Recovery is not an event, but a process. While your process of breaking free from addiction may have started during rehab, it continues every day as you make conscious choices to manage your emotions instead of allowing them to manage you. Furthermore, your recovery grows deeper as you have more life experiences, cultivate meaningful and healthy relationships and learn more about what makes you tick. Ergo, if you find healthy ways to satisfy your needs, then you can not only get clean, but also stay that way.
While it certainly becomes easier and easier in recovery for you to make the right decisions about stress, triggers and drugs, it is wise to realize that your desire for drugs is always there, waiting to be reactivated. For that reason, it is a good idea to run a periodic check-up on your recovery. Like taking a car in for routine maintenance, a recovery check-up can help you identify a problem long before it blows up in your face.
The Recovery Checklist
If you have been sober for a while, but it has been some time since you stopped your formal treatment, then take a few moments to reflect upon the following questions:
- How honest are you with others about your feelings?
- How are your closest relationships doing?
- Do you feel good about yourself and how you spend your time and money?
- How are you doing at work and/or school?
- What gives you the most pleasure in life?
- When was the last time you spoke to your sponsor, counselor, sobriety coach or accountability group?
- Are you in control of your emotions when problems occur?
- Have you picked up any new habits?
- Are you getting enough sleep?
- How is your eating?
- Are you taking care of yourself spiritually?
- If someone was to ask your closest friend how you are doing, then what would he or she say?
You know from your time in treatment that honesty, transparency and accountability are critical to your addiction recovery. The best way to maintain these necessary qualities is through regularly attending recovery meetings, engaging in social activities with other people who know about the recovery experience and by continuing to learn about yourself through counseling. Many recovering addicts drift away from their discipline, because they feel confident in their health, optimistic for their futures and bored with the process of managing cravings. Furthermore, it may seem like you are taking steps backwards by attending meetings for a long time, but the truth is that the psychological power of addiction is always lurking in the back of your mind. Recovering addicts must regularly attend such groups, because the psychological side of addiction always manipulates your thinking and emotions to get you to relapse.
The key to sobriety is mindfulness, which involves being aware of your emotions and choosing to manage them appropriately. This discipline takes time and focus, but it is necessary that you develop this skill. The busier your life gets and the more distant you get to your recovery network, the easier it will be for you to relapse, so you must always tend to your recovery to stay clean.
How to Respond to Bumps in Recovery
If and when you encounter bumps on your road to recovery, then you can mitigate the damage if you know in advance how to respond to those problems. Relapse is almost never the result of a choice that a recovering addict makes; instead, renewed drug abuse patterns are usually the result of a deeply programmed habit that resurfaced because the addict responded inadequately to problems. In fact, the following problems can easily lead a recovering addict to relapse:
- Marriage or relationship struggles
- Bad health news
- Problems at work or school
- Debt issues
- Dysfunctional family dynamics
- Reconnecting with an old friend who uses drugs
Challenges happen and slip ups are quite common in recovery, but the important thing to remember here is you can respond well to these mistakes. If you wait until a relapse happens before deciding how to respond, then you will likely revert to hiding, lying, minimizing, blaming others and denying that there is a problem. Instead of covering up a relapse, develop a plan for how you will respond to it. Consider the following suggestions for this act:
- Call your sponsor immediately
- Confess your slip up to anyone who it affects
- Get with a counselor to help you identify where things went off track
- Invite increased accountability and transparency in your life
- Do something positive and constructive as soon as possible
A plan for responding to relapse is as critical as having an escape plan in the event of a fire: you certainly hope that a fire never happens, but, if you wait until it does before developing a response, then the consequences can be dire. Seek help to plan for long-term sobriety.
24-Hour Recovery Support and Help
If you would like more information about how to conduct a recovery check-up, or if you are struggling with a relapse and need immediate help, then please call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline right now.