In recovery, you’ll probably hear the phrase “keep it simple.” This may be baffling. Life isn’t simple! Recovery isn’t simple! Addiction certainly isn’t simple!
True, but the idea behind “keep it simple” is not to get too far ahead of yourself. You don’t have to overcomplicate a process that’s already overwhelming. I don’t use AA, but I find a lot of common AA phrases helpful; ultimately, many of them are about simplicity.
“One day at a time” asks you to stay in the present, rather than spiraling about how you will stay sober the next week, month, or year. “Do the next right thing” is similar; focus on what’s best for your recovery in this moment, without overthinking. Even “this too shall pass” is a simple way of remembering that everything painful will eventually be a memory.
I’ve been sober over five years, have more than a few sober friends, work in addiction treatment, and read about addiction recovery often. If I’ve learned anything through all that, it’s that those in addiction recovery don’t tend to be simple people. We typically overthink, ruminate, and feel things deeply. Many of us deal with one or more co-occurring issues like depression, anxiety, or eating disorders.
All that is to say: there is a lot going on in our brains! The best way I’ve learned to keep it simple is to bring myself back to the present. What tends to complicate life is living in the past or the future. Most of the time, being where you are brings peace.
In theory, the ways to do this are pretty…simple. But they take work and practice. When you find yourself overthinking, try to notice details about your environment and senses. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? This helps keep you grounded. You might notice the sensation of your feet on the ground or your body against your seat.
If you have trouble keeping it simple and don’t know what the next right thing is, journaling can help. It may sound counterintuitive, but writing down obsessive thoughts can calm you. It gets those thoughts out of your head, so that you can work them out on the page. It can give you more clarity and lead you to the simpler answer.
Meditation is another way to keep it simple. While it can be a challenge for many people, when you think about what it is, it’s really just sitting still and allowing your thoughts to flow. You don’t need any equipment. You don’t even need to change your thoughts drastically, apart from gently noticing when they stray. If meditating on your own isn’t working, keep it even simpler by using a guide. We’ve listed some great guided meditations here.
If your life isn’t simple, that doesn’t mean you can’t simplify your responses to it. Active addiction is often chaotic and destructive; recovery is an opportunity to work towards simplicity.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is help and hope. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you process the underlying reasons for your addiction and find peace. To learn more, call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.