It may seem impossible that you would be doing anything to undermine all the hard work you have put into getting sober. But there are some behavior choices that may actually move you closer to relapse rather than farther away, whether you engage in them consciously or not.
Not sure if you are sabotaging the progress you have made in recovery? Here are a few signs you may be doing exactly that:
1. You tend to focus on the negative. Do you often focus on the one thing that isn’t perfect and spend most of your time thinking about, talking about, and concentrating on that? For example, if you are at a meeting and someone makes a sarcastic comment about your jacket, do you spend the whole meeting thinking about that comment and the person who said it rather than focusing on what people are sharing and all your friends and acquaintances who are in the room? Choosing to spend your time living in irritation, frustration, or anger not only takes away from time that could have been better spent enjoying your life in recovery and/or engaging with treatment but it also can contribute to cravings.
2. You spend a lot of time around people who drink or use drugs. The more frequently you are exposed to drugs and alcohol and people who are using them, the more likely it is that you too will pick up and get high or drink. It is not easy to be the only sober person in a room, and to continually put yourself in that situation means you are not actively seeking out sober friendships that will sustain you in recovery. A positive support system is essential, and that means connecting with people who are sober, trying to live a sober life, and working to support you in your own recovery.
3. You skip meetings and therapy sessions, and do not put recovery first. Do you often get distracted last minute and blow off 12-Step meetings, doctors’ appointments, therapy sessions, etc.? Do you choose instead to sleep in, go out with friends, have another cup of coffee, head to the beach, or do anything other than the work of recovery? Everyone does this every once in a while, especially if there is a crisis or have a last-minute schedule change, but if you are regularly choosing to skip the things that will most serve you in recovery, you are undermining your ability to stay sober.
4. You are “testing” excuses to relapse. Do you find that you are justifying certain circumstances around relapse? For example, do you feel that relapse is the only option if a loved one dies, a breakup happens, there are difficulties at work, etc.? As difficult as these issues can be, there are healthier ways to manage the difficult emotions they elicit, and staying sober is always the first priority. Giving credence to the idea that relapse is understandable or even inevitable under specific circumstances may be a sign that you are setting yourself up to relapse under any circumstances.
5. You spend more time feeling nostalgic about active addiction than living in the present moment or moving forward in recovery. Do you tend to glorify your experience in active addiction, telling stories about the time you got “so messed up that…” to your friends, to your therapist, or to anyone who will listen? Experiencing nostalgia for the time in your life that was characterized by heavy drug and alcohol use can be a sign that you are spending more time thinking about the past than concentrating on the present and doing the work necessary to stay sober today.
What Do You Need to Do to Stay Sober
If you see yourself doing some of the things listed above, the good news is that you have the option of turning things around before relapse occurs. You can:
- Focus on all the great things happening in your life.
- Seek out the company of someone you know who is also in recovery.
- Get to that 12-Step meeting.
- Brainstorm healthy ways to manage the worst situations.
- Tell stories about your recovery or start planning the amazing things you will do now that you are sober.
Are you building up your life in recovery?