Unfortunately part of recovery is relapse. It’s very common to slip. That doesn’t make your progress less than others. Some of us are able to put it down and not look back, and others stumble a little. The important thing is how you bounce back from it. Don’t throw it all away because you slipped up one night. Start over the next day, live as if it never happened.
I’ve put together a “how to prevent relapse” guide based off what worked for me and how I made it through. My most common question is “how did you do it” and while I don’t have any direct or magical answers to that question I do have some guidelines I followed that I believed helped me succeed.
- Block every single person that you can buy dope from. This is the hardest part. You’ve formed friendships with these people. They weren’t all bad. You genuinely love and care for them and losing them is like losing any other loved one. But you have to love yourself more right now. If they care about you then they’ll understand. I kept everyone blocked my first year. I denied any friend requests from anyone I knew got high or associated with my old friends. I had a phone number that no one knew. When I ran into people in public I gave hugs, we said our hellos and went on about our business. You don’t have to be rude, you just can’t cross boundaries. Most people didn’t make much of an effort to reach out to me after I blocked them. I wondered for a long time if they even cared since I was so easily forgotten about. It’s normal to be upset and feel pain and mourn the loss of these friends. But it’s necessary and it’s worth it.
- Benadryl. Now hear me out.. I’m not suggesting you keep yourself doped up on sleep aids. In fact, I don’t think I can legally suggest anyone take ANYTHING so please consult with your dr before using any type of medicine. But when I had an unbearable craving that I couldn’t shake I would just take my allergy medicine, get sleepy and go to bed. Simple enough. I’d wake up in the morning totally fine and glad I didn’t give in. There was only 3 times that I can remember that I even did this.
- Get a job. GET. A. JOB. Because chances are you haven’t had one if you’ve been struggling with addiction. And if you do have one then find out what you can do to improve your work. Stay later if you need to, ask for constructive criticism. Evaluate yourself as an employee (or even business owner). But if you’re on the job hunt then don’t be too prideful. Apply at places you can easily get to, and that you think you can stick with. There’s no sense in hopping around. Consistency is good for a recovering addict.
- Get a hobby. Since being sober I have become interested in so many different things. It took me awhile tho. I was so buried in my work that I didn’t take time to take care of my needs. I’m a completely different person since finding things that interest me and being a little more selfish and doing more for myself. Learn to play an instrument. Read a book. Do crafts, take art classes. Ride your bike on nature trails. The possibilities are endless. I found that going to the gym was addicting in its own way and gave me the kind of rush I needed and gave me something to look forward to at the end of the day.
- Don’t exhaust yourself. Now I know I said keep busy, but if you over do it you’re just setting yourself up for relapse. A new recovered addict is very easily overwhelmed and triggered. Start off slow and work your way up, doing what you know you’re capable of doing.
- Classes and meetings are a key part of recovery that no one wants to admit. I hated going. I swore I didn’t need it. I swore I wasn’t learning anything. But I was court ordered to go and honestly the only thing I remember learning is “if you put half as much effort into getting to these meetings as you did getting your next high then you’d have no problem getting here”. And that stuck with me. It also made me have structure. I knew I had these meetings every week on certain days and certain times. I knew I had to go no matter how badly I didn’t want to or I’d go to jail. This helped me become accountable and reliable. I had an actual adult responsibility that I couldn’t brush off and I stuck with it til the end. I never had childcare, my daughter went with me to every single meeting and I rocked her car seat with my foot while I participated in whatever paperwork or lecture was going on. I never gave excuses, I just did what was expected out of me. You need this, this is a valuable life lesson that can also give you building blocks for success.
- Avoid relationships in your first year of sobriety. Your first break up after addiction will hit you hard and most addicts don’t make it past that. It’s important that you are solid and confident enough if your recovery to survive this. And when I say “survive” I mean that in every way.
- Learn what your triggers are. If it’s a person, stay away from them. If passing by certain locations give you flashbacks you can’t emotionally handle then take a different route. And if avoiding people and places isn’t possible for you then learn good coping skills. Occupy your hands and your mind so they don’t wander.
- Recognize that your new friends don’t have the same things to lose as you do. One thing I have struggled with from the beginning is my sober friends wanting to do certain activities that I simply cannot do. Everything ranging from taking an adderall to going out to eat and have drinks. It’s been a struggle for me because I crave friendship and I crave acceptance and it feels like I can’t have either if I don’t participate in drinking. No one wants to just go to the movies together. No one wants to do things that don’t involve drinking. It’s a lonely world out here. I just always have to remind myself that they won’t go to prison if they go out drinking tonight. And I very well may. I can’t expect them to understand that. And neither can you. You’re different now. They may not ever get it.
- Don’t sit and reminisce about past times where you got high. You’ll only think of the good things and not the bad. I’ve found myself in a few conversations where we talked and laughed and shared war stories. I started craving a high I had long forgotten existed. The rest of my day was spent with a tight chest and feeling like I’m going to crawl out of my skin. And this is still 5 years later.
- Be honest. With yourself and with others. My probation officer told me this at one of my first meetings when I got my second chance. He told me as long as I come to him and I’m straight forward about what I do and feel then there won’t be any surprises. He said we can work anything out as long as I make an effort to be honest. I’ve always maintained that and it’s always worked for me.
- Find a sponsor. I never had one but I imagine life would have been easier and less lonely if I had had one. It’s nice to have someone that gets you. And someone that you can call in a moment of weakness that will be there judgment free.
- Ultimately you need a plan. You need goals both long term and short term. Celebrate your daily successes and pat yourself on the back even if no one else does. You’ll have people doubt you, you’ll still be treated like you’re not trustworthy but that doesn’t mean throw it all away because you’re doubted. You aren’t doing this for anyone but yourself.
I hope this helps! I’m sure I’ll think of more later on and do a part 2.
Do you have any tips of your own? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Please share this with others you know struggling!
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