How to Stay Out of Your Way for A Successful Recovery

Dr. Donna Marks
4 min readAug 29, 2022


After more than three decades of working with families suffering from addiction, it’s pretty easy to identify the winners from the losers. I’m not being critical. Winning and losing aren’t random. You simply can’t sign up for two teams simultaneously. You either sign up for recovery and play by those rules, or you sign up for the team that doesn’t have any rules, and you lose.

There are many factors involved in having a successful recovery. Recovery isn’t just about being abstinent; it’s about happiness, too. If you want a successful recovery, you’ll do certain things that guarantee your success.

Your Recovery Isn’t Negotiable

Addiction is not that hard to break. The decision to stop and stay stopped is the first requirement for success. And you must understand that no red carpet gets rolled out for you to sit upon a throne and have a crown placed upon your head.

Any time you step up to the plate, your life becomes more challenging. When you’ve been self-medicating your whole life, dealing with everyday stresses can feel overwhelming. More people relapse over minutia than they do over major crises.

If you want to win at the recovery game, you plan a course of action that doesn’t change, no matter what. You won’t allow any do-gooder or other saboteur to change the game plan; no more than you would hire three coaches to teach you how to play tennis or basketball. They’d all be correcting one another, and you’d be in the middle of another dysfunctional system.

Most important, nothing or no one can make you use ever again. You’ve made a decision, and it isn’t negotiable. This is the only guarantee that you’ll be successful. It might mean you walk ten miles to calm down, scream your lungs out in private, or cry until you fill a bucket with tears. You stay sober no matter what.

People who relapse aren’t fully committed, regardless of what they tell themselves. People who succeed sign up and never quit, no matter what. No matter what.

You Help Other People

Feeling bad is impossible when you’re entirely focused on caring about someone else. Notice the word “caring.” You want to help someone, it’s not a sense of obligation or a drag, and you care about one another. If you are helping people who are using you, you find someone else. Otherwise, you’ll be drained. When you help people who want help, it’s a natural high.

An addictive mindset is about getting. This must be replaced with a loving frame of mind for sharing and receiving. If you feel it’s too much effort to help others, your addiction is running the show. If you’re thinking about your addiction (or you just feel out of sorts), focus on getting out of yourself and being helpful. Call a relative or a friend and ask how they’re doing. Focus on doing something nice for them. There’s no lack of volunteer work in and out of recovery rooms.

People who relapse are drowning in their sorrows and won’t refocus on someone or something else. Those who succeed are too busy trying to help others. They don’t have time to think about relapsing.

Learn How to be Grateful

Many people take too much for granted. They expect certain securities whether they earn them or not. They have no clue what effort went into the care they receive. They take beauty, life, and love for granted. Their priorities are never in order — me first, everything else last. This is the epitome of a selfish mindset and guaranteed misery.

Grateful people make a point of being appreciative of what other people do for them, and they acknowledge those gestures. They are grateful for the food they eat and the planet’s endless provisions. They appreciate beauty and any good thing that happens. Mostly, they are thankful that they have another shot at a better life and will do whatever it takes to keep it that way.

People who relapse expect things to go their way. The universe should revolve around their wants and wishes, and right now. They are always angry and disappointed. Successful people never lose a sense of appreciation for what they receive and keep their expectations in check.

Find A Higher Power

Some people’s minds go into lockdown at the thought of finding a higher power. This is a big mistake. A closed mind is a mind that’s still running the show. This never works. Sometimes, a connection to something greater is the only thing that will restore us to sanity when we feel overwhelmed and want to relapse.

Your higher power can be anything that makes you feel connected. It doesn’t have to be some religious deity. It could be nature, music, writing, painting, walking on the beach, or in the woods, or even a hobby. It’s anything that puts you in the zone and gives you a sense of peace.

People with a higher power develop a deep faith and allow things to unfold as they should. They don’t think they know what’s best and put themselves in competition with God.

People who relapse constantly interfere and never learn to trust an unseen force. Thus, they get frustrated and constantly sabotage their opportunity to develop trust in something unseen that is working for their highest good. People who are successful in recovery have learned to stay out of the way and know that despite contrary appearances, things will work out for the best. They give their higher power credit for all good things and are never arrogant enough to think they are the sole source of their successes.

Originally published at on August 29, 2022.



Dr. Donna Marks

Dr. Donna Marks is a licensed psychotherapist and an addictions counselor. She is certified in Gestalt Therapy, Psychoanalysis, Hypnosis, and Sex Therapy.