First Things First

First Things First

first things first at Serenity Vista (

One thing at a time – Notes from an Addictions Counselor

Guest Blog by Karen Graham, Panacea Canada


First Things First. Successful recovery from addiction or self-defeating behaviour requires powerful, unwavering focus on one thing at a time – and that first one thing has to be your recovery.

What is recovery? It’s a kind of extreme self care in multiple dimensions. Putting your recovery first means taking very good care of your body, mind, and spirit. For people recovering from addictions or self-defeating behaviours, recovery is the foundation for everything else in life; unless your recovery is healthy, it will be virtually impossible for you to be effective.

A healthy recovery supports you as a friend, partner, employee, leader, parent, athlete, son, daughter, provider, care-giver… pretty much any role that you value in your life.

It’s no accident that recovery language includes sayings like first things first and without my recovery I have nothing. Someone with a strong foundation in recovery is better equipped to deal with whatever comes along – to live life on life’s terms. They are more able to figure out the next right thing and make the best choice. They are more likely to be living at choice, responding to challenges rather than reacting to them.

A helpful analogy here might be the oxygen mask on an airplane. Passengers are urged to put their own mask on first before attending to anyone else’s, including children. At first this may seem counterintuitive. How effective will you be, though, if you are oxygen deprived or worse, unconscious? Similarly, how can you be a effective in your life if your recovery is faltering, if you are, in a sense, low on oxygen?

Putting other things ahead of recovery is risky and seems to become more likely for those with longer term sobriety.

Sobriety is not just the avoidance of alcohol, drugs or self-defeating behaviours. It is more all encompassing, and includes emotional sobriety – that sense of wellness and fitness for all aspects of life.

Paradoxically, it appears that there is greater risk of relapse when things are going well. Perhaps there is a false sense of confidence that might lead someone to take their focus off recovery and address other priorities in their life. Not to say that there aren’t other priorities that are important and pressing. Just that it will be increasingly difficult to address them effectively without a solid recovery in place.

What are the elements of a strong recovery? Whatever it takes to be healthy and fit in body mind and spirit. The rewards are great: a sense of peace and a confidence that you will know what to do in each emerging situation. Recovery language refers to this as feeling happy, joyous and free. Focus on your recovery and good things will happen!


This month, recommit to putting your recovery first.
What else do you need to be doing to nourish yourself in body, mind and spirit?


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