Don’t Let History Repeat Itself

In recovery, it’s important to remember where we came from, what we have achieved, and what we have learned along the way. It’s what keeps us going, what gives us the forward momentum to stay clean and sober.

It was last year around Thanksgiving time that I was, for the first time, attempting to get sober on my own. I was giving it my all, but still failing miserably, which only added to the pain and frustration. But, when I look back on how far I’ve come in the last year, I am proud of what I have accomplished and happy with the place I am in now.

I’ve learned so much over the past year, about myself, about addiction and about life in general. I picked up some real life lessons, and I carry them with me as I go. I’m far from perfect, and an addict is never truly cured, but I have learned from my past how to make my future what I want it to be.

This week’s safe coping strategy:

Learn from experience. Seek wisdom that can help you next time.

When you find yourself in a mood or situation that might cause you to use or to relapse, think back on the lessons you’ve learned in your recovery. Whether they are lessons you learned the hard way, or lessons you took from counselors, remember them and use them to your advantage. If I do this now, what will happen? What happened in the past? Do I want that for myself again? Do I want a worse result this time around? Chances are you will be able to talk yourself out of just about anything by remembering where you were and seeing where you are now.

You can also seek out experiences of others. Attend meetings and really take in people’s stories. They’re likely to be similar to yours. Listen to them tell how they managed to get through it, and how they’re getting by day to day now. Talk with someone close to you who also struggles with addiction. The relationship will be beneficial for you both. Sharing information goes both ways, and you might just have some advice that will help them.

The main thing is to prevent history from repeating itself. To keep yourself moving forward, always, and never falling back into old patterns. Now that you’re sober, it’s no excuse to forget that part of your life completely. As painful as it is, keep those memories alive to remind you why you’re doing this.

Things will happen in life, and temptations will arise, but you will be safe knowing what you need to do in order to keep yourself from falling back into your old ways. Remember what life was like back then, remember all the things you’ve learned from AA or rehab or books or whatever. Then take that information and make the right choice. You are strong enough now to do it.

Trinkets and Treasures

This week’s safe coping strategy:

Inspire yourself. Carry something positive.

I carry around two things from my time in rehab that are symbols of my sobriety.

The first is my 30-day AA chip. It is red and made of some lightweight metal. It is nothing overly special. But it reminds me of a time when I only had 30 days under my belt, and how scary and empowering that felt, all at the same time. It also reminds me of my relapse, and how I gave the chip to my husband and told him to give it back to me when I “earned it.” And I did. And now I have 160 days and it’s amazing to look back and see the progress I’ve made.

I also carry a small, smooth, light green rock. Towards the end of my first stay in rehab, a counselor put a pile of pretty little stones on the table, in all colors, shapes and sizes. She told us to choose one to represent our time there, and to carry it with us wherever we went. And that’s what I do. Every time I see it, I’m reminded of all the times I smiled in rehab, and all the positive things we did there. I’m reminded of the bonding I did with the other woman who stayed there at the time. We remain friends.

I carry both with me in my wallet, and see them nearly every day. And each time I see them, I am filled with positive thoughts and feelings, about me, my choice to attend rehab, my recovery, my future.

Choose something for yourself, something small you can carry with you to remind you of your recovery. Why you’re doing it, who you’re doing it for. It can be anything as long as it means something to you. A poem, a ticket stub, a pebble, a ring or necklace, a button.

Sometimes it takes something physical and visceral to remind us of what’s important. Something we can reach out and touch, rather than the abstract “recovery” or “sobriety”, or our feelings. This little trinket will serve this purpose for you. And it will also help you stay positive and focused. Positivity is extremely important in recovery, so why not take all the help you can get?

Do you already have a special memento you carry? Or do you have one in mind you’d like to use?

Memories

During this past week, I reached the 30 day milestone since my relapse. I’m feeling proud, and I’m not as scared and confused and shaky as I was last time I hit 30 days. I’m feeling confident, able to handle stress better, and carving out a better future for myself. One of the mechanisms I’m using to stay strong in tough times relates to the safe coping strategy I’ve chosen for this Monday:

Replay the scene. Review a negative event. What can you do differently next time?

The events I have to review are limitless. After years of battling addiction, I have a huge cache of scenes to replay to remind myself why I chose to get and stay sober. In therapy, I am reminded many times to let go of guilt and shame, but I harbor guilt and shame for many moments in my past. They are moments I would take back, if I were able. Although, without them I may not have ended up in the place I am today, which is actually pretty good.

Using this safe coping strategy can help with sobriety by reminding us why we want to be sober in the first place. It’s a way to remind ourselves of the negative impact that our addiction had on our loved ones, our lives, our health, our jobs and responsibilities, in some cases our freedom.

Remind yourself of how you felt when you drank or used. Physically, you likely did not feel well at all. In my hey day I was basically a zombie. I was always buzzed, I never felt well, I never wanted to eat, I was tired all the time. I was a much different person than the one I am today, and for that I am grateful. It’s easy to be so deep in your addiction that those things begin to become your new “normal”, and you think you’re fine. But if you’re honest with yourself, you know you were not feeling well at all.

Remind yourself of the stress, guilt, shame and torment you were going through have to hide your habit. There was likely someone in your life that you had to hide it all from. Perhaps a concerned loved one that you didn’t want to disappoint, or just acquaintances you’d be embarrassed if they found out about it, or maybe a boss you were afraid would fire you. All the energy you spent on hiding your habit from them can be put to so many better, positive things.

This coping strategy asks us to replay a specific scene. What scene can you replay for yourself, to remind you of how far you’ve come? To remind you why you’re doing this? You can choose any scene you’d like, big or small. The important thing is to focus on how you were really feeling in that moment. If you’re like me, your biggest feeling was to do anything to go back in time and prevent the scene from ever happening. And the sick pang of guilt in your gut. The disappointed looks on the faces of those around you.

Sobriety offers freedom from those moments. You’ll never have to be in that scene, or any other negative scene as a result of your addiction. Keeping your addiction at bay provides you with a bright, clean future to create positive moments. Positive scenes you can remember down the line.