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Okay, we admit that is an odd way to open this blog entry. But we’re going to turn to the world of racing as a way to think about two approaches to the recovery journey. 

The green flag is out, so it is time to get this blog started.

Are you a fan of auto racing? Even if you aren’t, the odds are pretty good you are familiar with the most common sort of car racing in the United States—the kind in which a field of cars races around a circular (technically, oval) track for a set number of laps. Think of the Daytona 500 or the Indianapolis 500. Whoever completes those laps the fastest is the winner.

You might also be familiar with Formula One racing, an international form of the sport that involves racing on circuits—tracks or street courses that start with a long straightaway but then vary widely from race to race. On a Formula One course, the driver has to deal with many different challenges caused by any given circuit’s twists and turns. It is still about completing the target number of laps first, but the process of doing so looks a lot different than, for example, a typical NASCAR race.

What do these two kinds of racing have to do with recovery from a substance use disorder? We are about to explain. But first, let us offer a disclaimer—a yellow caution flag, if you will.

Sobriety is Not a Competition

This blog post is built around a sports metaphor (listen, we like a good sports metaphor), but we want to be very clear: regaining and maintaining your sobriety is not a competition. Focusing on some notion of winning or losing is counterproductive when it comes to staying sober. We feel so strongly about this idea that we devoted an entire entry to it

Recovery Risk: Always Going in Circles

Here’s a colorful way of describing the racing that happens on many dirt and asphalt tracks around the country: Go until you see God, then turn left.

That is to say, racing on a standard track is about building up speed in the straightaways before skillfully managing a couple of left hand turns to get to the straightaway on the other side of the track. Round and round you go, trying to get to—and stay at— the front of the field.

There is absolutely no doubt that this form of auto racing can yield heaps of excitement. Still and all, when you get right down to it, the drivers are just going around in circles. And in many racing series, that is the primary activity in race after race after race.

When it comes to your recovery journey, running around in metaphorical circles is probably not a good thing. You don’t want to encounter the same challenges time and again. You don’t want to get in a rut. And you don’t want to start taking your sobriety for granted due to the repetitive nature of your approach to recovery. All of those things can lead to a crash in the form of a relapse.

Recovery Reward: Charting a New Course When Necessary

Each race on the Formula One circuit presents its own unique challenges and opportunities. Of course, the drivers draw on a wealth of skill, talent, and practice in each competition, but they also have to be open to whatever makes a given track unique. They have to be prepared to make adjustments, to improvise, and to make quality decisions under pressure.

That is more akin to an effective approach to recovery. You will want to have a firm grip on the fundamentals of maintaining sobriety—a good diet, regular exercise, restful sleep, mindfulness, and more—but you will also want to be nimble and open to new experiences. When a recovery strategy that has worked well for you seems to be working less well, it is time to make an adjustment. When an unexpected challenge pops up, you have to be prepared to address it in a way that protects your sobriety. When you turn a tight corner, you have to be prepared for what you might find—including unexpected joys and surprises. 

You still need to stay on the sobriety track, but thinking of your race as more flexible, more surprising, and potentially more joyful is the right way to head toward the checkered flag.

Struggling With Drugs or Alcohol? Race Over to French Creek

At French Creek Recovery Center in Meadville, PA, we are committed to providing personalized care for substance use disorders and the mental health disorders that frequently accompany them. Our approach is grounded in evidence, expertise, experience, and empathy. If you are struggling with drugs or alcohol, the time to start your race toward recovery is right now. Don’t wait another moment.