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BAM! You were doing great and then COMPLETELY OUT OF NOWHERE you relapsed!!!

It sounds good, and on the surface seems plausible enough…but it’s rarely completely true - 9 times out of 10, relapse doesn’t come out of nowhere and just find you – it's something you drift toward after you stop doing the things that keep you sober.

That’s why it’s called ‘relapse drift’…and it’s a recovery killer.

Fortunately, with a little self awareness and effort, you can identify drift before it takes you too far in the wrong direction and you can make sure you keep doing all those things you need to do to stay clean and sober.

Here’s an easy way to make sure you stay on the right track.

Imagine Your Recovery as Ship on the Ocean

OK, so your recovery is a ship that’s anchored in the ocean

  1. There are strong currents that pull you toward the rocks of relapse
  2. Fortunately, you have a bunch of mooring lines that keep you anchored in place against the current and keep you from drifting toward the rocks - Healthy activities are mooring lines that anchor you against relapse. Everyone is different, but some examples of different mooring lines could be: going to AA meetings at least twice a week, making sure to exercise three times a week or more, staying away from people you used to use with etc.
  3. If you cut too many of these mooring lines that keep you safely anchored, you will start to drift and you’ll eventually hit the rocks, but if you keep those lines tight and secure, your ship should be OK

So to make sure the ship doesn’t drift, it’s a good idea to check on your mooring lines regularly, to make sure they’re all in good shape

List Healthy Activities and Things to Avoid

Write down 4 or 5 healthy activities that you need to do on a regular basis to stay clean and sober, and then write down 4 or 5 things that you need to avoid doing, for the same reasons.

Although thoughts and attitudes are important, you want to create a list of items that can be checked off after completion each week, so you need things that are very concrete, like measurable activities.

There are no right or wrong answers here, but some examples of healthy activities that are now keeping you clean and sober could be:

  • Talk to my sponsor every day
  • Attend at least 3 NA meetings per week
  • Be home by 9 pm and getting ready for bed by 11 pm every night
  • Go to all outpatient therapy group meetings each week
  • Do at least one sober social fun outing with a friend of family member each week
  • Eat three meals a day, at regular meal times

Once you’ve completed your list of healthy activities, write down a brief list of things you need to avoid doing to stay clean and sober, for example:

  • Avoid spending time socially with friends I used to use or drink with
  • Avoid going to areas of town where I used to buy drugs
  • Avoid sleeping in past 9 am
  • Avoid walking around with cash in my wallet

Make a Relapse Drift Chart

Now make a simple chart and put it on your fridge.

Make rows listing the things you need to do and the things you need to avoid and then make a few columns with a date for the title and a box for you to add a check-mark in.

Healthy Activity
Week 1 Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Talk to my sponsor every day        
Attend at least 3 NA meetings per week        
Be home by 9 pm and getting ready for bed by 11 pm every night        
Go to all outpatient therapy group meetings each week        
Do at least two sober social fun outings with a friend of family member each week        
Eat three meals a day, at regular meal times        

 

Risky Activity
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Avoid spending time socially with friends I used to use or drink with        
Avoid going to areas of town where I used to buy drugs        
Avoid sleeping in past 9 am        
Avoid walking around with cash in my wallet        
Avoid going to bars or restaurants where alcohol is served
       

 

Once a week, take a minute to check your chart and make a check-mark beside each healthy activity you’ve successfully completed in the previous week and each risky activity you’ve successfully avoided.

If, in any given week, you find yourself unable to check 2 or more boxes, you then know you’re starting to drift toward relapse and you’ll know you need to redouble your efforts to stay sober.1

References
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Page last updated Mar 04, 2013

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