Dear addicted friend:
You flirt with death, but you want to live. You are afraid to keep using, but you are afraid to stop. You may not know what life is without drugs, but you might be willing to try. You fool yourself into thinking recovery is unattainable for you, but maybe you’re wrong. Maybe you think you know everything about recovery. Chances are, you are unaware to some degree even if you have been in recovery and relapsed several times. And while a lasting recovery is attainable, truth is, it can be tricky.
There are triggers so subtle they go unnoticed consciously, but that does not mean they have gone unnoticed by the subconscious. There really are times when your mind has a mind of its own. Do you know that one of the big things that addiction took from you was choice? Suppose you were convinced you could regain choice. A lasting recovery would be easier, attainable, wouldn’t it? A walk in the park—certainly not, but doable. Why not doable by you? Why not, indeed. Why not, with a heart full of renewed hope, begin to put into practice the control that is required to take back choice? Why not just begin?
Without developing your awareness to recognize and take control of subtleties, you are unknowingly on the path to relapse. Therefore, it is critical that you not only think about how you think, but you must also pay attention to how you feel even if you do not know why you are feeling a certain way. There is a reason, but perhaps it has simply bypassed your conscious awareness. The part of your mind that is affected by addiction not only recognizes these subconscious subtleties, but also immediately goes into action to get you to use. This is what a craving is. It is an automatic response to a trigger known as conditioned behavior. Pavlov’s dogs, anyone? Next, we humans are creatures of habit. A habit is a matter of repetition, repetition, repetition. It doesn’t matter what the repetition is about; we are programming ourselves. Yes, we are programmable. So that being the case, we can make new habits with repetition, repetition, repetition.
Understand a trigger can be a multitude of things, real or imagined. It can be subtle or come at you like a tornado. For our purposes, let’s just call all triggers stress. When stress occurs, whether you are aware of the stressor or not, you have awakened a sleeping giant. The giant is conditioned by the stressor to sit up and take notice and await its expected habitual reward. Remember, it matters not if you are aware of this or not; your subconscious (which I call the tape recorder, more about this later) has perceived an event or a situation, which it automatically interprets as to what it means or recalls or wants.
This interpretation can create a feeling, and the feeling creates a physical event. It matters not if the feeling is a good feeling or bad feeling. Either way, you have created a reminder. If you are addicted, you remind yourself to crave. You crave because you have turned on the conditioned response that wakes up the sleeping giant. This is a big, hungry giant, and it wants what it wants, and it wants what it wants right now. If you do not have a plan in place to fight this giant, you will use/lose. Remember, relapse does not come out of the blue. And if you have been in recovery for a while and you choose/decide to relapse, it does not mean you go back to beginning usage doses. No, you pick up where you left off, and usually, your starved appetite demands more. This is dangerous because your body may have gone back into balance to whatever degree, and it cannot tolerate the amount that you think it can handle. Have you heard the term overdose?
If you’ve been in recovery and have relapsed, take heart. A single defeat is not a final defeat.
Maybe the first time or the second or the third is not the charm, but never, never give up. This has been done. Why not by you? Again, why not, indeed.
You know you are scared to keep using, but you are also scared to stop. Maybe you were shocked to find yourself putting a needle in your arm. This is what addiction is: progression. Make no mistake. You use more now or more often. Progression.
Some of you are not ready to stop using. You haven’t had enough. You’ve described using heroin, for example, as just like being in love, wishing you could use forever but still knowing you had to stop. Maybe you have not suffered enough yet. Maybe the consequences have not yet been horrific.
You needn’t read this book from start to finish. Each chapter stands alone so you can pick and choose. Based on hundreds of hours of one-on-one sessions with addicts of all ages and backgrounds, I offer suggestions, opinions, observations, tips, lessons, and techniques that will, hopefully, save your life because you have chosen to be in control of a lasting recovery. If only one idea, one lightbulb illuminated in one person’s head, can help someone to heal, to recover, to have hope, to save their life, then truly a blessing will have been bestowed. Just remember, you do not have to do this alone. There is an army of us out here waiting to help you. Come to us.