Stinkin' Thinkin: The Mistakes of Relapse and the Lessons of Recovery, Part 2

Recovery

Mistake #8 -Becoming Stressed Out

Recovery has the potential to quickly become overwhelming.  Early on, some newly-sober people try to take on too much too soon—work, family obligations, and social activities—all while juggling tasks directly related to recovery.  It is almost as if they want to regain everything that they lost or missed out on all at once.

But vainly trying to meet everyone’s expectations can be exhausting, and whenever those expectations aren’t met, the person can feel as if they have let their loved ones down yet again.

Lesson -Take It Easy

But here is the secret to eliminate doing a great deal of stress during recovery – learn the power of “NO”.

Naturally, it is tempting to try to quickly regain as much of one’s life as possible, it can result in being stretched thin. But it’s not necessary to say yes to every invitation or possible commitment. Instead, prioritize where to spend time and energy.

Mistake #9 – Ignoring Mental Health

More than half of all drug addicts and over a third of all alcoholics have a diagnosable mental illness such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • PTSD
  • ADHD
  • OCD
  • Disordered eating
  • Conduct disorder
  • Schizophrenia

But even though each of these illnesses can worsen—and be worsened by—SUD, getting proper treatment is a huge problem. In fact, among those with such a dual diagnosis, just 2% are receiving the specialized care they do desperately need.

And this sabotages successful recovery from addiction, because many people with untreated mental disorders will self-medicate with alcohol or drugs in order to ease their symptoms.

Lesson -Concurrent Treatment Is A Must

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, integrated treatment is the best way to address simultaneous addiction and mental illness.

Integrated treatment means that every service provider works under the umbrella of a shared and cooperative treatment philosophy.  Significantly, both the addiction and the mental disorder are each treated as the primary illness.

Successful integrated treatment necessitates both cooperation and communication between all parties involved. This might include a number of services and professions:

  • Mental health -therapists, psychologist, psychiatrist
  • Addiction -substance abuse specialist
  • Medical -neurologist, MD, etc.
  • Family Services Counselor
  • Nutritionist
  • Vocational or school advisor
  • Spouse, family members, and close friends
  • Sponsor from 12-Step group
  • Social worker
  • Drug court or probation officer
  • Presiding judge

Mistake #10 – Not Avoiding Triggers

Another big mistake made by some people in recovery is not making the necessary changes to their daily habits.  They still go to the same places, do the same things, and hang out with the same people.  But if those are the people, places, and things don’t support successful sobriety, then they can lead directly to relapse.

Lesson -Stay Away from ANYTHING and ANYONE that Can Jeopardize Your Recovery

One of the first lessons learned in early recovery is the need to avoid “triggers”—those people, places, things, thoughts, and emotions that are associated with alcohol or drug use. Examples:

  • People—drug or drinking buddies, non-sober friends
  • Places—bars, nightclubs, liquor stores, places where you used to “party”
  • Things—drug paraphernalia, empty liquor bottles, advertisements, tv shows or films featuring substance use
  • Thoughts—unworthiness, resentment, minimizing
  • Emotions—shame, sadness, jealousy, rage

Successful recovery often means making considerable changes to one’s routine to stay away from triggers.  This might be accomplished by:

  • Staying away from anyone who drinks or uses drugs in your presence
  • Not going to gatherings where liquor is being served
  • Altering your driving routes
  • Making new friends
  • Cleaning your home to get rid of all old evidence of substance use (NOTE: Do this with a sober friend)
  • Changing the channel when triggering scenes come on
  • Meditating
  • Repeating positive mantras
  • Reading recovery literature

Mistake #11 – Neglecting Nutrition

Active drinking and drugging is usually characterized by poor eating habits – greasy, fattening fast food, sugary and salty junk food, and overeating—or not eating at all.

During early recovery, it’s far too easy to continue eating the same way, and this slows physical recovery from the damage caused by substance abuse.

Worse, people who are still new to recovery may have a hard time differentiating between hunger pangs and drug/alcohol cravings.  This is why they are taught to never to let themselves get “too hungry ”.

Lesson -Eat Right to Live Right

Following a proper diet during recovery can help in multiple ways:

  • Correcting vitamin and mineral deficiencies
  • Promoting physical healing
  • Restoring a healthy body weight
  • Boosting energy
  • Improving concentration
  • Alleviating insomnia

Eating better during recovery isn’t as hard as one might think:

  • Always eat breakfast
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Keep healthy snacks on hand – fruits, granola bars, vegetables, nuts
  • Don’t go too long between meals or snacks
  • Plan for the day—Early recovery is often a very busy time, and a little thought beforehand can keep you on track

Mistake #12 -Forgetting Self-Care

With recovery activities, work, family obligations, outings with friends, 12-step meetings, counseling sessions, and for some, court-ordered community service, it can seem as if there are not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything.  Something has to give.

But too often, the sacrifice that is made is the wrong one -the person leaves no time for their own personal needs.  And recovery burnout can lead to relapse.

Lesson -Take Good Care of Yourself

Self-care is not just a good idea during recovery – it’s absolutely vital. Everyone—especially someone whose sobriety is still fragile—needs time to rest, relax, and recharge.

If this means stepping back from everything that’s going on and putting yourself and your recovery first, then so be it…that’s how it should be.

Mistake #13 -Skipping 12 Step Meetings

When time seems in short supply, it seems as if one of the first casualties is regular attendance at 12-Step meetings like Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous. The person mistakenly reasons that because these fellowship meetings are voluntary, it’s okay to go “when it’s convenient”.

Lesson – You Need Your Peers

But 12-Step meetings offer something invaluable – fellowship with one’s peers.  These are people who have gone through the same things, suffered the same problems, and felt the same way.  These shared experiences have been referred to as the “kinship of common suffering”, and it helps in several ways:

  • Lets the person know that they are not alone.
  • Shows them examples of peers who have achieved long-lasting sobriety.
  • Allows them a safe, non-judgmental place to express themselves.
  • Asks accountability—to their Sponsor and to their peers.
  • Teaches them the value of service to others.
  • Provides a source of strength and inspiration.

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