The fourth point of the SMART Recovery 4-Point Program(sm), to “balance momentary and enduring satisfactions,” is perhaps the least discussed of the four points. In this article, I will outline the crucial role this point (also known as “lifestyle balance”) plays in recovery.
Lifestyle balance is critical for relapse prevention. Individuals whose lives are filled with unenjoyable activities are likely to relapse back to addiction (which may provide intense, although temporary, satisfaction). We may not enjoy our daily activities if we are too focused on what we “should” do and not enough on what we want to do. One comparison for this is someone who places too large a portion of income into retirement funds. Daily life becomes constrained. There is also the risk that a “binge” of spending may undo the savings, in order to experience some more immediate well being. More balanced money management could prevent the desire for a binge.
Lifestyle balance can be considered from a number of perspectives. Below is a list (taken from my book, Sex, Drugs, Gambling & Chocolate, page 191) that you might use to consider how balanced you are:
- Work and relaxation
- Activity and contemplation (self-assessment)
- Duties and fun
- Long-term projects and momentary pleasure
- Alone time and social time
- Routine household chores and new projects
- “Shoulds” and “wants”
- Making money and spending money
- Spiritual time and secular time
- Giving and receiving
- Being physically distant and being physically close
- Exercise and rest
- Personal maintenance and productivity
- Going fast and going slow
- Learning from others and learning independently
The idea of lifestyle balance as an ideal is at least as old as Aristotle. In his Nicomachean Ethics (written in the 4th century BCE), which might be described as the first self-help book, he describes the virtuous activity as a mean between two extremes. For instance, courage is a mean between cowardice and foolhardiness. For each item on the list above, we need to consider to what extent we have achieved a balance between the two poles listed.
by A.Tom Horvath, Ph.D.