I’m the twenty second from the left, roughly half way down. shoot, there goes my anonymity…

there are a hell of a lot of addicted people out there. alcohol, drugs (prescription or otherwise), nicotine, gambling, food, sugar, Facebook…. the list is tragically long. perhaps that’s why there are so many recovery methods that even after nearly 17 months of sobriety I keep coming across new ones. here’s one I’ve come across recently that is really interesting:

The Recovery Book, by Catherine Dold, Al Mooney MD, and Howard Eisenberg. website here. what i found particularly gripping about it was what they call their Recovery Zone System. you can find more detail on it here, but the basics are:

‘Over many years of treating alcoholics and addicts, Dr. Al saw that two issues were messing up recovery for many people:

  • One, people in early recovery often had no idea how much time and energy they would have to focus on recovery activities.
  • Two, people with many years of recovery sometimes lost their focus on these activities as the years passed.

Both of these situations, he saw, all too often led to a downward spiral that put people at high risk of relapse. So he developed the Recovery Zone System.

The Recovery Zone System is a simple structural framework, a road map for the rest of your life in recovery. It gives you clear guidelines on when and how you should address the various areas of your life — treatment, support fellowship activities, relationships, education, career, finances, travel, hobbies, recreation, and health — now that you are in recovery and looking to put your life back on track. It helps you to know when you are ready to move forward in each of those areas. And it helps you to see when you might need to move backward for a bit, in order to avoid a relapse. The Recovery Zone System greatly strengthens the concept of “living in recovery.” 

The Recovery Zone System divides your life in recovery into three distinct zones: 
  • The Red Zone: Stop. Activate your recovery. For your first eighteen months* or more of recovery, you need to focus first and foremost on saving your life. Nothing else is as important. Nothing.
  • The Yellow Zone: Proceed with caution. Build your life. Once you have a solid eighteen months or more of sobriety, you will move into the Yellow Zone, where you can put your energy into building (or rebuilding) the life you deserve and making your existence more fulfilling.
  • The Green Zone: Go. Celebrate your life. After you have a few solid years of sobriety behind you, and you have rebuilt your life, you will move into the Green Zone. Then it will be time to celebrate your life. You will focus on what you can do to live as long as you can, and also how you can help others find the gift of recovery. ‘

there are even more detailed breakdowns of how to approach different aspects of your life – relationships, for example – in this PDF.

the other great thing about this system is that it promotes a monthly what it calls Zone ReCheck to see whether you are undergoing any life stresses that could put you at risk of relapse. if so, you get to go back a Zone, to re-focus on your recovery.

and look – there are bracelets, too!

as ex-boozers we have a history of impatience. of wanting to change a feeling NOW with a drink, rather than waiting for it to pass, or finding another way of helping it on its way. and we can be impatient too with other aspects of our lives, whether it is our career, relationships, weight, fitness, finances, relationship with food, whathaveyou.

and of COURSE sometimes it is not entirely up to us. the boss or the bank or the boyfriend can set their own timeframes, too.

but having read this, at 17 months, let alone if I had 17 days, my reaction was astonishment followed in swift succession by utter relief.

and the message I get from this, and that I want to pass on to you, whether you are three days, three months, or three years sober, is this:

it is all right to slow the fuck down. 

we want to fly, right now, and it is easy to forget that we are still just baby turtles.

the world is a wonderful place, full of delights. let’s take it easy out there, people.

all good things come to the tiny turtle who waits!

* did you think, “bloody HELL, EIGHTEEN MONTHS?!” yes, that’s what I thought too.