By Roger – Ridge Alumnus
Many active alcoholics and addicts entering residential treatment don’t need help stopping their using. Detox is already completed, and as a group, we have a lot of experience getting sober. The problem is one of simply being able to remain abstinent. Remember the “F” of T.W.U.F.L.I.P. – “Failed attempts to quit”. By the end of our using, each and every day might have had yet another promise made and broken, the day ending in relapse just like the day before. The downward spiral quickens until it is halted, at least temporarily, by treatment for chemical dependency. How then do we leave the Ridge after 30 or more days, ready to rejoin our life and maintain this new, sober existence for ourselves?
Residential treatment fills the recovering addict’s day with meetings, structure, rules, etc., all intended to help us regain the order in our lives that had been destroyed by addiction. The simple act of making one’s bed every morning is itself a significant step on the road to improving self-care. What are some of the other habits learned or remembered in treatment? A partial list would include:
- Getting regular sleep, nourishment, and exercise
- Sharing with other addicts and alcoholics about our disease
- Becoming teachable (to continue learning about our disease)
- Making a commitment to working the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous
- Finding a temporary or permanent sponsor in AA or NA
- Regularly attending 12-Step meetings
- Remain grateful, expressing our gratitude for sobriety on a daily basis.
The list could go on, but at the end of treatment, it is critical to pack up all of these new habits and take them home with us. Resuming our old habits is inconsistent with recovery.
Maintaining a commitment to regular sleep, good nutrition, and regular exercise is something that each person has to determine for himself. It might be easy to slide back into old routines, but it’s really imperative to keep up these new habits. Virtually everything else on the list above can be accomplished by simply getting to meetings and working with a sponsor. Alcoholics Anonymous groups and sponsors recommend doing “90 in 90”, meaning attending 90 meetings in the first 3 months of sobriety. Yes, this can be daunting, but we are so fortunate to have literally hundreds of meetings from which to choose, and they start as early as 6 a.m. and as late as midnight! If you don’t already have the “Meeting Guide” app on your smartphone, get it now!
Some other ideas include having a relapse prevention plan and sticking to it. Make sure that your sponsor, close friends, loved ones, etc. are participating in the plan and are available to help. Read AA/NA literature, especially the small book Living Sober. It is loaded with short suggestions for navigating common problems and situations encountered in early sobriety.
Work with your sponsor (call them regularly, especially if depressed or feeling restless, irritable, or discontent). Work the 12 steps. Go to meetings. Be honest, open, and willing. Remain teachable. Help others. Trust in your Higher Power. And just don’t pick up the first drink.
If we are to experience permanent recovery from addiction, it is imperative to repeat, day after day, the actions that have brought us so much healing. To do anything less is to coast, and remember, if you’re coasting, you can only go downhill.