You are vulnerable to relapsing, and you know it. You also know that you cannot anticipate every situation that would cause a craving. Additionally, you are full of fears and worries, real and sometimes imagined, and some of the time, your worries are paralyzing. All of this and more make relapse look appealing as a way to make you feel better. This is an understandable feeling. It is also entry onto the road to hell.
Everyone who relapses feels self-hatred, guilt, and remorse. And yet, many relapse time after time. Knowing how vulnerable you are and experiencing this inability to imagine being clean for the rest of your life causes some people to believe they cannot beat addiction. It seems that having to deal with sobriety every day in every situation is just simply too overwhelming to contemplate. This being true is why the one day at a time mind-set works. Small and manageable bites are the only way to eat an elephant.
It’s too late to ward off a desire to relapse when it has established a stronghold in your mind. You have to have previously prepared yourself in case any of the many breezes you may encounter turn into hurricanes. Not every breeze does become a hurricane, but some do. Since we do not know to which we are vulnerable, we’d better have some supplies and emergency equipment handy just in case.
So here are some just in case suggestions for you. Being prepared for a potential disaster beats the heck out of thinking you can ride out the storm without the risk of losing everything.
So just in case you are worrying too much, give the worry a title, such as future worry. Are you, in fact, worrying about some future event? Some worry is actually productive, if, for example, you are worrying about passing a test, you can study. Or instead you could decide to just wing it. Which is the better path to follow? This example shows you that there are steps to be taken to minimize or even eliminate worry. So remember, if the worry is about something in the future, recognize that and employ steps to dilute that worry.
Most all worry is about the future. Think about that. Now think about some things you worried about that never came to pass. Here’s a news flash . . . most worries about the future never even happen! So develop the ability to ask yourself if you are projecting a worry into the future. If you are doing that, step back and try as hard as you can to be in the moment. Do some deep breathing and distract your thoughts. This is the perfect time to pick up the phone and call your coach, your sponsor, you friend, your mother.
Skills need to be learned. Do not lose patience with yourself. Everyone worries, not just people that are addicted, so do not chalk this up to your addiction. Chalk this up to being human. Too often addiction gets the blame for how we feel, when in fact, most of what we feel is shared by every other human being. Develop the skill of separating addict thinking from human thinking. You are, after all, more than just an addict!
OK, so just in case you are beating yourself up over the past: there is not an addict that does not have some remorse over past events, not one. Guess what? Non-addicts have some remorse over past events as well. The past cannot be changed, but you can choose what to bring along into your present. Lessons have been learned from the past. This is what is meant when people say experience is the best teacher.
Learning from your past is teaching yourself the skills of choosing because you can take a look at what actually happened and what might have happened if you had chosen differently. In other words, you do not have to touch the hot burner on the stove more than once to know you would be burnt. Develop the skill of separating what is a meaningful lesson from what is just old habit behavior.
So just in case you are dragging a big black cloud over your head wherever you go in your present moments, the best thing to do is remember how to eat an elephant. So little by little, step by step, deal with the things in your immediate life in small, bite-size pieces. We tend to complicate stuff and get ahead of what needs to be dealt with. Take your time. Do what you reasonably can do.
Remember: do not blame everything on your addiction. Some stuff you can blame on just being human! Be aware of what really are the relapse warnings. “To be forewarned is to be forearmed.” Remember that, and be prepared.