• The Balancing Act: Making Time for Work, Play, Recovery and Relationships
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    The Balancing Act: Making Time for Work, Play, Recovery and Relationships

    When we get sober, we want to create lives for ourselves that are conducive to recovery. One way that we do this is by trying to maintain balance in our lives. When thinking about balance, consider a four-sided teeter-totter: One corner is work, one is play, one is recovery, and one is relationships. This is a visual image that will help you keep things in balance. When any one aspect of this teeter-totter gets overly weighed down, the balance will be off and other aspects of your life will suffer. Once you have completed addiction treatment and are working through your sober recovery, take a look at the four aspects of your life and use this image as a way to regain balance in your life.

    Time for Work

    We all need to be productive—whether we are paid or not. We derive our sense of purpose, in a large way, from our work or what we do, and therefore, this is a necessary part of a balanced life. Whether the work is paid or volunteer, in the home or out of the home, it warrants a place in our life.

    While work is important, in our culture we sometimes place too much value on work productivity, at the expense of other areas of our lives. As alcoholics and addicts, who tend to be as compulsive about everything in life as we were about alcohol or our drug of choice. We have to be careful not to become compulsive about work–so consumed with productivity that we neglect the relationships and rest or relaxation areas of our lives. Sobriety requires that we maintain a sense of serenity and equanimity in thought and actions, and this balance cannot be achieved or maintained when all one is doing is working.

    Time for Play

    An important aspect of sobriety is emotional balance and well-being. Taking time out to simply play is an important aspect of that well-being. We needn’t spend our sober lives feeling deprived of any joy. And we need time to just let off steam. Getting sober does not mean that we abandon joy. In fact, sobriety allows us to experience joy on a larger level, without the associated pain and remorse that our “recreational” drinking and drug using inevitably brought. Have you considered finding an addiction recovery therapist to help you through some of the emotional changes your sobriety brings? What hobbies bring you happiness? What sparks your creativity? Make an effort to explore those things in your sobriety.

    Time for Recovery

    Alcoholism and addiction are but symptoms of our illness. If all we do is take away our drink or drug of choice, we will still be left with the biggest aspect of our illness, and that is our soul sickness–the emotional hole in our gut. Introspection may have been something that we scoffed at before, but we find that the time we put into examining our life and our choices is time well-spent in recovery. Through introspection and an exploration of new, healthy ways to heal ourselves, we slowly become the person we wish to be, and with that comes a sense of peace.

    Time for Relationships

    Good relationships don’t just happen. They require our attention and commitment. Having a quality experience of sobriety and a quality life require quality relationships, and we have a big part in making those happen. As active alcoholics and addicts, we were very focused on our own happiness (or misery). We rarely thought of others because we were consumed with our illness. The emotional aspect of sobriety means that we become aware of the effect we have on others, and we strive to make those important relationships reflect the value we place in them. At a basic level, this means spending quality time with the people you care about. It means putting down the electronics, and completely immersing yourself in relating to to others and enjoying the experiences of your life. It means really listening and really sharing. If we invest in our relationships, we will see benefits in all areas of our lives and in our sense of personal satisfaction.

    Actively working to create balance in our lives is a wonderful tool for building a joyful life. As with other tools of recovery, use your efforts to maintain balance as a way to add to the quality of your life, and not as a reason to beat up on yourself.


    P. G. McGraw is a 30+ year sober alcoholic, writer, blogger and “joyfully rebellious heretic and mystic.”  She enjoys learning about Eastern and Indigenous Religions and applying that knowledge to her spiritual recovery. A former attorney, McGraw has a certificate as a chemical dependency counselor assistant and has worked as a sponsor, helping many people in the recovery process over the years.

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