As spring comes around each year and the daffodils and crocuses start to blossom, I always feel a sense of hope emerge. Spring brings color to life — the days are longer and brighter and the air feels warmer. After a winter of darkness and hibernation, I love the increased energy I feel in spring.
Much like spring cleaning — the practice of cleaning, decluttering, and airing your home after the stuffiness of winter — spring is also an opportunity to look to other parts of your life that might need refreshing, like your recovery and self-care routine. You can refocus, find new ways to support yourself, and reprioritize what is important to you.
Changing up recovery routines shouldn’t be feared.
Over my (nearly) eight years of recovery, my needs have changed significantly. In the early years, I needed structure, routine, a program of recovery, accountability, community, and helpful outlets. As I progressed, however, my priorities changed: While I still needed community and processing, I also needed more flexibility, autonomy, creativity, the freedom to pursue interests, and a desire to learn and expand my mind.
Initially, it felt scary to change things in my recovery. Especially because we’re so often told that we shouldn’t change what’s working. I’d argue that there is nothing wrong or to be feared about trying something new. Also, if something doesn’t feel right — if it’s unsettling or restrictive in any way — it might be a sign to try something different.
You might have found that, just like winter, recovery has felt a little stagnant. You may have withdrawn from your usual meetings, not exercised as much as in the summer months, and spent more time in front of the TV hibernating. And those things are great — they help us to rest over the winter period — but as your energy increases in the spring, it’s an opportunity to freshen things up and breathe new life into your recovery.
Initially, it felt scary to change things in my recovery. Especially because we’re so often told that we shouldn’t change what’s working. I’d argue that there is nothing wrong or to be feared about trying something new.
I remember when I first moved to America and felt the need for a huge change in my recovery. I’d moved for a better life, to pursue my dreams, and to start over. It felt incongruent that I’d also carry over a recovery that wasn’t working for me. My recovery felt stagnant. I was drained by sitting in church basements listening to sad stories. I needed to refresh my recovery and bring life to it again.
I realized that having left all of my friends in England, I no longer had a reason to go to AA or meetings. I wasn’t gelling with the program and it felt overly punitive and restrictive. So I decided to attend Refuge Recovery and stop going to AA. Just that small change felt like breathing in an expanse of fresh air. It was just what I needed and it also gave me the confidence to continue to explore other recovery options.
I decided to start therapy and that became my main program of recovery. The irritation I’d felt listening to an old book being read, or people moaning about things I could no longer relate to, was replaced by someone really seeing me and helping me process what I’d been unable to resolve in a 12-step program — namely, my complex PTSD and relational difficulties. I finally started to find some healing and I began to feel like a whole new world opened up for me. It was like I’d just walked into spring.
I’m not suggesting that you make a bold change like me — it was pretty drastic to move to a new continent with a limited support structure. But I am suggesting that there are ways to add more color and vibrancy to your recovery.
Ideas to spring clean your recovery:
- Try a new meeting. Even if you really like your current meeting, see attending a different meeting as an opportunity to see how other mutual-aid groups recover, and to make new friends. With your new-found knowledge. you may be able to help someone who is struggling to gel with the meeting you regularly attend and you can make a suggestion to try something different.
- Check out online meetings, classes, and challenges. You might find this change in routine gives you a different perspective and frees up some of your time without having to travel to and from an in-person meeting. If you don’t attend meetings, there could be another online recovery support you could try. I no longer attend meetings but wanted something new, so I took Tommy Rosen’s 14-day morning practice and it was like a breath of fresh air.
- Take an inventory. I’m not talking about writing a step four here; rather, I am suggesting that you sit with yourself and consider if your recovery is working for you.
- How does your body feel when you think about the ways in which you support your recovery?
- Does it feel like there are areas in which you want to grow?
- Are you experiencing difficulties in your relationships?
- Are there certain behaviors that have been troubling you?
- Have you been meaning to try a new meditation group or yoga class but haven’t gotten around to it?
- Have some things that were initially helpful to your recovery — like a morning practice — fallen off the radar?
- How does your body feel? Do you feel comfortable and strong? Or would you like to improve your overall fitness and energy levels to support your overall well-being?
- Recommit. If you have found some areas missing in your recovery and self-care, take the opportunity to renew your commitment to investing in yourself. That might mean trying something new, reinstating a morning practice, finding a therapist, or exploring a new spiritual practice.
Recovery should be fluid, not rigid. It needs to bend, wax, and wane to our changing needs. Change shouldn’t be feared — it should be celebrated. Take spring as an opportunity to get out of hibernation and bring the fresh air and lightness of spring into your recovery.