Addiction is a chronic disease that often involves relapse. Our goal with the twelve daily rules is to change this, but for now it's a reality that has to be dealt with. Regardless of how perfectly you "work a program" or how hard you pray, or how religiously you follow the 12 Daily Rules for Recovery, there will be days where continuing a life of sobriety feels impossible. Days where those three words pop up that have ruined more good sobriety attempts than anything I know: "What's the use?" On these days, we remind you that this too shall pass. When you feel like giving up, remember why you started, and KEEP GOING - no matter what. Tomorrow will be better :)
Although relapse is a common part of the addiction cycle, it doesn't have to be part of your recovery. It is our belief that stabilizing the internal environment through small lifestyle changes that get repeated over and over can greatly minimize the risk. If you've read through the twelve daily rules for recovery, accepted that they could help you stabilize your life in sobriety and committed to doing them, you're on your way. But now you have to actually do them. Repeatedly. Over and over and over and over again. Practice makes permanent. Years of unhealthy living and unstable daily habits have literally created grooves in the brain that are controlling the way we live our lives. It's not just the drugs that are addictive. We've literally become "addicted" to undisciplined and unhealthy lifestyles. The good news is the brain is plastic and the neural circuitry can literally be changed. The problem is it can not be changed simply by reading something or listening to someone else speak about it. It is only changed through regular, repeated action. We can not think ourselves into right action. We need to act ourselves into right thinking.
This might be where faith first comes into play. Faith that there is hope. Faith that despite how it looks right this moment, things might actually get better. It's been our experience that unless we can find that 'mustard seed of faith', little to no progress is going to be made. Why would I make changes that will be uncomfortable for a little while unless I truly believe that it could work? The answer is I won't. I might do it for a few days or a couple weeks, but if I don't notice an immediate improvement, I'm going to stop.
Drug addict and alcoholic people tend to be defiant by temperament. We don't like to be told what to do, and we certainly do not like rules. But there are things the family and friends don't like either -like making funeral arrangements and burying their children, their moms and dads, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, co-workers, classmates, teammates, neighbors, friends...
Ultimately, the defiance has to be broken through if we're going to be able to follow direction and start to get better. In the acute treatment setting, this is addressed through twenty-four hour monitoring and accountability. This is why most people who enter a treatment program with even a slightly honest desire to be sober usually complete the program. But the success rates plummet once we're released back out into the "real world." Those old circuits take back over, and if we're not around people to constantly re-direct us and hold us immediately accountable, we begin to drift back into sickness. And since the sickness is so familiar and comfortable to us, we are typically the last ones to notice the downward trajectory until it's too late.
To stay strong, healthy and sober, we need to being paying attention to all the essential areas of our lives. The twelve rules were designed to be a daily checklist format and a way to monitor progress in real time, but if there is dysfunction in any of the major areas, steps should be taken, when possible, to correct it. For example, some people in recovery have major trauma histories that have not been adequately processed. If this is the case, we recommend addressing this issue immediately so the internal disruption does not work to disrupt an otherwise strong sobriety attempt.
We should recognize that recovery is a journey not a destination and that change does not happen overnight. We will have periods where we seem to be improving at lightning quick speed and other times where it feels that no progress is being made. We can keep in mind that we ourselves are typically the last person who can accurately gauge our progress. We need someone else familiar with drug addiction recovery who is at an emotional distance from ourselves to objectively measure the progress. That being said, we want to be expressing our current state of recovery in the most positive, wise, and compassionate manner possible. If we are keeping secrets or not disclosing behaviors we know to be problematic, they need to be admitted to someone at once. We're as sick as our secrets.
There will always be problems and issues that, despite our best efforts, we won't be able to change. But confusing the words acceptance and passivity is common in early sobriety. The former being a gateway to emotional wellness and the latter being a continued spriral downward into sickness. Acceptance asks, "I accept this situation as it is. Is there anything I could or should do to change it?" Passivity simply says, "I accept the situation as it is. I'd better learn to live with it." The distinction between those two could be the difference between a successful life of recovery and a painfully discontented sobriety that eventually drifts back into active use. It can be hard to know when a situation calls for the "courage to change" so it is good to have a mentor or adviser to help navigate the waters.
You might be passively tolerating bad daily habits that could be acknowledged and changed with a little courage and repetition. Are you on a regular sleep cycle? Do you make time to quiet your mind in the morning before attacking the day? Do you feed your body first thing in the morning? Are you stimulating your mind with with good books and motivating online content? Do you do something every day to elevate the heart rate? Do you recognize and avoid the trappings of maladaptive perfectionism? Are you helping other people? Are you pursuing something every day that you consider to be of value?
Are you being passive?
Ultimately, we can be given the right tools and direction to thrive in a stable life of abundance and fulfillment, but we ourselves need to do the footwork. At first this may seem daunting, but eventually it is empowering and inspirational to realize that we can not only heal but become so much more than we had ever previously imagined. It is an unbelievable experience, and one you do not want to miss. We transform ourselves from another tragic statistic and victim of a merciless and often fatal disease to a miraculous example of an actualized and beautiful human being. The world will notice. How could it not? Our mere presence will ripple out and positively affect people and situations in ways we can't possibly imagine. Are you excited?
You should be.
There are two ways to end the chance for a successful recovery - relapse or suicide. These are both the end result of a destabilized internal environment that has strained to the point of breaking. The specific purpose of the first eleven rules is to keep that environment stabilized enough so that does not happen. Drug addiction is an incredibly serious disease with serious consequences lasting long after the drugs have been stopped. Suicide, sadly, is the number one cause of death in sober drug addicts and alcoholics. Most people who have spent time in the recovery world and interacted closely with these individuals have had to deal first-hand with this reality. It is indescribably painful on the family and loved ones, and one often never fully recovers from the loss.
"Suicide does not end the pain; it just passes it to someone else."
Although Reaction Recovery is designed specifically to help an individual recover to good purpose and become an integrous and responsible member of the world, it is also intended to minimize the destabilization that precedes relapse or suicide.
The 12 Rules for Recovery are designed to keep an individual adherent to a healthy, structured routine, thereby decreasing the internal instability that precedes a relapse. In recovery, the right routine will strengthen response to stress, improve mental health, and decrease overall feelings of anxiety and depression. It helps us cope with change and form healthy habits which turn into healthy behaviors. Just as we got used to the irregular and pathological lifestyle of active addiction, so too will we become habituated and normalized to this healthy life. It leads to a feeling of control and stability that is too often lacking in long-term sobriety.
When a routine is established and its benefits experienced, it becomes difficult to disrupt. At the very least, its disruption will be very obvious to the individual. We have RULE 11 (flossing) as the daily barometer, but sticking to the routine itself is ultimately the measure. When one notices an abandonment from the regular routine that was providing such internal balance, it is a sure sign that the individual is heading in the wrong direction. This clear and obvious warning sign can work as a stimulus to reach back out for help and KEEP GOING.
At Reaction Recovery we believe that relapse is not a conscious choice but rather the inevitable consequence of an internal environment that remained destabilized for too long a time. The difficulty is that there is no objective measure for the magnitude of this destabilization nor for the length of time any one individual can stand it before sobriety becomes intolerable.
This is why it remains necessary to align oneself with individuals who are educated, trained, and experienced in the world of drug recovery. The benefits are simply too great not to and the consequences of wandering astray are too catastrophic.
Relapse or suicide is never appropriate. Ever. This is our twelfth and final rule. Like Winston Churchill said, if you feel that you are going through hell, KEEP GOING. Having a bad day, feeling discouraged, experiencing difficulties are not necessarily signs that something is wrong with your recovery. The trouble is that most individuals learn how to cope with life's ups and downs throughout their adolescence and early adulthood. Drug abusers, however, have trained their minds and literally changed the neurochemical makeup of the brain (see Norman Doidge's The Brain that Changes Itself) to respond to difficulties by seeking to anesthetize the problem with drugs and alcohol. So the individual entering recovery has an adult body with adult abilities and adult skills but remains at the intermittent beck and call of childish emotions. These feelings and emotions can be triggered unexpectedly and without warning so we need to always be on guard and keep close to an accountability network to lean on.
When the wolves of fate come howling at the door, and you're not sure how you are going to make it through this one. Just KEEP GOING. Tomorrow will be better.