They say the best things in life are free, but that’s not really true. Anything worth having in life takes time and practice. This is especially true in recovery.

I’ve heard the expression that staying sober is like “walking up a down escalator.” If you are staying still, you are actually falling behind. I find a lot of truth in that.

Learning new skills and tools is very similar. It takes maintenance to keep the blade sharp. The upside however is that learning these skills will improve your recovery, your life and overall make you a better person.

1 – Show Empathy

I struggle with this.

When people relapse and lie and it is very difficult not to take it personally. A lie is a lie when you really look at it.

But was I any different? Wasn’t I a liar and a cheater and a thief when I was using drugs? Would I actually be where I am now if it weren’t for the dozens of people who helped me?

Of course not. Having and showing empathy for people and looking past the mistakes they have made is an amazing characteristic. Try your best not to take things personally, and try to act out of love and not out of fear.

RELATED: 7 Signs Your Friend May Be Headed Toward A Relapse

2 – Good Sleep Habits

I am sooooo jealous of people who are on a good sleep schedule. For me, and for a lot of people I know, shutting the brain off at night can be a real struggle.

The importance of sleep has been proven over and over again in studies. You need to sleep. Moreso, your body and mind work best when on a consistent sleep regimen.

Establishing a ritual can help. For instance, come 11 o’clock, I put down the computer, I put my phone on the charger and I read in bed. Maybe it’s a magazine or a book or graphic novel (Walking Dead) but this really helps me.

It takes the responsibility off of me “trying” to fall asleep. My mind slips into the book and before I know it I’m out.

On nights where I stay up till 3 working, or watching TV – those are rough mornings and translate into rough days.

3 – Discipline In Thought And Action

Have you ever read “The Book Of 5 Rings?”musashi

If not, I recommend it. The book was written by Miyamoto Musashi, who was an expert Japanese Swordsman and a ronin. Some proclaim him to be the world’s greatest warrior.

In the book he emphasises different skill sets and tactics. The underlying message in the entire book is excellence.

No matter how big or small, nothing should ever be given less that your very best. Discipline in time management, cleanliness, hygiene, craftsmanship, spirituality and language. To conquer these small battles is really a means to conquer yourself.

Understanding yourself and your place in the world is maybe the greatest benefit of recovery. Discipline will create mastery of self, and mastery of self is a skill that will transform your sobriety and your life.

4 – Knowing When To Keep Your Mouth Shut

Here is a quick checklist I use on a daily basis.

  1. Does it need to be said?
  2. Does it need to be said right now?
  3. Does it need to be said by me?

We know we know… you are smart. You have all the answers. If only people would listen to you the world would be so much better off.

Not really.

Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all. Knowing when to speak up and when to stay quiet is a skill. Unfortunately, the only way to learn this skill is through experience.

The point is, be mindful of people’s reactions. Always be looking to improve.

If you constantly tell people what they “need” to do in their recovery, they will resent you. But if you listen more than you speak, you can be of great service to people and people will learn to respect and appreciate your suggestions!

5 – Be True To Your Word

I touched on this in a recent article entitled 4 Qualities You Should Look For In A Sponsor, but it’s important enough that it is worth repeating.

Keeping your word is the ultimate sign of good character. There are two reasons people don’t keep their word.

  1. They are afraid to tell people the truth – For instance, you don’t want someone to know what you are doing so you tell them a lie. Although you are keeping a secret, you are burning a bridge. No Dice.
  2. They are afraid to tell people no – There is nothing wrong with the word no. Avoid being a people pleaser. If you are unable to keep a commitment, then don’t make the commitment. Saying no is always better than saying yes and not following through on your word.

Learning to hold yourself accountable and learning to say no are two very important skills to learn in recovery. You can’t please everyone. Ironically, even when we try to please everyone, we end up letting people down.

Protect your word at all costs. It will pay off!

6 – Managing Your Time

There’s only 24 hours in the day. (well actually 23 hours 56 minutes and 4.1 seconds, but who’s counting?)

Balancing your life is paramount to maintaining a healthy recovery. Like it or not, maintaining your sobriety takes time out of your day.

Things like eating, exercising, relaxing, working, step work, recreation, family time and alone time, it all adds up. If you are unable to manage your time you will find your life unbalanced.

When I am unbalanced is when I am most discontent, and these moments bring the highest risk for relapse.

At the end of the day, staying sober is most important. It all comes down to prioritizing, and if you are all over the place with your time you will find your priorities are out of sorts as well.

Treat time like a resource. It needs to be valued and spent wisely.

RELATED: Living One Day At A Time In Recovery

7 – Knowing How To Ask For Help

asking for help

I knowwwwww…. asking for help sucks.

I’m the kind of guy where I won’t even ask for help to bring groceries in. You will find me carrying 30 bags in each hand, a bag of dog food around my neck, and possibly a pack of water bottles balancing on my head. I make it to the front door and realize that I still need to figure out how to get my keys out of my pocket.

It’s a struggle.

Groceries are one thing, sobriety is life and death.

If you are struggling with your sobriety, you need to learn how to ask for help. It is better this way. If we all help each other then in turn we all improve as a unit. I find that to be very beautiful.

If you need help, just ask. You will be surprised how many people are willing to help you without judgement or expectation for reciprocity.

8- Consistency

It is the hardest part of this whole deal.

Sobriety is a lifelong journey. You can’t get sober all at once. You can’t crash diet sobriety or stock up on sobriety for the week.

This is part of why sobriety requires such honesty. You can’t cheat. There are no shortcuts. It is about doing a little bit every day, for the rest of your life.

Learning how to be consistent is the most life changing skill of all. Winners are always consistent. Anything in life worth being remembered for requires years and years of diligent work and maintenance.

You can do it. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Take it a day at a time.

Wrapping It Up

My sponsor told me years ago that I should always be “shooting for midnight.”

I live my life this way, because all of these skills require work. Yes these life skills will transform your sobriety, but the last thing we want is for people to put too much pressure on themselves.

Time takes time and practice builds results. You don’t have to be perfect. You just should improve a little bit every day. Progress not perfection Make it till midnight, and then try again tomorrow.

No matter what happens or how frustrated you may get, don’t drink.

Everything will be okay.