Warning signs of relapse are crucial factors to learn while in treatment and if you learn them you will prevent another trip back to a treatment center. It is often recommended that once an individual leaves treatment he or she should do certain things to stay clean. Attending 12 step meetings, getting a sponsor, seeing a therapist and creating a spiritual life are some of the suggestions. Doing these things will help the person be more self-aware and develop a new way of living. Thus, a relapse will also be less likely.
One of the main reasons people relapse is because they cut back or stop doing the things that people recommended them to do to maintain sobriety. Other warning signs might be a little subtler. Some of which might be stress due to home, work, or financial worries. Additionally, overworking, lack of sleep, difficulty concentrating, or irritability can be problematic for a person in recovery. Having such symptoms can be uncomfortable for the addict and can push them in the direction of escaping these feelings.
Isolation and loneliness are other signs that someone can be on the verge of a relapse. It is often said that the worst place to be for an addict to be is alone in his or her own’s head. A recent article points out the struggles that one woman went through and the devastation that a relapse can have. The sad thing is that she missed several warning signs which could have prevented this tragedy.
Additionally, when a person is becoming more and more self-centered this is a sign that there might be a problem. So often recovering addicts will say, “get out of self and into others”. In other words, to stay clean it is important that you help others and give away what you have learned. No one can do recovery alone. Stay connected with those who are so willing to help you through this process. You will not regret it. So, be mindful of yourself and you will be prepared to take on the warning signs of a potential relapse. By living this way you will only get stronger!
People need to have good listening and communication skills to have healthy relationships. Moreover, it will be crucial for anyone in recovery. But, many times people are set in their ways and have developed unhealthy habits when it comes to talking with family and friends. For a person to improve these skills it will take hard work and practice. So, if you are open to changing the way you communicate with people it then half the battle is won because most people do not like change! A recent article discusses how important it is to have a voice and to be able to express your thoughts to others and get through your daily struggles.
The first tip when speaking with someone is to not talk at the same time. How many of us can relate to this? It is very simple, you cannot listen if you are talking. Next it is important for you to put the other person at ease or make them feel comfortable when having a conversation. So, look at the person, give appropriate body language so they know you are listening to them. Also, it is important to show the person that you are interested in what they are saying. For instance, you should turn off the television or your phone. This will ensure the other person that what they are saying is important.
Another terrific way to demonstrate to a friend or loved one that you are listening is to show empathy. In other words, try to put yourself in their shoes. You can also rephrase what they are saying and this will show understanding on your part. If you ask questions this will also show the person you are listening. Next, allow the person to say what’s on their mind. It is essential to give the person the time to express what their concerns are. This is especially important for those in recovery because it is usually the case that we have violated a person’s trust at some point in the relationship. Also, don’t get angry and fly off the handle when you hear something you do not like or agree with. This will ruin a conversation quickly!
The funny thing about speaking with people we know is that we have become so comfortable with them that we often have developed terrible habits. But if you can give these tips a shot then you can break away from your normal routines. By doing this you will be on a path to developing healthier relationships. Try it and see the improvements!
In recovery people often talk about sponsorship. This is someone who will guide you through your sobriety and the Twelve Steps to remain clean and sober. But, there is another aspect of recovery that is just as important; making friends. For anyone in recovery, long term sobriety is strongly associated with the connections made in the rooms of Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous.
Just like the workplace developing strong relationships adds to the quality of a person’s life. A recent article discusses the benefits of having friends at work. So, the alcoholic or addict needs to build friendships to be content and lead a fulfilling life in sobriety. One former patient discussed the value of such a friendship. This patient after leaving treatment went to meetings on a regular basis. He did not have a vehicle. Therefore, he would ride his bike to meetings and work. Yet, after a while he met a gentleman who offered to pick him up and take him to meetings and work.
A friendship developed and they spent more time together. Thus, they started enjoying each other’s company and would talk a lot about living sober. The gentleman was not this person’s sponsor. He was just another alcoholic helping a friend out. One day, they were out eating lunch. The former patient mentioned that he was having thoughts about wanting to relapse. His friend looked at him and simply said, “I don’t want to see you do that”. The sincerity in this man’s eyes and the tone of his voice was so caring that the thought of drinking again did not seem appealing anymore.
The friendship prevented a relapse and enhanced the quality of this patient’s life. They still hang out to this day and have lots of great laughs. The patient later conveyed to me that he often remembers this friend and others when he is going through tough times. They motivate him to stay sober! Twelve Step Meetings offer a better life and a deep sense of fellowship. That is what recovery is all about.
By: Debbi T.
Hope. That is what I want to share with you today. I have been where you are. I am the sibling of an addict. It first started as an alcohol addiction and then it escalated to painkillers, marijuana and eventually heroin. But today, I am thankful to share with you that my brother is a recovering addict helping others.
The pain and hopelessness that you feel watching a family member, friend or lover battle an addiction is heavy. But, I am here to tell you that it is not hopeless. You may feel your addict has hit rock bottom and then you discover rock bottom wasn’t even close. But, still, there is hope.
The excuses, the lies and the needs of an addict are never ending. You want to just shake them and snap them out of it, but you can’t. You can’t fix your addict. Your addict must fix him or herself. That’s a hard lesson to learn. But, it’s a lesson I finally learned after many years of trying and finally figuring out what I could and could not do.
I remember thinking how can my parents refuse to let him stay in their house, a home we all shared so many good times together? How can I turn my back on my brother? But, in reality I wasn’t and my parents weren’t either. We were making him stronger to fight his own battle. And, you know what? One day, after years of frustration, he finally did.
Each member of my family played a role in convincing him to finally get help. He was in and out of rehab facilities and he was on and off drugs for periods of time. He was trying and deep down in my heart I know he wanted to get well. Unfortunately, that little demon on his shoulder kept showing up again…time after time.
It was so frustrating to watch the daily battle occur. I kept asking myself, why? Why can’t he just stop? Why can’t he follow through with a program? Why? Finally, one day I realized the answer to the question. He couldn’t do it because he didn’t want to. He was trying but his heart wasn’t in it. He was doing it for all the wrong reasons. Maybe he was trying to get well for my parents, for his siblings, for his friends who cared so dearly about him but he wasn’t doing it for himself. Then, one day he realized he needed to get well for himself or the inevitable would happen.
I will never forget that particular conversation. It was one of the countless conversations I had with him about getting professional help. But, for some reason on this day it was different. It was a brief phone call but it was one that would change his life. I was walking into the YMCA for a cardio class and my phone rang. He finally realized he couldn’t do it himself and he was reaching out for help.
We had been talking about him going to Williamsville Wellness in Virginia for addiction treatment. In fact, a recent article discusses one of the newest techniques as part of their holistic approach to addiction. A call to the facility and a heartfelt conversation about addiction inspired him and finally something in him made him realize this was a dire situation. The words were chilling. He said to me, “If I don’t get that bed I’ll be dead.” He did get that bed and Williamsville saved my brother’s life!
This former patient had everything going for her. She had completed treatment for alcoholism and took action with her aftercare plan. So, she was doing the right things to remain sober. Guess what happened next? This patient’s life got better and better. From not working to working a full-time job. Moreover, she developed close relationships with her family and friends. A recent article discusses how millennials view getting drunk as pathetic and that they prefer to create positive memories. This recovering alcoholic had now created this sort of life for herself. What a change!
Soon thereafter, this sober female continued to maintain a life full of joy and happiness because she kept her sobriety number one! Every now and then I would hear updates on how she was doing. I had the immense pleasure to see her go from utter despair to pure sober joy. That is why I enjoy helping people. Many folks ask me isn’t your job stressful and challenging. I always respond, “No Way, I love my job!” As counselors we do what we can to support a client and give them the tools to live sober. The reality is that it is up to the patient to make some changes and take action. As alcoholics are powerless over alcohol, I am powerless over people. But it sure is fun to see the ones who make progress.
As life got busier though she began to cut back on attending 12-step meetings. I hadn’t gotten an update in a while. Before long, I heard that she had relapsed because sobriety was no longer her priority. As a result, she had lost her job, her family worried and did not trust her any longer. She was now worse off than ever. This shows the power of this disease. It is sneaky and progressive. It waits and waits and when people let their guard down it attacks and destroys the human body, mind and spirit. But, she did not give up. That’s the thing with alcoholism, as long as the person is not dead they have a chance to recoup. She was one of the fortunate ones.
Now, with the encouragement of those who had helped her gain success she got back on the right track. Relapse does not have to be the end all but it easily can set a person back in a heartbeat. That is why people in recovery need to maintain continued abstinence. So, it is critical to live one day at a time and keep sobriety as your number one priority each day.
It is important for any athlete, performer or anyone in recovery to stay focused. Baseball taught me to do just that. Now, with the stress of the playoffs ahead, our 1987 baseball team had to concentrate on the goal at hand. We had to heighten our awareness. We began this task and won three more games in a row. The final game was here. I will never forget being on that mound in the final game.
I help people with addiction and when I do, I often ask clients to think of something they really enjoy doing. Then, I often have them do a fun group activity. When we process the activity, I ask if anyone thought about drinking or drugging during the activity. I have yet to hear someone reply yes. The idea of distracting oneself can be a very useful tool when an addict is having thoughts or cravings. In addition, staying in the moment whether it’s a ball game or recovery is a wonderful thing.
There were thousands of fans cheering and sitting on the edge of their seats throughout the game, so I heard. But, I was so focused on my catcher that I never heard my mom, dad or friends yelling for me. We were leading 5-4 going into the last inning. Our team was on the verge of either winning or losing the State title. I walked the first batter. The winning run for the other team was now at the plate with no outs.
Before I knew it there two outs but runners were on second and third. That meant any base hit to the the outfield would most likely end our dreams. So, with three balls and two strikes on the batter my catcher called for me to deliver a curve ball. It started out and away, out of the strike zone, but incredibly dropped back in with the umpire calling out strike three! The only thing I remember from that point on was my catcher running out to me and jumping into my arms. I had never felt so happy, pure sober happiness! With the support of my team just like the fellowships of AA or NA we had achieved our goal. Life is so much better when we involve others in our journey!!
For anyone who has played a sport or had a hobby you most likely have experienced living in the moment. Is it possible for a singer to be thinking about a pressing matter while performing? Does a ball player have the ability to think about the grocery list while chasing down a fly ball? I doubt it! These are examples of being in the zone and focusing on the moment at hand. This is what my 1987 baseball team had done. So, addiction recovery often tries to teach the addict to remain in the present. For many addicts, if they think about it, have had many moments when he or she was living this principle. If one can master the concept, it will build strength in that person and bring about a sense of peace.
My 1987 baseball team turned a corner a little more than half way through the season. There were several factors that played into this. Maybe it was our coach telling us that we “f***ing” sucked. He was being brutally honest with us at the time and just like addiction, sometimes we need to hear the truth although it may hurt. Perhaps, we got sick and tired of losing or as they say in the 12-step rooms, “sick and tired of being sick and tired”. Whatever it was we needed to make a change. So, we did. We started spending more time with each other outside of games and practice. We would eat together, talk baseball and build camaraderie. Kinda like what 12-step groups suggest…
As a result , our team began to get along much better. We encouraged each other to do our best and we did not blame each other if something went wrong. Furthermore, I no longer was being chased by that crazy teammate with a bat! Now, we were on the brink of the playoffs. However, we needed one more win and another team to lose to be the last seed in the State Tournament. We heard the other team did lose. Our hopes were alive. But, we were down by three runs in the last inning of the game we needed to win.
So, with the bases loaded, Tommy C. did it…a towering home run to left field. Talk about a moment of pure “sober” joy! We did it and now all we needed to do was win four games in a row and we would accomplish our goal, State Champs. The goal of sobriety is achievable too. To be continued…
It was June 1987 and about one week before I was about to graduate high school. But, for me that was not something I was excited about. Nope, not for me. I had something else better going on than that. The chance for our baseball team to win the state title. This was years before I would understand addiction recovery and some of the concepts used to help addicts; such as mindfulness, meditation, etc. The crazy thing about this experience in 1987 was that I was not only playing baseball but at the same time I was mastering these concepts and my buddies were too. We were in the zone!
This all started back in March of ’87. I had a group of friends who were on a mission. We wanted to be the best in the state. How could we do this? Well, it would take a lot of the suggestions that 12-step programs give to addicts. We would have to focus…one game at a time, communicate with each other and build each other up in order to get where we were going. We all had the same goal. Sound familiar? It should, as 12-step programs assert that fellowships try to solve a common problem, either alcoholism or addiction. Looking back our team had fellowship and it was strong! We were helping each other on and off the field. A recent article discusses the importance of doing this and supporting one another in addiction recovery.
Our season, just like recovery had its setbacks. We started out slow and it took time before we would progress and gain hope. In addition, we had some dysfunction too. I will never forget my childhood friend got so angry with me during a practice that he chased me with baseball bat. Fortunately for me he was a stocky kid who I could easily outrun. Don’t remember what I did to make him angry or how we worked it out but we did. I must have made my amends to him.
I don’t know when it happened but at one point we turned a corner. This is when things got very exciting. To be continued…
Okay, so your loved one has sought treatment for their addiction. Now what? They are out of the 28-day inpatient program and now he or she needs to maintain a clean and sober or gamble free life. So, there will be expectations that need to be addressed. How will everyone involved in this crucial time of recovery manage things? And believe me there will be a lot to manage! It is important for family, friends and the person in recovery to have a game plan. So, sometimes people develop contracts to address issues such as attending 12 step meetings, finances or building back trust.
A contract or written agreement involves both parties. For instance, a loved one may want you to attend 7 meetings a week. This may not be a realistic expectation so it is important to make attainable goals. The addict might agree to going to 4-5 meetings a week. The point here is that there is a negotiation that can occur when developing a contract. So, one might wonder what are the consequences if an agreed goal is not met. There needs to be predetermined consequences in the contract if a goal is not met. One example might be; if the addict does not go to the agreed number of meetings per week, then they will need to make those missed meetings up the next week. Honest communication and listening are important to making contracts work. Therefore, do your best to focus on these concepts.
Speaking of honesty, the addict needs to be honest with his or her family about their past usage or gambling. For instance, if in the past, you were given cash to buy toiletries and spent the money on drugs or gambling then be open about it. Otherwise, keeping such secrets will eventually lead to a relapse. Be open about what triggers you. If your spouse keeps alcohol in your house and it is triggering you then communicate that. Don’t assume that someone will always know what your triggers are. So, be specific and don’t sugar coat things. With regards to relationships, state your needs to your partner and if you feel rejected admit it. The parties involved should focus on listening as this will aid in the process.
There are several issues that will need to be addressed once the addict leaves treatment. It is a great idea to develop such plans while the patient is in treatment. A therapist can help facilitate this process. But, if a plan is not done in treatment you can always have a neutral friend help with developing the right formula. Good luck and stick to the plan!
We have all heard the stories of celebrities throwing wild parties, getting drunk and getting into trouble. You’ve probably seen the mugshots. We’d like to give a shout out to celebrities who have chosen not to drink, because we don’t hear about these nearly enough! So let’s raise a glass of iced tea to the following famous people who do not drink alcohol. Everyone from sports stars, actors/actresses, musicians, comedians and politicians, the people on this list have either never taken a drink at all, or made the choice to abstain.
Blake Lively has never touched a drop of alcohol
Shania Twain doesn’t drink or do drugs. She’s also a vegetarian.
Robert Downey, Jr.
Jennifer Hudson has never had a drink.
One article discusses how President Trump does not drink. The article also pokes fun of him but at the same time tells about the serious reason why he chooses not to drink and the fact that he lost his brother to alcoholism. Let’s give all these folks a lot of credit considering how often there is alcohol in their work settings!