to start the entire ride is to look at yourself in the mirror, and admit to yourself (out loud): “I have a problem. I will fix it.”

2. Meditate Often

I don’t mean meditate as in sitting cross-legged on the floor, burning incense and patchouli, chanting “Hare Krishna” to the walls. (If that works for you, keep on keeping on.) One of the simplest principles of meditation is focus on your breath. When you mentally put all of your focus on your breath, you’re directly building self-discipline and willpower.

Whether you’ve tried them or not, there’s no denying that short cold showers are a pure (if extreme) and jacked-up way of deep breathing. Jumping in a cold shower every morning is builds self-discipline and willpower. You need tremendous mental strength to stand beneath near-freezing water for a full minute. (As we all know, the more you do something, the more efficiently you perform it.) Practicing this each morning consciously builds up your ability to say “No” whenever you feel like using or drinking.

We’ve talked about mindset and mental focus because it is crucial for effective recovery. When you’re staring at a bottle of Jack, a needle, an eightball, bottle of pills (or whatever your poison is)… your mind is at war with your addiction. Cold showers provide your “mind muscles” with the fundamental strength necessary to refuse taking those different harmful substances.

3. Change Your World

If your friends and family are a bunch of dreamers, who are/were too scared to take opportunities or go after their goals… and always spend their time talking about those goals… Chances are their “stay put” attitude leaks into you. Then you don’t want to go anywhere new, or develop as a human and kick the addiction habit.

When you surround yourself with forward-thinking, positive people who don’t talk about getting their life together… people who don’t mutter their goals under their sad breaths… their “I can do this attitude” rubs off on you. Think about your place in the world. Think about your place in your social world – are your circles full of people who waste no time achieving their goals? Or are they full of people who, beaten by life, prefer zoning out in front of TV all day?

This is why support groups are phenomenal places – you’re surrounding yourself with people who are walking down the dark, lonely alley you are… who have used and abused… and are fighting the good fight towards recovery. Support groups know what you’re going through – and have probably been fighting this battle longer than you, so they might be able to teach you a few things.

4. Only You Can Make It Happen

One of the most important steps you must take to manage your addiction is to keep taking action. Although earlier we talked about the importance of meditation, there’s a popular quote I enjoy: “Movement over meditation.”

Think of meditation as precursor to action. By meditating daily, you put yourself into the “success” mindset and belief system necessary for managing addiction. However, by doing things to manage that addiction, increases twofold the effects of meditation.

One of the most powerful ways to build willpower–no doubt important in denying your poison–is to learn a systematic process. Learning the guitar, for instance, requires intense concentration to remember the chords and keys. (Not to mention powering through painful fingertips.) This concept applies to many things, such as reading for an hour late at night, exercising first thing in the morning, or washing dishes immediately after eating.

5. Keep True

Building healthy lifestyle habits, routines and patterns is important. However, those healthy choices are like home pipes: if you don’t maintain them, they’re going to break. Recovery is not a race, a goal to win or a medal to earn. Not many people will tell you that sobriety is a lifelong process that lasts ‘til the end of our days.

That is why it is crucial to keep improving yourself. Spend an hour or two each day researching for self-improvement articles or books. Knowledge is power, and in this case: having this willpower keeps you sober; in turn, you’re more mentally, spiritually and emotionally strong and wise.

Conclusion

I used to be a heavy alcoholic. I’m both ashamed and not ashamed to admit it. Going through this journey, and using these tips has drastically made me drink a lot less. (I haven’t had a drop in 45 days.) Because of what I learned, instead of blowing half of a $344 paycheque on a bottle of booze, I (happily) spent it with my soul mate; a friend whom I really miss and hadn’t seen in a long time.

That’s what recovery addiction is about: choosing to do something that benefits you on a deeper, more meaningful level; a level that helps you feel finally fulfilled in life. Addiction can never be cured, as research as shown that it’s ingrained in our DNA. Addiction can be managed, however, using the tips (and more) you just read.

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