Ensuring Your Victory: Your Morning Strategy of Success

There are largely two types of people who navigate Vicodin recovery. The first group spends a large percentage of their time swimming through Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS), rising out of bed each morning with the sole intent on making it through the day without relapsing. This was how I lived my life in early recovery before relapsing multiple times.

Then there are the other folks. These are the ones you see on television, radio programs, in churches and running marathons. They are often the recovering addicts that run our outpatient support groups and it isn’t until they share their story that we realize that they lost everything to addictions at one time. They say they are happier now and you look at them and it is obvious they mean it. It’s in their clear, bright and focused eyes. Not only do they serve as an example to others on how to live a joyous life, but they often coach and mentor others who never even experienced painkiller addiction (we all know it isn’t only people in recovery trudging through life). What they have is something everyone wants: happiness and strength from within and a voracious appetite to appreciate life, set goals and serve others along the way who haven’t caught the gift yet, but will with the right mindset. If you aren’t already one of those who “get it”, you will be. Trust yourself.

There is one time of day when the table is set and the meal that will be your day is served: Morning time. You can have your day served on an aluminum T.V. dinner tray month after month while you play out the same inner dynamic ad nauseam. Or you can truly feast on a different lifestyle, a medley of various tastes and textures each and every day. You are the one setting the table. At no other point in the day is your path more fully determined than when you first arise in the morning. Sure, you can correct course along the way if faced with destructive attitudes, but it is much more difficult once your mind is already populated with wrong thoughts if that’s what it was fed first thing in the morning. Your mind is a crisp and clean vessel just waiting to receive its marching orders for the day. This crucial point in the day can be summed up perfectly:

24 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out.

25 And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished.

26 Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.

Luke 11: 24-26

This passage is brilliant in the manner in which it applies to opiate addiction. As we know, addiction is progressive, usually each relapse worse and more devastating than the first. After the initial stage of recovery, the physical withdrawal, often one is left with a vacuum of sorts, an empty void which was previously filled with the obsession explained in my “What is the 4th Voice?” link: Obtaining the Vicodin and having it close to you at all times, the attempt to function on it in various doses, the running out and fear of the dreaded opiate withdrawal, etc. Once those time-consuming activities no longer fuel your entire thought process, the task at hand is to fill that inner void and with a mental landscape quickly but with quality energy, so when you find yourself in the midst of a moment of weakness, you don’t relapse. However, if you do, you will have the mental fortitude to get the heck back up right away and keep going, lest you relapse “seven times worse than the previous time”:

Let’s take a look at the following two scenarios:

Alarm goes off: Waking up, Gabe warily takes stock of how he feels physically and takes a mental note: no headache, upset stomach or achy joints, all systems seem to be in working order. To be on the safe side, he reaches over and hits snooze twice before he is sure it is safe to get up, taking in those precious few moments. Arising precariously, Gabe looks around and wonders when this Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) is going to end, as it has been 4 months of sobriety and he still moves slowly, in a slight fog and spends most of his days just “getting through”. The threat of relapse hangs in the shadows. He makes a note to call his therapist as soon as he gets to work to talk more about his problems and whatever is still getting me down.”. He has his coffee and watches the news, noticing the nice weather outside.

Walking out of the door 45 minutes later, Gabe grabs a $5 bill off the table and checks his watch, planning to go through the drive-through at Dunkin Donuts to grab a bagel and a coffee. Still focused on his problems, he quickly walks by the elderly neighbor who has been widowed for years and while giving a quick smile, he prays the senior citizen won’t want to chat him up about the day’s weather or talk about his dog again. Maybe sometime he will have time for the guy, but not now. There is simply no time.

I also experienced that emptiness and decided if I was ever going to get through this without relapsing again, I was going to have to change what I was doing. Here is what I did:

Refusing to be jarred out of bed another day, I changed my clock to the type that had tropical sounds, ocean waves, or for those who are deep sleepers, chimes or really anything you like. That’s what they made volume for. Adjust it according to how you prefer to be woken up. Clocks are an inexpensive but overlooked tool, as it is literally the very first sound we often experience each day. Then, to ward off that early morning headache that haunted me even months after acute physical withdrawal, I had a piece of wheat toast or anything healthy that my stomach could handle that delivered glucose and minimal calories to keep me light for my walk. I had this along with my morning cup of coffee, which I must admit, I will never give up, as I enjoy a great cup of coffee tremendously. Then I had some water to get ready for my walk or filled a water bottle if it was warm and off I went with my iPod.

I got in the habit of starting my day early with a 30 minute walk. Unless the weather was miserable outside, in which case I stayed in and started my day reading or enjoyed the extra half hour of sleep, I looked forward to a walk every day. I listened to my iPod that I had loaded with interesting talks, sermons, psychology, meditative music and anything else uplifting and spiritual. The trick here is to start the day this way and I consider it key to setting the tone for the day. So many wonderful podcasts I enjoy on my device are all free and downloadable on i-Tunes. If you do not have an mp3 player or money is an issue, amazon.com has some good refurbished ones for little money that work perfectly for your goal. Refurbished is the way to go for our purpose here; you just need an iPod that will handle a few hours’ worth of listening.

In just 30 minutes you have aided your body in synthesizing depression-fighting vitamin D, got some exercise, kick-started your metabolism and put your mind in a state that handles situations better and is less reactionary. Some quiet mornings after that first snowstorm or a beautiful warm and peaceful a.m., perhaps you may find yourself having a quiet walking meditation in order to visualize your goals or just listen to the early sounds of an awakening world. Listen to that inner voice and follow its lead now that you have begun to start your days in alignment with God and create your own plan according to what works for you.

After 30 minutes I came home showered or if you were prescribed Vicodin like I was for severe joint pain, a hot bath on the weekends for muscle stiffness will do wonders. In order to aid the endorphins, I added Capsaicin Topical Cream. Just a quick mention: if you are not familiar with this medicated cream for joint pain, you must read the instructions very carefully, or you will find yourself with an extremely uncomfortable burning sensation. Although it may burn the first few times you apply it, eventually it doesn’t cause much discomfort at all, in my opinion.

After a quick shower on a work morning, 15 minutes with another coffee and my Bible and beautiful cats sealed the deal. My day was all set. Of course, it would be out of boundaries to say your 15 minutes must be the Bible. Enjoy whatever it is you like to read that is uplifting, preferably spiritual and continues to fortify your peace, keeping your inner voice front and center before you commence with your daily routine. Avoid newspapers, celebrity magazines, violent literature, anything that lowers your spiritual level or emotional intelligence and pulls you away from the goal of inner peace in the morning. The rest of the day is open if that is what you choose to do. At times if I had more time or it was a weekend I always watch someone like Joyce Meyers on television. What works for me won’t always work for you, but the effect should be the same…morning inner peace.

Like Gabe above, in the early days of recovery, saying hello was sometimes an effort. But looking others in the eye and petting their dog with a big smile even if I was in a rush didn’t mean I had to stop and dissect the Middle East peace process. It just asserted the humanity and courtesy among citizens and continued to set the positive tone for my day. On my drive to work I always had at least one good audiobook to listen to so I was engrossed in something interesting for my ride and my mind wasn’t wandering toward Vicodin, where it definitely didn’t belong. Simply Audiobooks is the audiobook club I belong to, but there are many to choose from. There are audiobooks about mysteries, philosophy, health, thrillers, political, spirituality, psychology and some of the best motivational speakers of our time like Brian Tracy, Tony Robbins and others. Again, if finances are tight for you, there are libraries that have large selections. There is no reason to channel surf and listen to mind junk any more! Most towns and cities belong to a network so you have a good selection. Books on tape used to be poorly narrated and highly abridged, making it a bit of a lowbrow experience. That is not the case now, they are almost always exactly the same as the book, just in audio format.

Bagels, donuts and anything like that was tossed from my breakfast menu. Those foods don’t belong in our diet because they don’t aid in our input of clean, quality energy into our systems. Luckily, I have always had good eating habits, so this was not hard to do. I would have something on the order of nuts mixed with dried cranberries and spring water for the drive up for a healthy light feel versus something heavy and void of nutrition. For those who try to avoid overuse of plastic bottles, it is also something I try to avoid, so I just had tap or filtered water in a tall travel cup. Very simple and served its purpose of hydration, protein, fiber, nutrition and portability for convenience. So there I was enjoying my morning wake up and also my morning ride in. The vessel in pristine working order.

It may sound like this strategy takes a long time to accomplish in the morning, but it doesn’t. It shouldn’t take much more than an hour or so. Alternatively, much time is wasted hitting snooze three times each morning to avoid waking up to boredom and dread. Since my mind was engaged most of the time with rich and dynamic stimuli, I had less time to focus on what in my life was still unsatisfactory to me. There was still plenty that needed to get ironed out in my world. But, to my delightful surprise, the journey really wasn’t half bad and I built a lot dignity, wisdom and character along the way that propped me up many times over the next year during many trying times. Certainly, we do have to focus on what factors drove us to our Vicodin abuse, but it isn’t necessary (counter-productive actually) to spend so much time mired in the negative that you disregard the powerful blessings you do have. As the cliche goes, “It’s the journey, not the destination” The void often felt during those first months of recovery was there, sure, but I had an ally finally: Myself. I was a notoriously cranky person in the morning but no more, I actually love most mornings. They are not always easy at first, recovery is tough those first few months, but the difference is profound and make no mistake, being grateful for the open vessel you have each morning to live in victory is absolutely priceless in our walk in recovery.