We start with a very strong desire and a clear picture of being a sober person. We continue with a strong belief that we can persist in sobriety. Then we have a positive expectancy that this sobriety is going to turn out well.
Then we implement relapse prevention strategies.
Research by Helen Annis and Alan Marlatt over 20 years has identified 8 common factors that people report preceded their initial return to alcohol and/or drug use.
Painful Emotions–frustration, anger, hostility, aggression, guilt, “hassles”, fear, anxiety, tension, depression, loneliness, sadness, boredom, worry, apprehension.
Test Control–“testing” your ability to engage in controlled or moderate use; to “just try it once” to see what happens, or testing the effects of treatment or a commitment to abstinence. Also includes tests of “willpower.”
Conflict–with family, friends, or at work. Alcohol or drug use following a current or recent conflict associated with any type of relationship such as marriage, friendship, family, significant other, and work relationships (especially scenarios in which you feel frustrated or angry with someone).
Social Pressure–direct or indirect pressure from a family member, friend, significant other, or supplier to drink or use drugs. Includes drinking or using drugs in response to seeing one or more other persons drinking or using drugs.
Pleasant Times–socializing with friends or family at parties, dinner, sporting events, etc., or attending at public social events such as concerts, exhibits, etc.
Physical Pain–sometimes associated with prior substance use, such as “withdrawal agony” or “physical sensation of craving” associated with withdrawal, and sometimes they are not associated with prior substance use, such as pain, illness, injury, fatigue, migraines, etc.
Pleasant Emotions–using substances to increase feelings of pleasure, joy, freedom, sensuality, and celebration. using the substance for positive effects of “getting high” or “partying” to feel pleasure, celebration, sexual excitement, freedom, etc.
Urges and Temptations–Alcohol or drug use in response to urges, temptations, or other promptings, including “craving” or intense desire, either in the presence of drinking or drug cues (e.g., a beer bottle or pack of cigarettes, passing by a bar, seeing someone with whom you have partied with in the past) or urge or temptation that comes “out of the blue” and is often followed by trying to gain access to alcohol or drugs.
Just being aware of these 8 major factors can greatly reduce your chances of threatening your recovery. But that is not enough. The best way to manage these factors is to AVOID THEM! This one simple step will help you big time.
But if you can’t avoid them, then many of these factors can be properly controlled with regulating your emotions relating to them. Establishing boundaries, using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and, if you are in a 12 Step Program and one of these situations arises, calling your sponsor!
One of the biggest lessons I learn here in treatment–over and over by the way–is that your reactions to situations largely dictate your subsequent behaviors. Learning to keep my emotions in check relative to challenging situations has resulted in my having minimal conflict resolution issues, and a fairly absent desire to drink!