The nature of addiction is to do the same thing over and over, even when you know your behavior has negative consequences. Addiction is a chronic condition that makes it progressively harder to control your own behavior. It’s no wonder, then, that many people find themselves repeating the same mistakes while recovering from addiction. These mistakes may lead to a pattern of relapse or they impair your recovery, leaving you constantly wondering when sobriety is going to make your life better. If you feel like you keep making the same mistakes in addiction recovery, here are some suggestions for breaking out of the pattern.
The most fundamental way to stop making the same mistakes is to analyze what went wrong in the past. Gather as much information as you can. Read old journals, talk to friends and family, talk to your therapist and other people who have treated you in the past. Your goal is to get many perspectives on where you might have gone wrong. It can be hard to hear critical feedback, especially from people you respect and care about. Try to remember that people who give you honest feedback are trying to help. You may want to give others permission to be honest with questions like, “If I had one weakness that’s holding me back, what would you say that is?”
When you’ve gathered information, try to make sense of what happened. Don’t be satisfied with superficial explanations. For example, if you had a drink because you were out with an old drinking buddy, you should try to understand why you decided to go out with that person in the first place despite it being a clear risk to your sobriety. When you have a clearer idea of what led to a mistake, come up with a plan for dealing with it next time. What, specifically, would you do differently if a similar situation arose in the future?
If you’ve relapsed after going through a treatment program, you may feel like maybe treatment doesn’t work for you or perhaps even that nothing will work for you. It’s normal to feel frustrated when you relapse after putting a lot of work into treatment but it’s not that uncommon. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, between 40 and 60 percent of people relapse within the first year of completing treatment. However, just because one program didn’t work for you doesn’t mean no program will. There’s a huge range of quality and treatment methods in addiction treatment programs. Surprisingly few programs use evidence-based treatment methods and even among quality programs, not every program is suited to every client. People who have a history of relapse often benefit from longer treatment periods, whether that means spending more time in an inpatient program or stepping down to an intensive outpatient program or sober living home. The important thing is to realize that even if one addiction treatment program didn’t work for you, there’s still hope for recovery.
Most people who have been through an addiction treatment program have participated in intensive therapy as part of treatment. However, most people who attempt to get sober either do it on their own or with the help of a mutual-aid group like AA or NA. These programs help many people but it’s also important to be aware that more than half of people with a substance use disorder have a co-occurring mental health disorder. These typically include major depression, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, ADHD, bipolar disorder, and psychotic disorders. Twelve-step programs and other mutual-aid groups are not designed to treat mental health issues but rather to provide a supportive community of sober people. If you’ve tried several times to get sober by yourself or with the help of a mutual-aid group, you may have an undiagnosed mental health issue that’s making recovery much harder than it needs to be. Talk to a therapist or find a treatment program that can treat a dual diagnosis.
Mindfulness is simply the practice of being more aware. If you practice mindfulness meditation, you just practice sitting each day for 20 or 30 minutes, being aware of your thoughts and sensations. This is incredibly simple, but it’s also a powerful way to break out of conditioned behavior. Drug and alcohol cravings are a form of conditioned behavior. Maybe you feel stressed and automatically want a drink. Perhaps it has never even occurred to you to just sit and be aware of the feelings associated with emotional distress rather than trying to relieve them immediately. The more you learn to be mindful, the better you are at breaking the connection between stimulus and response. As a result, you will have more control over your behavior.
Many people have trouble making the transition from inpatient treatment to daily life. Inpatient treatment provides a structured, supportive environment, where it’s relatively easy to stay sober. Regular life, however, always has temptations and challenges. It takes some practice to apply the new skills you learned in treatment to the messy challenges of daily life. In the meantime, you are more vulnerable to relapse. Transitional services can help fill this gap. Personal recovery assistants can support you through challenging situations like parties or vacations and help you apply your new recovery skills in real-life situations. And sober monitoring can provide an extra layer of accountability. Recovery care management can coordinate different aspects of treatment throughout recovery to help you get by obstacles that may have tripped you up in the past.
If you have a loved one who is struggling with addiction, Hired Power and our team of dynamic, experienced recovery professionals are here to guide you every step of the way. We offer many services, including helping you choose the best treatment program and transitional services, including interventions, sober monitoring, and personal recovery assistants. Call us today for information on our recovery services: 714-559-3919.
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