Books by John E. Smethers, Ph.D
One of the most common reasons that addicts (alcoholics are addicts too) relapse is not following through with their treatment plan. Obtaining effective treatment requires patience and cooperation with whoever they’re working with. Addicts are driven by the moment. They need things to work right now (preferably yesterday) or they become frustrated, distracted, and do not follow through with suggestions conducive to a successful recovery. This is a common phenomenon whether the suggestions are coming from a 12-step sponsor, drug and alcohol counselor, psychotherapist, or psychoanalyst, or even a knowledgeable friend or family member with experience. Patience is the order of the day, and addicts have precious little of that.
The following suggestions have been invaluable to the prevention of relapse by those who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless case of mind and body.
1. Abstinence - I suggest that anyone desiring recovery abstain from the use of any mind-altering substances. As addicts, we are predisposed to switch drugs.
2. Triggers - Most addicts are un aware of the things that prompted our use. These are what’s commonly referred to as triggers, some of which are as follows:
Places - In recovery, it wise to be aware of motives for being in certain places. Most recovered addicts stay away from clubs, parties, drug houses, pool halls and other places where they used.
People - It's difficult to understand, but necessary to do, and that is to stay away from using friends. Addicts need to be mindful that they are addicts and at no time are they stronger in their recovery than they are in their addiction. Friends have the power to trigger a relapse.
Dealing - Here, many addicts face a dilemma. Many were addicted to the money and the excitement. They dealt for power and for control, and many relapse because they lose sight of their lack of personal power.
3. Meetings - I suggest at least one meeting a day for newcomers. When I was a newcomer, I went to three or four a day. I also suggest a meeting whenever you don't feel like you need one. I have found that when we don't want to go is when we do need to. Again, meetings are where a collective experience, strength and hope are shared.
4. Keeping in touch - Keeping in touch with a counselor, sponsor or friend in recovery is an ideal way of keeping focused on recovery.
5. Don't get too hungry - It has been repeatedly found that it's difficult to maintain emotional balance without the aid of eating regularly throughout the day.
6. Don’t get too angry - It is said that this emotion is best left up to those who are better equipped to deal with it. There is no shorter course to getting high than a run with anger and resentment.
7. Don’t get too lonely - An addict by himself is in the worst possible company. Again, I suggest meetings and fellowship. For those who isolated behind closed doors and tin-foiled windows, being around others is at first an uncomfortable. After trying it, and sincerely giving it some time, a new freedom and friendships can be found that was never dreamed possible.
8. Don’t get too tired - It takes time for most addicts to acquire regular sleep habits. While nobody has been known to dye from of lack of sleep, there are many instances where a tired addict reached for that bump or jump-start and relapsed.
9. Action/work - It's a rare case where someone whose been diligently working a recovery program has relapsed. As long as an addict’s focus is on the action required by sponsors or recovery professionals, relapse is a remote, rare thought.
10. Signs of relapse - The following are some of the signs that have preceded relapses:
* Denying fear.
* Convinced that "I'll never drink/use again."
* Concluding that not using is all that is needed.
* Trying to force sobriety on others.
* Becoming overconfident about recovery.
* Behaving compulsively: overworking, underworking, talking too much.
* Making unrealistic or haphazard plans.
* Live in the "there and then."
* Daydreaming of failure.
* Viewing problems as unsolvable.
* Avoiding having clean and sober fun.
* Becoming too analytical.
* Become irritated by friends or family.
* Easily angered.
* Blaming people, places, things and conditions for problems.
* Doubting (maybe I’m not really an addict).
* Irregular eating (under or overeating and chronic snacking).
* Periods of listlessness.
* Irregular sleeping--oversleeping and undersleeping.
* Periods of deep depression.
* An "I don't care" attitude.
* Hoard money, sex or power.
* Blatantly rejecting help.
* Rationalize that drinking or using can't make life worse than it is now.
* Fantasies of social drinking or using.
* Consciously starting to lie.
* Increase the use of aspirin or other nonprescription medications.
* Overwhelmed with loneliness, frustration, anger and tension.
* Starting to contact or visit old drinking or using "friends" and places.
* Convinced of being cured.
* Losing control.
* Convinced that it's okay to deal.