With the diversity of backgrounds, mental health issues, walks of life, and so much more,
tracking progress in addiction recovery can be a very personal endeavor, unique to each
individual’s process. It is helpful to have a professional counselor, coach, mentor, or therapist
to help gauge progress and hold ourselves accountable to the goals and positive changes that
we aim for in recovery.
When we first come into recovery, the goal may be very simple, or single pointed: to get clean/
stay off alcohol/ or just somehow gain a level of functioning in society that enables us to avoid
jails, institutions, and decline of health/death.
Many of us start here, with the goal to stay off substances: a very effective place to start. In 12
step groups, this measurement of progress is abundant, in chip or key tag collection, sharing in
birthdays, and keeping track of time spent free of addictive substances, which can boost
motivation, morale, and a feeling of accomplishment, all helpful energies in maintaining
So what are some other markers that can be used to determine progress and track growth in
recovery? And how can we practice being easy on ourselves, to allow for more consistent
progress and growth in recovery?
If we came into a program of recovery only to discover a slew of qualifications to be able to
claim progress, we might crumble under pressure. It’s important to recognize the need for
simplicity in beginning a path of recovery. “First things first” is not a cliche motto for no
reason. It’s because the first thing to do- get off substances and learn some self-care, is the
most important part of learning to live in freedom.
With the help of some supportive friends, family, or professionals, attaining some basic
milestones, can be totally manageable. Here are a few basics to keep in mind, for yourself or a
loved one, that define a successful start to recovery:
Accepting that you have a problem with addiction or alcoholism. Overcoming denial is a
hurdle that cannot be overlooked. It’s easy to get lured into thinking that minimizes the initial
cries for help, or that coax us back into thinking that we can somehow avoid certain crucial
changes and adjustments in life. Some come into recovery jumping right into this
acceptance, for others it is a process of surrendering, questioning, and surrendering again.
• Getting honest. For many addicts and alcoholics, coming into a recovery program, it’s hard
to even identify what’s true. Substances have contributed to manipulated brain chemistry,
foggy thinking, and confusion. Being able to be honest with at least one other person, about
what’s clear and what is not; what is felt, thought, and experienced, is a big step towards
• Finding support. Whether it be a friend, mentor, therapist, community, or full treatment
program, looking around to see that you have gathered support is a big sign of successful
• Being willing to do some personal work, whether this is step work, therapeutic endeavors
and practices, journaling, or exploring through sharing. However the insightful explorations
may look, if you are in the process of seeking healing, what you seek is also seeking you and
will draw closer.
• Learning to cope with cravings and strong emotions. Often in the beginning this can be
consulting a trusted friend, therapist, or mentor, or sponsor, to guide us through the intense
waves that usually lead to self-medicating. Whether it is this consultation, or personal
methods of distraction, refocusing, or self-soothing that are used, if you have found that you
have been able to get through cravings and intense negative emotion, however ungraceful it
may feel, then you have another victory in new recovery.
Wherever we are in our journey, one of the most important things to remember is to be easy on
ourselves. It’s easy, especially as time goes by, and progress may be a bit more subtle, to do
the detrimental comparisons to others’ external conditions or to our own expectations that
perhaps are more specific and grandiose than we might be ready for.
This subtle, pervasive self-criticism, and focus on lack, as opposed to growth, can gain
momentum and contribute to low self-worth, struggles, and more intense negative emotion, as
well as sometimes to eventual relapse.
This is why self-compassion is not just a luxury for some that have had it easier or who “have
less monsters in their closet.” No my friends, this self-compassion is the bedrock of successful
recovery, of positive momentum, and of the energy of progress that sets us up for not only
successful abstinence and recovery, but for the ability to be a source of positive qualities in the
world and to actually enjoy life and give back in the future. Do not underestimate the power of
this often overlooked practice of being gentle on one’s self.
So did I convince you of the necessity of compassion? The next step then is how? If you have
a pattern of not only lack of compassion but usually acting out in ways that seem to merit the
opposite of compassion, how do you make the necessary adjustments to bring in this quality
for greater progress and growth? Here are a few simple tips, that just might allow for a little
more self-compassion, even in the face of evident destruction and large “shortcomings”:
• Magnify your small victories. This is where magic seems to happen: The healthy meal that
you see someone post on social media that you might ridicule for it’s insignificance…watch
that person’s health improve, or their amount of healthy habits increase. When you take time
to think about, record, share, and reflect upon the small victories, you train yourself to place
emphasis on these positive adjustments, which will grow with more attention.
• Less comparison to others, more to your own self. While it’s often human instinct to
compete and measure against another’s evidence of progress, this can be detrimental to the
magnification of your own victories. Remember that the most effective comparison for
growth and progress is with a past version of yourself; seeing how far you have come, even
if it’s just feeling better from yesterday, or being more aware of feelings than you used to be
(this can often get confused with feeling worse, when in reality, your becoming more aware
of feelings that were there but were not noticed until they became thoughts, actions, or
• Finally, practice acceptance. We think we have to change in order to accept ourselves, but
truly we have to accept where we are in order to change; A fight against “what is” only
strengthens “what is” and does not allow for further movement in a positive direction. So
Sigh, acknowledge, let go, pause, let it be, however, you learn to accept is going to fuel the
change that you crave.
I hope this has offered some tips for anyone looking to strengthen their recovery and track their
progress, or has given some hope to those that are affected by the suffering of addiction.
If you are struggling with addiction or alcoholism and would like a supportive treatment
program that can help you track your progress and support your steps towards greater
fulfillment in life click here.
If your loved one is suffering from addiction or alcoholism and
needs a supportive treatment program where they can progress in their recovery click here.
To hear from one of our helpful interns at Oasis Recovery, who shares her own learning, while
helping track other’s growth and progress watch the video below
We hope to be a resource in your journey, and believe in the power of reaching out, learning,
and growing. We believe that everyone with a strong desire to live free from the suffering of
addiction and alcoholism has the capacity to learn a new way to live, and progress in their own
unique journey to freedom.