It has been a long time since you picked up. Not hours, not days, not weeks, but months—and you are finally feeling the inner smiles that accompany the mental clarity. You want to stay clean and sober, and it is your intention to never go back to your addiction, no matter how much it tempts you. You are going to daily meetings, and you are on the right track. What could go wrong after such a successful addiction and recovery process?
Sometimes, it is not anything you have done to push you over the edge and into the danger zone. It could be nothing more than getting a ticket from a cop, or it could be as serious as losing a close friend or relative. It is called extraordinary stress, and it is a common cause of relapse during the recovery process. Now, please, don’t think for a moment that I’m saying to use the excuse to justify your relapse. I’m not. In fact, I won’t accept it as the reason for your relapse since it is up to you to stand up to the stress or fall in the face of it. That’s a decision you need to make. However, if you think you need an excuse to use, you don’t. You know, you just want to use it again. Be honest with yourself.
We always talk about recovery in terms of “one day at a time.” The message I take from that phrase is that my sobriety is only solid for today if I want it. If I make it through the day without picking up, no matter how much I thought about it, I was successful. Tomorrow is another day, so I have to be strong and go another day without picking up. And the next, and so on. And if I’m lucky, if I want it enough, there will be a day when I don’t think about picking up. I’ll go through the day and not think about using it even once. And then another. And another. But I must be cautious because, in that continuation of thought-free days, I might become complacent and think I can relax my guard, stop worrying about using and find comfort in trying it “just once” to see if I’m still addicted. And that maybe that’s all it takes to start over from scratch.
Another trigger to pick up again is friends. We want to share good times with them and often use their weakness to justify our own. It doesn’t matter what the reason, using is using, weakness is weakness, and either you choose to not use and find reasons to avoid picking up, or you find excuses to justify picking up. It is your choice.
Finding sober events is a great way to stay focused on things other than using. That means that if you are focused on doing other things, you may not think about picking up. Whether it’s bowling, dining, or taking a photography class, there are things you can do to find pleasure without triggering the desire to pick up once more. There’s one more thing that makes maintaining sobriety easier: having sober friends. The more sober friends you are around, the easier it is to do the next right thing.