Someone once said that “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom,” and nowhere is that more true than in recovery – – especially in early recovery. Our addictions were full-time jobs, taking most of our time, attention and energy. Were that not the case, we would have felt no particular interest in escaping from them. Returning to reality takes all the time, energy and commitment we can bring to bear on the project. Our addict is unemployed, and as another old proverb goes, “The devil finds work for idle hands.”
Addiction is familiar to us, and our new life is strange to begin with. Combined with post-acute withdrawal* the stresses of early recovery can be pretty extreme, and stresses of one kind or another are the number-one cause of relapse. That’s why we need to double down on our programs when things are tough or, for that matter, when they’re going especially well.
When we’re feeling a bit better it’s common to feel like slacking off on our meetings, meditations, contact with others, sponsors, and so forth. There’s an urge to work on the everyday problems – – to fix all the things that went wrong while we were using – – and that’s perfectly natural. However, it isn’t a very good idea. Even good things are stressful (a wedding, for example, or the birth of a child), and when the feces really do hit the impeller, we can find ourselves looking for serenity in all the old (wrong) places. We need to remember where we are, and how we got here.
Our programs got us to the place where we can begin to handle these facets of a “normal” life. Easing off on the things that have been working for us in favor of trying to deal with stressful issues is the equivalent, in every way, of a person with a chronic disease like diabetes or schizophrenia deciding to stop taking his or her medication because they “feel better now.” It’s easy to forget why we’re feeling better.
But our addict hasn’t forgotten.
*See the PAWS link at the top of the sidebar.