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Intervention Guidelines

If a loved one is suffering from an addiction and you judge that they might be responsive to an appeal from family members and close friends to address their problem, an intervention might be a good course of action. 

By “intervention” we mean a deliberate, planned discussion initiated by those closest to the addicted person with the intention of encouraging him or her to recognise the problem and take action. 

The immediate objective of an intervention is to induce the addicted person to see clearly the impact of the addiction on themselves and others, without provoking defensiveness on the part of the addicted person or allowing the conversation to escalate into a conflict. 

In General, The Best Outcome Will Be Achieved By Adhering To The Following Guidelines

DO’S:

  • Ideally the intervention should involve a small group of people that are close to and care about the addicted person.
  • It is often helpful to write letters in advance, detailing the impact that the addiction has had on the writer. These can be read to the addicted person on the day.
  • You should educate yourself beforehand on relevant aspects such as the nature of the particular addiction, detoxification and treatment programmes – particularly those which suit the personality and needs of the addicted person.
  • The participants should plan in advance precisely how the conversation will unfold and should rehearse beforehand.
  • Each participant should be willing to offer concrete help to the addicted person in some or other way, within their respective means – e.g. attending family therapy sessions, financial support, care of children while the addicted person is in treatment.
  • The participants should be prepared to implement and act upon boundaries if the addicted person is not receptive to the request for intervention. Relationships will need to change. Everyone present must commit to cease enabling and codependent behaviour and be clear that there will be consequences for the addicted person if they refuse help.

DON’TS:

  • The tone of the discussion should not be one of blame.
  • The discussion should not occur spontaneously when the addicted person is drunk or high.
  • The participants should not be overly prescriptive or authoritarian in the solutions presented.
  • Do not despair if the intervention ends badly. A seed has been planted.

Signs of an Addiction

Addiction is an insidious illness.  It usually develops gradually over time, making it easy for the severity of the problem to escape the notice of immediate family members.  On top of this, the natural inclination for close family is to deny and diminish the problem in order to retain some sense of normality. 

If you suspect that a family member may be addicted to alcohol or substances, but you are unsure of the severity of the problem, consider whether any of the following apply to the person:

  • An inability to stop using. The individual has made at least one serious but unsuccessful attempt to give up the substance or behaviour.
  • Use and abuse of substances continue despite health problems. The individual continues regularly taking the substance, even though they have developed related illnesses.
  • Dealing with problems. The substance or behaviour is resorted to in order to (or as an alternative to) dealing with problems.
  • Obsession. The individual has become obsessed with the substance or behaviour, spending more and more time and energy finding ways of getting access to it.
  • Taking risks. The individual takes risks to obtain the substance or engage in the behaviour.
  • Taking a large initial dose. This is common with alcoholics. The individual may rapidly consume large quantities of alcohol in order to feel its effects as soon as possible.
  • Sacrifices. The individual is willing to give up activities that they used to enjoy in order to carry on taking or having access to the substance.
  • Maintaining a good supply. The individual will ensure that they have a good supply of the substance of choice even if they cannot afford it or are put to serious inconvenience.
  • Secrecy and solitude. The individual uses the substance alone or in secret.
  • Disregard for safety. The individual consumes the substance in amounts which are unsafe (particularly in the case of alcohol and heroin).
  • Maintaining stashes. The individual maintains small hidden stashes of the substance in unlikely places (such as the car or the office).
  • Withdrawal. The individual experiences physical discomfort when their ingested levels of the substance drop below a certain level. Depending on the substance they may experience symptoms such as cravings, constipation, diarrhea, trembling, seizures, sweats, insomnia and uncharacteristic behaviours such as violence.
  • Appetite changes. Some substances alter a person’s appetite. Marijuana consumption, for example, might greatly increase their appetite while cocaine may reduce it.
  • Sleeplessness. While insomnia is a common symptom of withdrawal, the use of illicit stimulants such as speed or ecstacy might also result in a disrupted sleep cycle.
  • A change in appearance. A person may begin to appear more disheveled, tired, and haggard, as using the substance or carrying out the addictive behavior replaces key parts of the day, including washing clothes and attending to personal hygiene.
  • Increasing tolerance. The individual needs to take more and more of the substance to achieve the same effect.

A person might experience a few of these symptoms or many of them. Substance use disorders manifest differently in different individuals.  In general, the greater the number of symptoms displayed, the greater is the severity of the situation. 

Most of the above symptoms apply equally (with the necessary changes) to process disorders (i.e. an addiction to a behaviour such as gambling or shopping). 

Helpful Information for Families

If you love someone who is battling an addiction and you are wondering what to do, please keep the following in mind:

  • Treating an addiction is about more than just about breaking the addict’s physical dependence on the substance – It is a common misconception that curing an addiction simply means abstinence from the substance or behaviour for a long enough period that it is eliminated from the addicted person’s system. This assumption fundamentally misunderstands the nature of addiction and the neurological processes that keep it alive.   As an addiction develops, new and distinct neural pathways are formed in the addicted person’s brain, establishing powerful linkages between the pleasure and relief provided by the substance or behaviour and the routines and triggers of everyday life.  This process might be compared to the formation of a well-trodden hiking trail.  The more we use the path, the faster, easier, and more familiar it becomes.  As we travel it more and more, it becomes wider, smoother, and easier to use.  It becomes a preferred route. The same is true of neural pathways. Over time, the brain forms familiar neural pathways, and these become habitual routes.   Recovery from addiction is about laying new paths and equipping the addicted person with sufficient coping mechanisms and motivation to tread them for a long enough period that they become the preferred route.
  • Sometimes medication is necessary – When treating addictions to opioids (prescription pain relievers or drugs like heroin or fentanyl), medication should be the first line of treatment, followed by some form of behavioural therapy or counseling. Medications are also available to help treat addiction to alcohol and nicotine. Medications are also used to help people detoxify from drugs, although detoxification is not the same as treatment and is not sufficient to help a person recover. Detoxification alone without subsequent behavioural therapy or counseling generally leads to resumption of drug use.
  • Be optimistic – If the addiction is acknowledged and decisive action taken, there is good reason to be optimistic about the future.  The last two decades have seen great strides in the development of effective evidence-based treatment methods and research shows that most people who consciously pursue recovery do ultimately succeed.   A substance use disorder is considered “a good prognosis disorder”. 
  • Be realistic – Expect recovery but be prepared for relapse. Although some people achieve recovery on their first attempt, for others it requires multiple attempts over multiple years.  Family members should also maintain realistic expectations in their interactions with the addicted person.   Your loved one is going to lie to you, and you will want to believe them. They might actually believe themselves. But what they are doing is protecting their illness, because the addictive behaviour or substance has come to seem as vital to them as air. This isn’t to say that you should excuse lying, only that you should understand where it’s coming from so you can take it a little less personally and avoid getting sidetracked by pain and resentment. Instead, keep the lines of communication open, but set clear boundaries that protect you and them, and that encourage a turn toward treatment.
  • You are not to blame – It is not unusual for the immediate family members of a person in active addiction to feel guilt or responsibility for the way that the situation has developed. This is not productive, and it is almost certainly not a true reflection of reality. No matter what you did, how you parented or whether you argued, you did not wish this life for your loved one and you did not cause the condition.  Whatever the circumstances were that led your loved to start using drugs or alcohol, you need to know that addiction is a complicated condition influenced by many factors, including genetics.  It is more than just an emotional or psychological phenomenon.  The structural changes that occur in the addicted brain exert an extremely powerful influence on that person’s behaviour – crowding out reason, common sense and even love. 
  • Educate yourself about treatment options and seek out support networks – A vital first step in moving towards a permanent solution for your loved one and your family is shining a light on the problem.  AlcoholicsNarcotics  Anonymous,  Sex Addicts Anonymous and Gamblers Anonymous are well-established non-profit organisations with a robust global network of support for family members of people suffering from addiction.   If your family member is willing to undergo an assessment, Cherrywood House offers this service for free

Early Recovery Demands

There are a few “suggestions” for people in early recovery. I say suggestions in the same way that it’s a suggestion to pull the cord on a parachute when you jump out of a plane.
The first thing to realise is that recovery has to come first. Recovery, recovery, and more recovery.
So, the question is how we keep recovery at the forefront of our lives when there is so much going on.

  1. Have a morning routine/structure in place. Keep in mind we are not saints and are on a path of progress not perfection. Forgetting to follow your morning routine doesn’t mean that it’s the end of then world. As long as we are doing better than we were doing before and are making small but definite gains in our recovery then we are on the right path.
  2. Having connections with other recovering people. Don’t underestimate the power of these relationships or connections. ‘ONE ADDICT HELPING ANOTHER IS WITHOUT PARALLEL’. There is a good reason they mention this in the Narcotics Anonymous Blue Book, and that’s because it’s true and it works. Having literally an army of recovering people who have done this before you is a major benefit and would be a waste of their and you’re time not to use them.
    Plus you need someone who has been through the steps to take you through the steps, so if you want to continue working this program of change you are going to have to make the connections.
  3. Support Groups
    Have you heard of the suggestion, 90 meetings in 90 days? That’s right a meeting everyday for 3 months. So many people don’t think this is “necessary”.  By the end of the 3 months you will most likely have a decent support structure in place.
  4. Being accountable.
    Accountability protects us from ourselves. In the early phases of our recovery, we can’t really trust ourselves to make the right decisions all the time. We can’t solve the problem with the thinking that created the problem. Therefore, a sponsor, therapist or counsellor is a major benefactor for us. Setting goals and making commitments to someone makes our jobs a bit easier. Almost forcing us to act on our new-found life. Safeguarding us from the insanity that is spoken about in step two.

There are loads more demands that we must face in early recovery. Please comment below this post on what you might be facing or struggling with.

Surviving the Silly Season

As we fast approach the holiday season and Christmas time, many people in recovery start to feel the anxiety. They have a lot of spare time, they have to attend family reunions where alcohol is usually involved, and financial pressure rears its head. These are a few of the stresses that come with this time of year.

So the question is:

HOW DO WE SURVIVE SILLY SEASON?

There are a few key points we can look at.

  • Being accountable / responsible

Having someone to reach out to is very important during this time. Calling a sponsor or a recovery friend before and after can be great protection if you are going to be in a high-risk situation. We have to take responsibility for our recovery and part of that is having an “escape” plan. It is suggested that if possible you have your own vehicle so that you are able to leave on your own terms should the situation warrant that. People might view this as selfish but remember that your recovery comes before anything else.

  • Having realistic expectations of yourself

Don’t fall to the pressure of others and what you might perceive their expectations of you will be. Chances are your family will already know that your recovery comes first and with that, they will also more than likely try to limit your interaction with triggers and possible problematic situations.

It’s important from your side to remember the key factors that make you an addict/alcoholic.

Once you use/drink, you lose control.

Once you lose control, you hurt everyone around you.

When you hurt everyone around you, you disconnect from the vital support system you have in place.

After disconnecting you feel isolated, alone and misunderstood.

The feeling of uselessness and self-pity returns and the cycle starts again.

You have to be gentle on yourself during this time; rather not take the risk and stay clean/sober, than take the risk and land up drunk or high. Your family will understand and appreciate it when you all wake up on Christmas morning and you are present and clean/sober.

  • Engage with your support system

Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, any of the anonymous programs out there are good places to frequent during this time. Staying connected with like-minded people could be the difference between a New Year filled with dread, shame and guilt and a New Year filled with renewed hope, love and possibilities. We as addicts have the ability to think that we are normal people and can engage in festive activities like normal people forgetting that just under the surface we are minutes from our next relapse. The reminders and discussions with other addicts can be used to reinforce our goals and desires for our lives, priority number one always being our recovery.

  • Take time out of your day to reflect on your life and recovery.

Some might suggest meditation and prayer, but taking some time out for you is very important. Processing and reflecting on our lives gives us the guidance we need to maintain recovery. Find a space and a place where you can spend some time and evaluate what you need for yourself and your recovery. This time will pay off for those around you when you partake in your own life.

  • Keep to your systems and structures as much as possible.

Experience says that addicts of any kind are not fond of change. Attempting to stay in your recovery routines as much as possible can make this time easier. Regardless if you are away on holiday or just extra busy. Most recovering addicts have a morning routine that sets their day on the right path, don’t suddenly change that routine and forget to do the thing that works for your life and recovery. Try to maintain step work if you were busy with it before the season. As stated before, continue meetings and speaking to your sponsor. Working a daily program is a key factor to long term sobriety/recovery.

These are but a few points to look at during this time. Please feel free to comment below on what you might need to do during this time, or contact us directly for advice.

Recovery isn’t just about stopping the using

Many people come into treatment  and think this is recovery, if I could just stop using/drinking/acting out my life would be fine, it would go back to “normal”. Here’s the thing, what’s normal?
Is normal that life you had before you started using/drinking? Is normal the way your life was as a child?

Here are the facts, if you walk into our treatment centre it tells us several things.

  1. Your life is no longer working.
  2. You are slowly or quickly dying.
  3. Your family and or loved ones around you are sick and tired of your behaviour.
  4. You, at some stage needed drugs/alcohol to cope with life.
  5. If you could have stopped on your own, you would have by now.
  6. Lastly you are not here by mistake.

Take note of point number 4, your normal didn’t work for you in the past why would it work now?
We understand that using and or drinking had become the major coping mechanism in your life. The question is not why the drugs/ alcohol, the question is why the need for mood and behaviour altering substance? What has happened in your life that made it okay to cope with such a self-destructive behaviour pattern?
Right here things start to get real for our clients. We go into the past and the present and work with them on as many of the “what’s” and “whys” as we can find in our limited amount of time with them.

We address the denial. Without fully conceding that there is a problem, the clients cannot fully concede that they need help. The need for support and help in early recovery is paramount to the ongoing process.

Recovery starts to take on another form. The old ideas and false expectations fall away. We instil the drive that recovery is not a side-line job and it isn’t an event but rather a program of continual action. We delve into the spirit and hope that clients come out the other side refreshed and with a new lease for life. We are in the life changing business and we might not always reach someone, but there is that one, two or three that get it and make the necessary changes and adjustments to live a full and happy life. This by no means is easy, but we suggest struggle, through the hardships come the growth, through the growth comes the freedom.

The freedom is there, waiting for you to grasp it and make it your reality !

Outgrowing Early Recovery

How to outgrow early recovery

 I’m taken back into those first few months of early recovery, some fond memories, some hard battles. Some lost and some won, one thing was certain from the start, recovery needed to be more than just not using. I wanted a new life, I’ve so often heard people say, ‘I want my life to go back to normal’ the way it was before I started using. The truth of that matter is the life you used to have, you needed drugs to cope, so I knew straight away I wasn’t interested in what life used to be like. It was time to outgrow that old life but also, I had to keep growing.
You see one thing I didn’t realise before was the change had to be continual. I wanted more than what the steps had to offer, I wanted more than what the rooms of Narcotics Anonymous had to offer. I was so comfortable in those rooms, surrounded by dysfunction. Yet when I was around “normal” people I felt uncomfortable and out of place. That dynamic had to change for me, I wanted nothing more than to be a productive person. It’s not that I wanted to be normal, I just wanted to feel like a human being. I was so sick of feeling like I was evil, I was sick of lying and hurting everyone I cared about.

So, the process started, I wanted to know why I was an addict or what made me behave in this strange way. I started writing and reading a lot about different theories because the disease theory on its own didn’t make sense to me, I remember a lecture at the treatment centre where I cleaned up, where they said if addiction is a disease then I don’t have it. That statement made a lot more sense to me than some victim angle, blaming disease as the culprit for my disastrous behaviour. So, what then was left to answer the question, why am I an addict?

This question bothered me for months, I read books, researched and watched YouTube till I was blue in the face. I really liked the direction Dr Marc Lewis was going. The neurological side of addiction was very fascinating to me, I wanted to understand what happened in the brain that caused me to go back and back for more “pleasure” at the expense of everything around me.
I found the harder I looked, the less I understood. The less I understood the more questions I asked. Eventually leading to a place where all those questions became irrelevant.
I wasn’t going to solve the mystery of addiction, I was an addict, full stop. It started there and it ended there. Something new surfaced, how did I stay clean this time and what was different to all the other times I had tried to clean up in rehab?
There are a few important points to make here.

  1. Knowledge within itself is useless. For many years I knew all there was to know about what I believed was recovery. I still couldn’t get through a day without using. If knowledge equalled recovery most of us would have got clean a long time ago. Knowledge becomes useful when it is backed by action, dreams, ideas and goals are nothing without applying yourself and making the necessary changes. This is a program of action after all.
  2. Understanding the fundamental basis for recovery became everything. Here is what it means to me. Within myself I did not have nor would I ever possess the power to control my addiction. Once I start the ball rolling, I use over and over again until it kills me, it was that simple. Powerlessness.
  3. I needed to able to stay clean and sober and most importantly sane without NA and AA before I could walk into those rooms and carry any sort of message of hope. I was sick of always having to depend on something. I had always heard throughout every rehab that it was NA or die, I didn’t want to live that life. What if I find myself in a situation where the rooms are not accessible? I would eventually relapse because my recovery depended on being able to get to meetings. There must be a way to apply the same principals in a different environment.
  4. I was not the man of my ideas and intentions. If I was I would never have been an addict or broken all those promises to the people I loved. I would have stayed clean the first attempt and lived a successful life. It was and still is too some extent easy to live in that fantasy, it’s easier to see myself as what I project I want to be rather than the recovering addict in early recovery. Staying present and accountable helped me see myself for what I was, the ideas were important but I was not that person, yet.
  5. I gained an understanding of myself more than anything else, I learnt where I fall short, where my weaknesses are, I also learnt where my strength lies and how to ask for help. Understanding those few points is what keeps me in recovery. I don’t over-estimate my importance any more than I under-estimate it. I believe I have a realistic view of myself and my abilities. I’m not scared to try new things or admit that I’m struggling.

On concluding I feel that it’s important to say that we are not and never will be perfect, we as humans are fallible, we as addicts are hyper-sensitive and critical. Finding the balance between easy and firm on yourself is the key.

Recovery Actions have Expiry Dates

Expiry Dates during recovery:

Many people come through our treatment centre and believe that the work they put in here is enough and that the work they put in here is going to carry them for the rest of their lives. This is a dangerous myth and one that could lead many to relapse.
Like the title states, Actions in recovery have expiry dates and what we mean by this is that the last counselling session you had, has a “half-life” of about a day. That Just for Today reading you did this morning can set you on the right path for the day but still, it’s not enough to keep you clean and sober for the rest of your life.

If you understand the fundamentals of early recovery you’d understand that to convince yourself that using or drinking is a clever idea and won’t hurt anyone is a simple task. “no-one will know”, “just this one time” and then my personal favourite, “this time will be different” are all slogans addicts in early recovery on the road to relapse use. There is no neighbourhood more dangerous than an addict in early recovery left to his/her own devices for extended periods of time.
Another fundamental principle of early recovery is powerlessness, just because I’ve written out the theory of step one does not necessarily mean I grasp the principle of what that step should offer.
If you find yourself alone with the means to use your drug of choice and you are bargaining ‘should I use or should I not use’ you are in a seriously dangerous situation that in my opinion will end in your power of choice diminishing and eventually lead to relapse. The solution here is to remember the principle we are talking about, powerlessness. Asking for help is imperative in this situation, remembering that reaching out means that you care enough about yourself and your recovery to make the right decisions.

I believe what most people get wrong in these early days sounds like this, they don’t view recovery as a lifestyle, a new culture to take part in. They keep life and recovery separate, eventually allowing the “life” side to take priority, smothering out any hope of recovery surviving, this might take a year or 3 weeks but eventually, people lose sight of what’s truly important.
The actions we put in daily last for that day, maybe more. But one thing I feel sure about is that without recovery becoming a lifestyle, the chances of living in long term recovery get smaller. Time and life become the enemy, we can only deal with what we are willing to face and being able to see these simple but powerful facts could be the deciding factor in your process.

Next Steps

We hope that you found this article helpful. If you are struggling with an Addiction or know someone who is. Please feel free to contact us and we can help you with your next steps.

Cherrywood House is a rehabilitation centre for people suffering from substance and other addictive disorders. It is situated in the tranquil, semi-rural environments of Constantia, Cape Town, South Africa. We offer  Residential Programmes, Aftercare Support Services, Outpatient Programme, Family Support Groups. For more information. Visit our Website Here.

Do and Dont’s for Early Recovery

Do’s and Don’ts: Early Recovery

DO – Ask for help from people you trust

In Early Recovery this is probably the single most important piece of advice for someone who continues to struggle with drug or alcohol addiction. The reason such a person is struggling is because they are dealing with a problem all by themselves, and they are constantly battling with the fact that they cannot overcome their problem alone. Many of us are very stubborn and believe that we can figure out such a problem by ourselves, but addiction proves to be too much for many of us.

This does not mean that you are stupid….what it means is that you are a true addict or alcoholic. There is a big difference, and one that most “normies” may never fully grasp. It is easier for a normie to believe that addiction is a produce of either mental weakness or moral failings. In my opinion (being an addict myself) it is neither of those things.

Is alcoholism and addiction about lack of information, or is it a moral issue? One thing that should make you raise an eyebrow towards traditional recovery is this interesting double standard: They say that you are not a bad person if you are an addict or alcoholic, but that you are, in fact, a sick person. So they argue that having the disease of addiction is NOT a moral failing. But then if you look at the traditional recovery steps, they specifically address fixing moral defects of character as a means to treat the addiction. This is an interesting turnabout that I have never quite been able to fully grasp and understand. On the one hand it is a disease and not a moral failing, but on the other hand the 12 steps seek to treat the problem by fixing moral defects of character. Can anyone clarify how this is not some form of confusing doublespeak? It’s not a moral failing, but here…fix it by working on your moral character!

So in my experience addiction and alcoholism are not moral problems, and they are not the result of stupidity either. Instead, it is a physical “allergy” that leads to a pattern and a cycle that traps the addict or alcoholic.

As such, the person needs new information in order to escape from this trap. They cannot do this under their own power unless they learn new information that can teach them how to live successfully without self medicating all the time.

This is what should fuel early recovery then: the need for new information. The struggling addict needs to learn something if they are going to significantly change their manner of living. Therefore early recovery is a huge learning experience.

This is what makes this first “do” so important. You are not going to learn anything by having stuffed rammed down your throat against your will or being preached at. You have to want to learn something if you are truly going to experience something new.

And therefore you must ask for new knowledge. You have to ask for help. This is a critical component of early recovery. If you are not asking for help, if you are not seeking new knowledge about how to live without drugs and alcohol, then you are probably not ready to be clean and sober yet.

Early recovery is really about willingness. Your success in the first year of your recovery can be measured based on your level of willingness at the beginning of your journey.

If you are not in a place where you are willing to ask for help then early recovery is going to be a very rocky experience. Most people who try to get clean and sober without any outside help end up relapsing. This is indeed what defines their addiction. If they can do it on their own then they do not even label themselves as an “addict” or an “alcoholic.”

DO – Follow through on advice and suggestions you receive

After you ask for help, what happens next? Obviously you have to do something with the new information that you receive.

For many people, this will play out as a trip to rehab or treatment of some sort. This is perfectly acceptable and is probably the best course of action for most people in early recovery. There are many benefits to going to inpatient treatment. Certainly you could do worse than ending up in a short term treatment facility.

What happens to most people in early recovery who have taken that first step in asking for help is this: They take a few tentative steps towards real change, then they get scared and pull back, sabotaging their recovery effort. This is why they say that you have to let go “absolutely.” People who fail to let go of everything are still hanging on to some need for control. This is a fear based reaction and it is perfectly understandable.

Just checking into an inpatient rehab can be a very scary experience. I don’t blame anyone for backing out of such a deal. It is scary to turn your will and your life over to others. It is scary to check into treatment and be at the mercy of random strangers. This goes against many of our basic survival instincts, to surrender and back off and allow others to dictate our actions for us. In many respects, going to treatment can be a lot like voluntarily walking into prison and putting your hands out to be chained in handcuffs. It takes a lot of guts to reach this level of surrender.

Willingness is one thing, but taking action is another thing entirely. Having the willingness implies that you are willing to take action.

If you were to interview several recovering addicts and alcoholics who have just made it through their first year of recovery without relapse, you could ask them to take a look back at that first year and tell you how much of the solution was “taking action.”

I am sure if you did this then people would emphatically tell you that it was ALL about taking action. They would say that they really dove into recovery, that they took all sorts of action in their life, and that the people who failed to take action were the ones who relapsed. This is just how it goes. Do nothing (or very little) and you will quickly revert to your old using or drinking behaviors. Relapse comes to those who do nothing.

Early Recovery is all about change. When you first get clean and sober your natural reaction to life in general is to use drugs or alcohol. Period. Your solution for everything is to self medicate. This is your baseline for existence when you first get into recovery.

This has to change. The only way it is going to change is if you ask for help and then take action. Because your whole life is dominated by addiction, you are going to have to take LOTS of action. Just changing one little thing is not going to do it. You have to change “everything.” Again, if you interview successful people in recovery they will emphatically state that this is true, you really do have to change everything. To say that this requires action and follow-through is an understatement. You are going to have to push harder than you have ever pushed before in your life. You are going to have to make a supreme effort.

Thus, action and follow through are extremely important to your success. Anyone can say “I want to quit drugs or alcohol” but very few will actually put in the massive work required and get it done. You can be one of those people if you choose to take massive action and put forth a serious effort.

DO – Dedicate your life to recovery

This “do” is really about the level of action, willingness, and follow through that you commit to taking in recovery.

Essentially what you will want to do is to dedicate your entire life to recovery. This should happen for at least the first year or two.

Most people who first dabble with the idea of getting clean and sober do not come anywhere near this level of dedication and commitment. They suffer from a problem that I like to call “compartmentalizing their recovery.”

What this means is that the person is trying to pick and choose how they recover, when they recover, and by what methods they recover. They are trying to say “OK, I can go to an AA meeting here and there, but I certainly can’t live in treatment or do this sponsorship stuff or attend meetings every day for months on end!”

Or they may say “sure, I can quit drinking or using drugs….but there is no way I am going to an inpatient facility in order to do so!”

Or they may simply try to recover from their addiction without disrupting any other part of their life. They try to compartmentalize their recovery and put it in this neat little box, such that it does not affect any other part of their life. They want everything else to continue on as normal, without their recovery having much impact on the other parts of their life.

This is never going to work. This cannot ever possibly work for anyone. You cannot compartmentalize your recovery from addiction. It’s not possible. People who try to do so have not fully grasped just how deeply their addiction infiltrates every part of their life.

There is a reason that they say that “you have to change everything.” They say this because it is really true. If you successfully go through a year or two of recovery, you will look back on it one day and agree with the statement that “yes, everything is really different in your life, everything changed, you had to let go of everything in order to recover.”

People who hang on to a little piece of their old life are only sabotaging their efforts. They have reservations. They cannot let go absolutely.

In order to succeed in early recovery you must let go of everything. You must become willing to change everything.

In order to do this you need to be willing.

Then you need to ask for help.

Then you need to follow through on the advice and suggestions you receive.

And finally you need to dedicate your entire life to learning a new way of life. If you have to slap a time limit on it then give yourself a year. Tell yourself “for one year, I will dedicate my entire life to recovery, to not using drugs or alcohol, and to learning a new way to live so that I can be happy while being clean and sober.”

If you watch people in recovery who end up relapsing, you will notice that they have not done this. They have not dedicated their entire life to recovery. They are stuck trying to compartmentalize their recovery. In a way, they are still trying to have their cake and eat it too. They are trying to hold on to control of certain things while only hoping to let go of other things. You cannot succeed this way. You have to let go of everything (need to control) absolutely. Let go of it all. Surrender fully and completely to your addiction. This is the only way to truly succeed in recovery. You must dedicate your entire life to sobriety, to recovery, to a new way of living.

DON’T – Rely on meetings or therapy alone to keep you sober

Now for some “don’ts.”

My first recommendation can be slightly controversial, because most people in traditional recovery harp on the idea that “meeting makers make it.” Going to daily AA meetings is typically seen as a lifeline to strong recovery. Why would anyone argue against those helpful meetings?

Really I am not arguing against the meetings, I am just putting in a word of caution here.

What I am suggesting is that you do not RELY on the meetings for your continued success in recovery.

You can test this yourself without risking relapse. Simply cut back from your meetings, and see how you feel. If you go to AA every single day, try skipping a day here and there and see if it affects you. Some people find that it changes their attitude and their outlook when they miss a meeting. I used to experience this myself in early recovery, and I could notice it when it happened.

So what changed? I forced myself to solve this particular problem. Why was I dependent on the meetings in order to have a good attitude and feel confident in my recovery? I did not like this after I discovered it and realized that I had just created another dependency (much healthier than a drug or alcohol dependency, but a dependency nonetheless).

What changed for me is that I started to realize that I was complacent in going to daily meetings. I was using them incorrectly. I was using daily AA meetings as a form of ongoing therapy. This is not their intended purpose, believe it or not. But this is largely what daily AA meetings have become for most people.

I vowed to stop using the meetings this way and to stop relying on them as a daily therapy session. In order to do this I started to seek other outlets, other forms of personal growth, and other ways to feel good about my recovery that did not involve “the program.”

What I discovered is that recovery is really nothing more than a continuous cycle of personal growth–a constant reinvention of the self. People could achieve this state of growth both in and out of programs like AA. I also discovered that people could achieve this cycle of personal growth by being in alternative programs, religious based programs, or in no program at all. The key was in the personal growth, not in the specific program of recovery.

So by all means, you (or anyone else) can keep going to AA meetings every day, and I would encourage you to do so if you get value out of them. But do not rely on those meetings in order to sustain your recovery. If you do then this only points to a glaring weakness in your own recovery process. Personal growth outside of AA meetings should be enough to sustain your recovery. If it is not then your dependency is making you weaker, not stronger.

On the other hand, if you can find successful recovery via personal growth without depending on AA, then you can still attend AA meetings and have something much more powerful and meaningful to contribute to them. You can become a message of hope and strength in a venue where most people are dependent on the group therapy aspect to sustain their sobriety, and you will be coming instead from a place of greater strength.

DON’T – Expect early recovery to be easy

Again, this is just underestimating your disease and the recovery process itself. Nearly everyone does this at first, and usually a relapse or two is necessary in order to realize just how powerful the addiction truly is.

This speaks to the level of dedication and commitment that is required. Think back to the greatest challenge of your life so far, and what the toughest thing is that you have ever accomplished. Now realize that overcoming your addiction is probably going to be a full step harder than anything else ever has been for you. This is the struggle of your life and if you want to succeed then you have to realize that this is going to be a very difficult journey.

I don’t like it when people throw around “doom and gloom statistics” in recovery but the fact is that those lousy success rates are basically true. The odds are heavily stacked against the individual in recovery, and most people do not make it to 1, 5, 10 years sober. But obviously many people DO make it in recovery and you can certainly be one of them. You just have to decide and commit to doing so. But realize that you must decide and commit with a level of intensity that is far beyond anything you have ever done before in your life. This is it. Nothing in your past could have possibly prepared you for a challenge of this magnitude, so you would be wise to realize this and adjust accordingly. Don’t make a lazy or half hearted effort and expect to be successful.

DON’T – Set yourself up for future complacency

I mentioned the trap of AA meetings and a possibly dependency there. In addition to this, anyone who is practicing “acceptance” more than they are challenging themselves to grow is also headed for trouble.

Complacency is the trap of laziness. It is a path that says “we are OK now, we are stable in recovery, no need to seek out any more learning or growth experiences.”

Don’t allow yourself to fall into this trap. The way to prevent this is to embrace the cycle of personal growth. Realize that you are always going to be learning new things, and stay open to new growth opportunities. There is a proper “pace” in recovery where you are always looking ahead to that next challenge, and at the same time you are not burning yourself out either. Find that pace. In finding it you will also realize that there is a time for acceptance and reflection in your life. But even after you reach a goal in your life, you should still be looking ahead to your next big project. Thus you can always be learning, always be willing to change and to grow. This is the path of success in recovery.

sourced from Spiritual River

Maintaining Recovery in early recovery

Identify And Mend Signs Of Trouble Down The Recovery Road

When you are driving or are on a road trip and you don’t fix the small leaks, rattles, and squeaks when they pop up, you’re going to find yourself broken down somewhere down the road. Remember that a tiny drip becomes a drop. A drop becomes a tiny puddle, and before you know it you’ll be spewing oil everywhere and wonder what the hell happened.
Catch the small problems in your recovery when they’re small. Don’t put things off. So, what can you do to keep up a healthy addiction recovery program? How to stay on track?

REMEMBER: Diagnose, Repair, Maintain.

All this is really pretty simple.

Sustaining Your Recovery: What TO DO

Within this article you will find a 10 point recovery checklist which will be your guide to keep your recovery running strong and out of the repair shop.

Would you leave for a cross country road trip without checking your fluids, tire pressure, and lights?

I didn’t think so.

Most guys put more time and energy into maintaining their vehicles than they do maintaining their lives. Don’t do this.
Do this instead…

9 Guidelines For Addiction Recovery Maintenance

1. Make sure you are being honest with yourself and others at all times. No exceptions.

If you are not willing to be honest with yourself, there is no way you’re going to be honest with anyone else. Lying to yourself and pretending that you’re okay when you are not will put you back in the repair shop quickly and you won’t see the breakdown coming until it’s too late.

Be honest, even if it upsets others. It is not your responsibility to determine how they will react to your honesty. It’s much easier to tell the truth the first time, man up and face your consequences than it is to back track wondering what you said to who and why you said it. Quit fooling yourself and JUST BE HONEST.

2. Regularly attend support groups to keep yourself fueled.

Thinking that you could drive from Cape Town to Johannesburg on one tank of petrol is a pipe dream. Unless you’ve got a 200 gallon gas tank, it ain’t gonna happen. You know those places that sell gas? They’re everywhere. They need to be everywhere, or no one would be going anywhere.

Cars, trucks, and motorcycles need fuel to run. They need to be filled up often to keep running, and so do you. Meetings and support groups are your fuel. Fail to stop for fuel often and you’re going to stall out and be stranded.

3. Fix problems while they are small.

Don’t be the guy that neglects an oil drip, cracked radiator hose, or bald tire. Remember that an oil drip ain’t going to fix itself. It will only get worse. Don’t think that duct taping your radiator hose is going to fix it. It won’t, and it will burst eventually. Replace the thing. A bald tire can be deadly if not changed immediately. Pull the wheel off and change the tire.

If you are encountering small problems in your recovery, remember the sequence: diagnose, repair, maintain. Legal problems? Man up and face em’. Relationship, money, health, or employment issues? FACE THEM. Fix what you can with what you have. Surrender the things you can’t fix to the Master Mechanic.

4. Wash, wax, inspect, and repeat.

Most guys will spend a load of money on their car, truck, or motorcycle. They will only buy premium fuel, synthetic oils, and brand name tires. That’s all fine and dandy, but these same guys won’t spend more than a few bucks on buying healthy food, a gym membership, or going to the doctor. Take care of your body. You’ve busted your butt to get sober, so why would you skimp on the vehicle that’s going to take you through life?

Take care of your health. Honor what God has given you. Get some exercise. Stop eating garbage. Quit smoking already. Get plenty of sleep. Learn to rest and relax. Would you put used oil and fouled out spark plugs in your prized possession? I didn’t think you would, so stop treating your body like it will run forever. It won’t. Take care of it and it will take care of you.

5. Stay on your own lane.

There is a passing lane, a driving lane, and a slow lane. If you are really trying your best to live a life based in recovery, you have no business being in the fast lane. None. The fast lane is for passing, not driving. There are always those jackasses that are constantly hurrying to get somewhere that will drive in the fast lane.

THAT SHOULD NOT BE YOU.

It’s okay to pass, but remember that recovery is a long-term deal. It is the most epic adventure you will ever embark on, so get used to going slow and pacing yourself. You’re not going to get to anywhere worth going by rushing. You are not Dale Earnhardt, Mario Andretti or Evil Knievel. Slow the hell down and enjoy the ride. Remember: God’s time, not yours. You will get there, but not by rushing.

6. Realize that you can’t fix everything. Some things will break and stay broken for a while, and that’s fine.

While it’s a really good idea to fix problems while they’re still small, some things are not for you to fix. You may not have the knowledge, the right tools, or be ready to tackle repairing certain parts of your life. Don’t stress. You need to learn how to change your own oil before you can even begin learning how to overhaul an engine, so don’t take on problems that are not yours to fix in the first place.

If you’re trying to rebuild your relationships, finances, health, or employment, remember that you need to learnmaintaining recovery how to manage what’s in front of you before you are given more to manage and repair. Why don’t they just let a kid drive when they turn 16? They can’t handle it. It would be a complete shit-show.

A kid learns to drive very slowly and deliberately in driver’s education with the instructor at the helm, ready to react if junior makes a dumb move. You are still learning to drive. Chill out and enjoy the process.

7. Follow the instructions at all times.

There are auto repair manuals for a reason. Don’t think you can do things your own way and be successful. You can’t. When it comes to maintaining your recovery, you’ve got to do what the pros do (people that have been in recovery longer than you): Listen, learn, apply, and repeat.

The “instructions” to living a healthy and balanced life in recovery can be found at various support meetings and in various books that are read in these support meetings. If you think you’re slick and can cut corners, go ahead…but you must be willing to deal with whatever consequences come your way for doing a half-hearted job.

ASK FOR HELP WHEN YOU NEED IT. DON’T BE A SUPERHERO.

8. Expect breakdowns and detours.

I don’t care how well you’ve maintained your vehicle…THINGS STILL BREAK. Things do not always work out how they are supposed to. Plans change. Potholes are everywhere. Roads are closed, tires go flat, and rocks get spit up by 18-wheelers and chip your paint. It’s not your job to control and micro-manage every step of your journey, nor is it your job to predict everything that might go wrong.

That’s impossible.

Only one mechanic is capable of such things, and that’s the Master Mechanic. If things go wrong – and they will go wrong – adapt, reset, repair, and get back on the road. If that road is closed, ask for directions.

9. Keep a maintenance checklist. Do this daily.

You need to do this. You’ve got to keep track of what’s running well in your life, what’s starting to run a little rich or lean, hot or cold, what’s leaking and what’s not, and keep track of those things. You will not know what’s wrong and what needs to be fixed or maintained if you skip this step. Just do it.

Daily recovery maintenance checklist:

  • Was I 100% honest today?
  • Did I do my best to live in the solution, or have I been living in the problem?
  • Did I make good use of my time today? Why or why not?
  • Was I grateful for what I already have?
  • Did I whine or complain about things I do not have? What is this doing for me?
  • Am I playing well with others?
  • Have I been getting regular exercise?
  • What kind of fuel have I been putting into my body?
  • Have I been working to improve myself today?
  • Am I keeping my surroundings neat and tidy?
  • Am I regularly checking my motives?
  • Am I getting enough rest?
  • Am I reading something difficult every day, just for practice?
  • Have I been financially responsible today?

-sourced from addictionblog