100 Tips for Building a Great Life after Addiction

Timmy and Me at Khao Khitchakut

I have written hundreds of blog posts about my new life since giving up alcohol eight years ago. It’s been an incredible journey so far with amazing highs and some extreme lows. I’m still here, and I’m a much happier, calmer, and far more serene individual than I was when I started. Here are my 100 tips for building a great life following addiction:

1. Learn to follow to your intuition
2. Expect to change your beliefs and opinions on a regular basis
3. Hold onto your beliefs lightly, and abandon them when they stop being useful
4. Understand that every belief limits you in some way, so you need to choose your beliefs carefully
5. Overcome negative inner-dialogue by developing self-compassion
6. Accept that you are probably never going to get answers to the big questions in life, but you can learn to love the mystery
7. Stop trying to resist your feelings because this is the real source of your pain
8. Understand that the most effective thing you can do to change the world is to change your perspective
9. Don’t expect special treatment from the universe
10. Don’t use your history of addiction as an excuse for behaving badly
11. Understand that being grateful for what you already have is the path to real happiness
12. Be prepared to leave your comfort zone on a regular basis because this is the only way you can ever reach your potential
13. Stop saying ‘should’ because this word is too often just a way to make yourself feel bad
14. If you want other people to think you are great person, tell them how great they are and not how great you are
15. Be skeptical about your own beliefs and opinions but don’t see it as your job to change the beliefs and opinions of other people
16. Don’t judge other people too harshly – none of us asked to be here
17. Understand that there is no ‘right way’ to recover from addiction
18. Don’t take yourself too seriously
19. Try to do at least one good deed every day, as this can be like planting positive karma seeds that will ripen in the future
20. Do not allow relapse to be an option in your life because otherwise staying sober will be a struggle
21. If you want to be forgiven for you past mistakes, you need to be willing to forgive other people
22. Offer yourself the same level of compassion as you would give to a good friend
23. Understand that it can be comforting to pray even if you don’t believe in a God
24. Be extremely cynical when reading about any ‘cure’ for addiction
25. In order to fully commit to recovery, you must completely let go of the idea of ever being able to drink or use drugs again in the future
26. Thinking can be the source of most of our problems, so stop trying to think your way out of problems
27. Take up a practice like mindfulness so you can become less of a slave to your thoughts
28. Follow your passions because your motivation will be high enough to achieve amazing results
29. If your life feels like it is getting harder, it means you need to make some changes
30. Judge your progress in life by the amount of time you spend thinking about other people (being critical of them doesn’t count)
31. Understand resentment only ever hurts you
32. Be careful around memories because there is a tendency to glamourize the past
33. Accept that most of your limitations in life have been put there by you
34. Consider the worst case scenario – by figuring out how you could survive this, it allows you to approach the future with less fear
35. Don’t expect life to make sense or to be always fair
36. Understand that the most anyone can ever expect of you is for you to do your best
37. Remember you can never be a loser so long as you keep trying
38. Try practicing loving-kindness (metta) meditation for a few months if you suffer due to self-loathing and a negative inner-dialogue
39. Don’t waste time defending your beliefs and opinions because it easily lead to dogmatism and rigid thinking – don’t take your beliefs so personally
40. Eat well because this has a huge impact on your energy levels, mood, and general sense of well-being
41. Try to exercise every day because this boosts your energy levels, mood, and general sense of well-being
42. Keep a journal (or start blogging) because this can lead to amazing insights and it allows you to track your progress
43. Understand that it is okay to be just normal – you don’t have to achieve anything special for you to be a special human being
44. Realize all humans are in the same boat – we all have it tough at times
45. If you don’t have something good to say about a person or situation, it might be best to say nothing at all
46. Sometimes the best thing you can do is not say what is on the tip of your tongue
47. Treat life in recovery as an amazing journey that is going to have many unexpected twists and turns
48. Know that the hardest days can be the ones that benefit you the most
49. Often what the universe gives you is much better than what you originally wanted, but you may not see this if you are too focused on your original goal
50. Understand that the bravest thing you can do is to be vulnerable and open about your feelings and fears
51. Know that you can only experience love to the extent that you are willing to be hurt – you can’t protect your heart from pain and experience the fullness of love
52. Treat life like a gift and rediscover the wonder of a child
53. Be careful not to self-handicap – this is where you don’t try your best because you don’t want to try your best and fail
54. If your mood is low you need to avoid the tendency to isolate – the last thing you need is to be alone with your thoughts
55. Don’t just dismiss stuff because of what the skeptics say – if something works for you, this is all that matters (so long as it is not harming other people)
56. Understand that you don’t have to defend the stuff that works for you unless you are trying to promote it to other people
57. Realize that you don’t need to have an opinion about everything – for most things, the best response might be ‘I don’t know’
58. Accept that all humans have their flaws, just like you, but try to have compassion for them anyway
59. Don’t follow a spiritual path in the hope of becoming a different person, but instead follow this path to learn more about who you are
60. Learn from other people, but try not to put them on too high a pedestal
61. Accept that the answers you find for dealing with life’s problems might not work for other people
62. Don’t just dismiss the magical – the fact that we are here at all is magical in itself
63. Be careful of people who never seem to change their beliefs and opinions
64. Always listen to any criticism carefully to see if there is anything you can learn from it
65. Never say ‘it’s the just the way I am’
66. Be mindful of the words you use – try to use positive words because this can improve your mood and energy levels
67. Accept praise because this can boost your energy levels so you can achieve more
68. Say ‘sorry’ as soon as you can after you have behaved badly
69. Focus on the part you have played in a bad situation rather than trying to pass the blame onto other people – maybe you will learn something that is going to benefit you in the future
70. If you feel overwhelmed by racing thoughts, try to focus on the sensations being created in your body rather than the actual thoughts
71. Don’t be too proud of your intelligence – it could be your greatest liability
72. Philosophers have been arguing about the existence of free will for centuries, and there might never be an answer to this puzzle, but it is best to act as if you have free will
73. Even if you don’t believe the universe sends problems your way to teach you valuable lessons, it is better to act as if this is the case
74. Remember that positive action is far more likely to get results than magical thinking
75. If you feel overcome by worry, start taking action to solve the problem – even if the action you take doesn’t lead to a solution, you will feel better for being active
76. Understand that if you allow worry to overcome your thinking, it will sap your motivation, cloud your thinking, and increase the likelihood of things getting worse
77. Realize that most upset occurs because things don’t turn out the way we expect them too – unfortunately (or fortunately) things hardly ever turn out as we expect them too
78. Understand that the things that annoy you most about other people can tell you a lot about yourself
79. If you expect things to turn out badly, you can create the conditions for them to turn out badly (clever people refer to this as a self-fulfilling prophecy)
80. Be careful because we regularly mishear things or misinterpret things – appreciate that a lot of the information in your brain may be flawed
81. Don’t be too surprised if some of the worst days in your life occur after you get sober – it almost seems as if the universe is able to recognize your improved ability to handle stuff by sending you harder challenges
82. See your goals as just something to aim for and don’t get too obsessed by them – the journey could take you to somewhere even better if you let it
83. Understand that the first step to getting back on track in life is to admit that you are lost
84. If you want to enjoy a better life, spend more time helping other people
85. Don’t set higher standards for other people than you have for yourself
86. Remember that you are going to die and use this thought to motivate you to get the most out of each day
87. Always be willing to forgive yourself after you mess up
88. Focus on learning from your mistakes rather than beating yourself up
89. Learn to accept your past because it was needed to get you where you are today
90. Remember to sometimes laugh at the absurdity of life
91. Treat each day like a new start
92. Understand that the best you can do to make up for your past mistakes is to be a better person today
93. Do daily activities where you are focused on your body rather than your thoughts
94. Appreciate that life is already enough – nothing special has to happen for you to be happy
95. If religion gives your life meaning then this is a special gift but don’t push it on people
96. Don’t just dismiss other people’s feelings, beliefs, or experience because you think you know better – you probably don’t
97. Be careful of ‘black and white’ solutions to the problems in the world
98. Don’t demonize other people because they think differently than you – we are all working with the cards life has dealt us
99. Don’t pretend to be ‘super-spiritual’ or a ‘holy-joe’ because ultimately trying to be something you are not is the path to misery
100. Try to treat every person and every situation as a potential teacher

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7 thoughts on “100 Tips for Building a Great Life after Addiction

  1. Most of this – maybe all – seems to be pretty good advice generally. I think “Hold onto your beliefs lightly” is, for example, important for everyone (he says, thereby proving that he holds this belief tightly, not lightly). Given the thousands of different ways in which people have understood the world, the chance of my worldview being ‘right’ is vanishingly small – either many seemingly competing worldivews are right, in which case being right is not much of a big deal, or I am almost certainly wrong, in which case the fact the other people don’t share my beliefs isn’t really an excuse for me to jump on my high horse and start behaving as if everyone who isn’t wrong in exactly the same way as me is an arsehole. You can’t stop yourself from having beliefs about the world but you can change how you hold them and, especially for those of us who live in a society where the majority of people have beliefs which are radically different from those of our birth/home countries, I think a little bit of humility in this regard would be a very good idea.

    1. Hi Dan, I definitely agree that most of this stuff applies to everyone. Humility in regards to our beliefs is definitely key. I need to be skeptical of my own beliefs, but it is not my job to fix the beliefs of other people. Once I understood that my own beliefs and opinions are so often wrong, it has made me more cautious about dismissing the beliefs and opinions of other people.

  2. This is an excellent list, even if we just choose 5 or 10 to commit to memory. I love your podcasts and find them very helpful. Keep up the great work!

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