For today, I have chosen to talk about the safe coping strategy:
Watch for danger signs. Face a problem before it becomes huge, notice red flags.
In recovery, it’s important to be very aware of all of your emotions and thoughts, as well as external forces you face. Everything from having a fleeting craving to a life problem that crops up and threatens to be a trigger.
It’s important to be fully self-aware and know when we are putting ourselves and our sobriety in danger. Or, to listen to loved ones when they express concern. If you ignore the signs, they get bigger and worse, and can result in real damage.
In AA, alcoholism is described as the “cunning and baffling” disease. That is, it creeps up on you and takes hold of you before you’ve realized what has happened. Part of this is being unaware of the danger signs and red flags in your life.
My relapse is proof that ignoring danger signs can have a detrimental effect on your sobriety. I was completely depressed, overly anxious, having some big life events happening and I was craving alcohol like crazy.
I held out for a while, but I never sought help or discussed what was happening with anyone. Talking it out with my husband, counselor or psychiatrist could have prevented my relapse. Recognizing what was happening in my life and in my mind could have helped me regain control.
It’s also important not to insert yourself into dangerous situations. A party with friends where alcohol or drugs will be present is a good example. You want to be with your friends, but you might not be ready to be in a setting where you will need to resist the urge to use. It is especially important to be careful with friends who do not support your sobriety, or friends you actively used with in the past. You may feel strong and confident, but being in this setting can be a giant trigger. If you decide to attend, be sure to leave if you start to feel unsafe.
In the earliest stages of recovery, it’s very important to stay away from dangerous situations. You are in a critical time where you are changing the way you live and think, and falling back into old patterns are the very first steps toward relapse. I am a living example of that.
The concept of facing a problem before it becomes huge is a good way to view this safe coping strategy. We will all be put into emotionally vulnerable places, and problems will come up. We can’t stop life from happening to us. So, it’s important to recognize dangerous situations and life problems as they happen, and not let ourselves get so caught up in them that it’s too late to fix.
I left rehab with long list of “warning signs” for relapse. But, I ignored them all, and allowed myself to falter down that path. The key is to be aware, pay attention, get help when you need it and do not allow yourself to slip into denial. If you feel on edge, uneasy, there’s a problem. If you’re taking part in activities you suspect you should not, there’s a problem. If you’re isolating yourself from loved ones, if you’re feeling out of sorts, if you’re losing the desire to do the positive things in your life, there’s a problem.
Stop, take a moment to dissect the feelings and get to the bottom of what’s bothering you. Then, separate yourself from it or fix it. If you allow it to creep in, it will get the better of you. You may be able to push it off for a while, but eventually it will get you.
Keep your future goals in mind, and ask yourself, will putting myself in this situation give me a good chance at reaching those goals, or will it hinder my progress? If you suspect it will hold you back, or completely set you back, it’s time to cut it out of your life. Remove yourself from the dangerous situation. This is how you move onward and upward.