By Tim Ryan
I have asked hundreds of people in recovery when they most struggle with temptation to relapse into their drug of choice. The answer is, “It depends.”
Some struggle when they face emotional pain such as loneliness, guilt, shame, and strained relationships. That makes sense. In active addiction, these people developed coping skills (drinking, drugs, sex, gambling, etc.) to numb the pain. Those “skills” led to addiction. So when they face pain again, they quickly get sucked back into old patterns, especially if they lack a solid foundation in their own recovery.
But for many in recovery, the good times conjure up that old beer commercial: “It’s Miller Time.” That’s when the lie of addiction starts to whisper in their heads: “Don’t you deserve it? Haven’t you worked hard? Isn’t it time you did something nice for yourself?”
Early in recovery, those struggling with addiction learn how to share their feelings, address the pain, and stay surrounded in a positive community based on respect, honesty, and acceptance. But recovery isn’t a “one-and-done” task to be checked off a list. Recovery is constant, and it is necessary even in the “good times” when you seem farthest from your addiction.
I helped a young heroin addict a few years ago. I brought him to 12 Step groups and helped him find a sponsor. Since this boy was a best friend to my sons, I took him into my home when he no longer had a place to live. In every way, I treated him like another son. I helped him get a job and continued to shepherd him in his recovery.
Eventually, as he matured in his recovery, I got him work at a treatment center so he could give back. He met a sweet young lady and moved out to plan a life with her. He found a place to live across the street from where he worked. His life had never been better.
He decided to use one more time, maybe as a way to celebrate how his life had turned around. When the paramedics arrived, the needle was still in his arm. The clients he had served across the street at the treatment center watched from the window as his lifeless body left in the silent emergency services vehicle.
Don’t get lulled into complacency when life is going well for you. Good times can serve as a sneak attack and a stronghold for the lies of addiction to whisper the loudest.
Here’s are 8 potential good times triggers to be on the lookout for:
- You have healthy, positive relationships
- You find yourself with more free time, no longer having to structure your every thought around fighting your addiction
- You have some financial security and freedom
- You start to romanticize the “good old days” of your addiction, but you forget the pain and suffering you experienced and caused for others
- Your attitude of gratitude that once loomed large in your recovery begins to slip into discontent that you don’t have more
- Your humility slips away into pride, and your focus returns to your wants and needs instead of others
- You start missing meetings and make excuses not to spend time with your sponsor
- You wonder if you can use one more time, just as a test, to see if you can use alcohol or drugs like “normal” people
I’m not suggesting you don’t find joy in those good times. They are there as a result of your hard work in recovery, and they can help you stay grounded.
But it’s important also to know your triggers. Be honest with yourself when you recognize that you’re slipping in your recovery. Get back into regular meetings. At those meetings, share your feelings honestly. Dishonesty begins with silence. No one can help if you wear a mask. Talk with your sponsor. Be accountable to someone who will hold you accountable.
Good times can remain good, even great, when they are grounded in your recovery. But be on guard that they don’t crack open the door to relapse. Too many of us won’t survive another relapse. Need help? Reach out today.