Recovery from addiction can be a long and arduous journey. Along the way, many are tempted to forget that recovery is a continuous task. If you start to slack off, a relapse can sneak up on you.
It starts with cutting corners. Recovery efforts usually do not collapse overnight. They tend to fade away. Meditation sessions become shorter and shorter. Prayers are skipped. Attending 12-Step meetings is reduced from several a week to a few every month. Working the steps is neglected. Ardent efforts make way for complacency. Warning signs are ignored.
It’s easy to become complacent if you have been sober for quite a while. The memories of your drug-using days have begun to recede into the past. You are fairly certain that person who was addicted to drugs and alcohol is not you anymore. It is perilous to assume the danger of a relapse has passed because a person with an addiction has been sober for some time. Sobriety milestones show how far you have come, but they should also be reminders of how important it is to keep working on your recovery. They should not be a reason for complacency.
Stay focused. Triggers persist. Fine-tuning your coping skills is essential to continue living your life without misusing addictive substances. If your recovery is in a rut, it may be time to revitalize it.
Staying honest is critical to avoiding a relapse, write the authors of The Recovery Book. If dishonesty “creeps back into your life in any form, you could start falling right back down that slippery slope: denying your disease, neglecting your recovery program, rationalizing bad actions, and failing to look at yourself honestly.”
If you have indeed neglected your recovery program, it is time to reboot. Follow your 12-Step program to avoid a relapse, recommends The Recovery Book. “Keep it up. It will always serve you well.”
Be honest with yourself and others, and stick to your recovery program. The core values taught within the integrative health model at Lakeview Health can guide you in this endeavor: Use clear and honest communication. Respect and trust yourself and others. Be accountable for your actions.
Stay in touch with your support network. Have the phone numbers of your sponsor, your therapist, or your aftercare team ready. Know whom to contact or where to go when negative feelings and cravings hit. Triggers are often unpredictable. “Sometimes just plain old life itself sets you up for a relapse—certain situations will weaken your defenses. Your only protection is eternal vigilance,” write the authors of The Recovery Book.
If you’re not mindful, negative life events such as the death of a loved one or losing your job can cause serious problems. Aches and pains and other physical ailments have been linked to misusing drugs and alcohol again. Even feeling hungry, angry, lonely, tired, or bored can make life complicated for a person in recovery. Eat healthily, stay fit, get enough sleep, and, if you are bored and lonely, call a friend. Or go to a meeting.
You don’t recover from an addiction just by ceasing to use drugs and alcohol. You recover by re-calibrating your life so it becomes easy for you not to use. If you don’t change your life, then all the factors that led to your addiction could catch up with you again. That new life requires that you work on your recovery every day.
Always remember: recovery is a lifelong pursuit!
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