Reflecting on People, Places and Things In Recovery

By Bella Lindauer 08/18/16

 I truly believe that if I can make it out, anybody can. It starts with a desire to stop using and continues with one step at a time. 

Reflecting on People, Places and Things In Recovery
via author

As recovering addicts, we often hear about the numerous changes in life we must make to maintain sobriety. The concept seems simple right? I mean, realistically, we can’t go hang out with friends who are using drugs right in front of our faces without being tempted and probably relapsing. We can’t go into a bar where the very smell of alcohol will lure us right back in. It makes sense, but for some, it’s one of those “easier said than done” type of things.

Looking back to the very first time that I entered treatment for my heroin addiction, I thought that the whole concept was bogus. I was young, immature and not quite ready to give up my dear friend, dope. The first time we had a group about triggers, I pretty much made fun of people in my head. I could say the sky is blue and you’d be triggered is what I thought about one girl as she listed off what seemed like dozens of triggers. I sat there with my arms folded and rolled my eyes very obviously so that everyone in the facility knew how I felt.

I had this whole theory that addiction was just like Pavlov’s classical conditioning theory and if I could just retrain my brain, I could beat my addiction. I couldn’t stand the whole idea that addiction was actually a disease. I didn’t want to accept that.

It wasn’t until I was home for about two weeks (after successfully making my way through rehab, that is) that I understood the importance of understanding our triggers in order to maintain recovery. I was home, on my happy little pink cloud and honestly putting forth an effort. My sister stopped at a gas station where I used to shoot up in the bathroom. I know, not sanitary at all, but we do what we can to get that feeling. The second that I walked in, I felt it. Sweaty palms. Nausea. Anxiety. I felt it all. After that, the contemplating started. I had convinced myself that I could use one more time and that was it. Boy was I wrong. 

I used sporadically until I was back to full-blown strung out. My thinking and my attitude had landed me right back to where I was before, and of course it progressed from there. 

I am 30 years old and have spent a good part of my life battling this disease. Yes, now I will identify with it being a disease because that’s what it is. It is a thinking disease. After several attempts at sobriety, I am finally in a place where I can say that I am recovering. I will always be recovering. And one major part of my recovery is small yet important changes that I’ve made. 

People, places and things. People I used to associate with to get high with or buy drugs from. Places I used to go to get dope or get high. Things I used to do to get high or use drugs. I have had to identify and eliminate or find coping skills so that they couldn’t effect my recovery. Now, I am not saying that just because I used to use a gas station bathroom, I will never go back to that bathroom. But I have found coping skills that help me deal with triggers that may help you as well.

First, identify possible triggers. Write them down. Make a list. One thing that really helped me was to journal about triggers as they came about and explain to myself why these things brought about the feeling they did. Here's another tip: make sure you associate feelings and thoughts with the trigger. If going down a certain street makes your gut bubble and feel anxious then write down why that is. Maybe talk to yourself. I know that self-talk seems a little crazy but it helps a lot. 

Next, eliminate people that don’t have YOUR best interest at heart. One thing that I noticed in early recovery is that it seemed like every dope dealer I had, or friend I used with, was suddenly willing to hook me up! For free! It was like they knew I was clean and wanted to bait, hook and reel me right back into addiction. We all know how it is to be in the midst of our illness. The high is all we care about and we are very self-serving.

In recovery, it is okay to be a little selfish, too. Do what’s best for you and cut off people who don’t want to see you succeed. Misery loves company, remember that. And if it is someone that is a good friend or family member, love them from a distance. Maybe explain to them that you care for them but right now it’s not a healthy choice to have them in your life right now. I had to do it to several friends, and it hurt, but it didn’t hurt as bad as being strung out.

Finally, find a coping skill that works for you. I used a few different techniques that really helped me when I encountered triggers. Mindfulness, box breathing and journaling are all great coping skills for when dealing with triggers. One thing I did a lot was tell on myself. Whether it is to a sponsor, a friend or family member, it is such a relief to put what you’re thinking out on the floor.

When I would encounter an uncomfortable situation, it always helped me to call my mom and tell her what I was thinking, conspiring or feeling. At first, I thought that I would be judged for even thinking about using, which is natural and expected. I even thought people would be mad or disappointed in me but suprisingly it was just the opposite. Talking through those thoughts helped me tremendously. I know from experience that holding onto those reservations turns into obsessing and usually leads to relapse. Don’t be afraid to talk about it. 

Achieving recovery isn’t an easy task and it's not done overnight. Over time, it does get easier. I am still learning every single day. I am surely not an expert and I don’t have all the answers. What I do have is experience and what has worked for me. I know this is a common thought, but I do believe that if I can make it out, anybody can. It starts with a desire to stop using and continues with one step at a time. 

Bella Lindauer is a recovering addict from Michigan. She enjoys writing and spending time with her son, Benjamin.

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Bella Lindauer is a recovering addict from Michigan. She enjoys writing and spending time with her son, Benjamin.  You can find Bella on Linkedin and Twitter.



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