Prescription for Recovery

How many people really stay sober?
How successful is treatment?
Can drug addicts really stop using drugs?
Can I ever stop gambling?
Doesn’t everyone relapse?

As a counselor I have heard these questions many times. I believe the answer is both simple and encouraging. The people who follow the directions are most likely to stay clean and sober and stop destructive, addictive/compulsive behaviors!
As with any illness, if you follow the doctor’s orders you have an excellent chance of getting better. If you do not follow the prescribed treatment relapse is probably in your future. The problem is most people who want and/or need to be clean and sober do not want to follow the directions! It says in the book Alcoholics Anonymous, “We thought we could find an easier, softer way”. This usually means that the person who is experiencing problems with, or related to, their use of alcohol and/or other drugs or addictive/compulsive behaviors, i.e. gambling or self-harm, wants to fix the problem their way! Usually by taking the path of least resistance. Doesn’t work. There is no easier, softer way. However, there is a very simple way. Follow the prescribed directions. Very simple—but not easy.
Another significant problem is that most people think the solution to problems related to alcohol and/or other drug use or an addictive/compulsive behavior is to stop drinking or using drugs and stop the problem behavior. That actually does have to be done. But that is not the whole solution. The key to complete abstinence and long-lasting recovery is to develop and maintain a different way of living. If all you do is stop using, you will not automatically live differently. If you really want the problem to stop you will have to be willing to change yourself and your way of life.

Prescription—Follow these directions daily:

*Do not use alcohol or any other intoxicating substance. It does not matter which substance is causing you problems. You can not stop using alcohol and continue to use marijuana. You can not stop using cocaine and continue to use alcohol. You get the idea. Do not use any of them. Remember that you need to change your way of life. If you stop using one substance and continue to use another nothing will change.

*Prescription drugs that are potentially abuseable , i.e., medication for pain, anxiety, sleep, should be evaluated by your doctor. A consult with a physician who is an Addictionologist is recommended.

*Get involved in twelve-step recovery groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, etc. It doesn’t matter if you like them or not. Sometimes the medicine you need does not taste good. Sometimes the treatment you need does not feel good. Go to meetings. Every day. You need to change your lifestyle and the people you will meet there know how to do that.

*Get lots of phone numbers from people you meet in the twelve-step meetings. Important note: men should get numbers from other men; women should get numbers from other women. Call someone on your phone list every day. Every day, every day. Do not wait until you need someone to talk to. Get in the habit of making the connection.

*Stop associating with people you have used alcohol or other drugs with. Or behaved inappropriately with. It is not okay to hang out with them when they are not using or hang out with them and you not use. This means do not associate with them—at all. Have I mentioned that you are trying to change your lifestyle?

*Stop going to places where you used alcohol or other drugs or participated in inappropriate behavior. It is not okay to go to old hangouts as long as you don’t use. Do not go to those places—at all. Do not “test” yourself. Passing one test means nothing. Lifestyle!

*Exercise your body. Having a physically demanding job does not count. Go for a walk, ride a bike, play tennis. Use the money you would have spent on alcohol or other drugs to join a gym. Exercise every day.

*Exercise your mind. Having a mentally challenging job does not count. Read a book, do a crossword puzzle. Play chess. Read recovery oriented or inspiring literature. Every day.

*Do not tell anyone what is wrong with them. You do not need to fix other people, places or things to stay clean and sober. Focusing on what is wrong with others usually leads you to believe they have the power to make you relapse. They do not. You are the only one who can choose to use or behave in a destructive manner. Or choose not to. You are responsible for your behavior. Focus on your own issues!

*Begin to investigate your own beliefs and establish values that you want/need to live by. Figure out what gives your life meaning and purpose. Nurture that. Live according to your beliefs. Behave in accordance with your values. Don’t lie to yourself. Don’t rationalize unacceptable behavior. Be responsible.

*Accept the fact that you are going to be uncomfortable for a while—restless, irritable and discontent. And bored. That’s part of early recovery. Being uncomfortable does not mean you have to use alcohol or other drugs or engage in destructive behaviors. Call someone who is staying sober and in recovery.

*Do not demand that everyone trust you now that you are not drinking, drugging, gambling, spending, watching pornography or whatever it is you were doing. Trust takes time. Sometimes lots of time. Be patient. Focus on changing your lifestyle.

*See a mental health/substance abuse professional who can provide valuable information and support and evaluate your mental/emotional health needs.

*Follow the directions.

©John T. Doheny III