You’ll have no shortage of advice about what to do in recovery. People will tell you to eat right, exercise, go to meetings, work the steps, make new friends, get plenty of sleep, and the list goes on. Most of this is no doubt good advice, especially if it comes from someone you trust, like a doctor, therapist, sponsor, or just someone who is strong in recovery. The problem is that you can’t do everything at once. If you try, you might just get overwhelmed and make no meaningful changes at all. The important thing is to figure out what your priorities are and focus on those, excluding other things if necessary.
This is easier said than done. For one, you may not be sure about what’s most important for your recovery. This can take a bit of reflection and maybe some help from your therapist or group. These priorities should be whatever is most likely to be a weak point for you. For example, if you are susceptible to social pressure, you should make a special effort to be around sober, positive people and avoid anyone who might tempt you to use. If your drinking or drug use was motivated by depression, you have to get that depression under control. Perfecting your diet can wait.
Another impediment to focusing on essentials is other people will want you to accept their priorities. It might be family responsibilities, work stress, pressure from old friends, or even well intentioned advice from others in recovery. Not all of this is necessarily bad, but you may have to make a special effort to put first things first. It’s hard to say no to your friends, family, and colleagues–especially your boss–but if you don’t protect your recovery the rest of it won’t matter.
A final challenge is that most of the elements of a successful recovery are interconnected. For example, if you are trying to control your depression, it helps to exercise, eat right, and spend time with positive, supportive people. One way to deal with this dilemma is to identify keystone habits. These are habits that improve other habits automatically. For example, regular exercise tends to make people eat healthier without even trying. The more you can simplify your priorities, the better your chances of success.
Inpatient treatment is a good place to start this process. You can try some different things and learn about yourself in a safe environment, with the help of specialists. You can leave at the end of your stay with a clear plan for recovery. If treatment isn’t an option, consider going to 90 meetings in 90 days. It’s a simple, quantifiable goal that will likely have unintended benefits. From there, you will have a better idea what to focus on.