Relapse Protection: Ten Ways to Prevent a Slip – Part 2

Continued from Relapse Protection: Ten Ways to Prevent a Slip – Part 1. If you desire lifelong sobriety, follow these tips to prevent relapse: 6. Work the Steps—all of them. It seems obvious, given that it is called the Twelve Step program, but it’s easy to get lazy, start to cut corners, and begin asking if it is really necessary to work all of the Steps. The format works if you work it. Initially we go through the Steps to combat addiction. Later, life will present new challenges and opportunities to employ and apply the Steps anew. Continued effort in working the Steps solidifies sobriety. We will continue to use them for the rest of our lives.  7. Serve. Every sphere of life is an opportunity to place others and their needs before your own. We begin with Twelfth Step service to the group and fellow addicts and alcoholics, but we take great measures toward preserving our sobriety when we carry the practice of service into all areas of our lives. As addicts, we have an increased inclination toward selfishness and self-centeredness. While we think it is always in our best interest to serve ourselves and see our own needs met, we’ve often taken this to an unhealthy degree and made it—everything—all about us. When we serve others, we take the focus off of the personal issues and problems that have the power to drag us deep into self-pity, and back to our drug of choice. Through service we become useful, purposeful people, and we see the value of a sober life. As we help others—addicts or not—we help ourselves.  8. Build a life centered on recovery rather than prohibition. You have decisions to make regarding how you will approach your sober life. Will your life be lacking in drugs and alcohol or abundant in recovery? Perspective is everything! When you build a new life for yourself that is rich in healthy activities and relationships with healthy people, there is no room for alcohol, drugs, or dysfunctional living. On the other hand, if you insist on trying to maintain your old life and simply subtract alcohol from the equation, you will always feel that there is something missing. Eventually you will want to refill the void. We now have the time, effort, and money that our addiction was always stealing from us. What activities have you always wanted to do? What do you want to learn? How can you reinvest these gifts of time and money for the edification of yourself and others?  9. Learn from the “old-timers.” No qualities are quite so essential to recovery as humility and teachability. In our drinking or using days we were pretty sure we had the world figured out. And we see where that got us. In recovery we are learning that there is quite a lot we don’t understand about ourselves, other people, and life in general. Once we were afraid to ask for help because we feared others would judge our lack of knowledge. Our pride would not allow us to admit we didn’t have it all together. We are now learning an entirely new way of being in the world, and we need help. There is no shame in asking for it. We also must learn a posture of submission. The Twelve Step program might not always make sense to us and it may not always fit our preferences, but we cannot deny that it has worked for many people. Rather than putting up a fight, we might surrender the debate and give it a try. We might ask program veterans how they work their program and what has been effective. We might admit we aren’t perfect. In doing so we not only grow in humility, we open ourselves up to learning and profiting from the collective experience of the group.  10. Understand that no one is immune to a slip. No matter how long we have been in the program, we are all only one step away from a full-blown return to our addicted alter ego. We must never become complacent, thinking ourselves above our addiction and its power to take us down. While recovery means we need not live in fear of alcohol or drugs or a return to our old ways, we must maintain a healthy respect for and perspective on the disease. Though our recovery may be strong, if we think a slip is impossible, we may learn the hard way that we are mistaken. Humility is required. “We are not cured of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 85)

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