Steps to recover from Addiction
“One step at a time. One day at a time. One hour at a time.”
First steps in breaking the cycle
Listed here are our suggestions for a journey to break free from addiction.
All of us enjoy taking part in pleasurable activities and have fun. It is therefore difficult to believe that anything you can enjoy can cross an invisible line and become an addiction. The line between activity and addiction lies where an activity that is positive takes a decidedly negative turn.
Is this a Bad habit or an Addiction?
How do you know if you have developed an unhealthy habit or if you are actually suffering from addiction? Determining the difference between the two can be difficult since both grow out of consistently repeated behaviors. Given the difference in scope and treatment, it is important to distinguish between a troublesome habit and the manifestation of an addiction. While harmless in moderation, any behavior that successfully, consistently, and physiologically numbs or “quiets” emotion, trauma or depression, can develop into an addiction.
One noticeable difference between habit and addiction is the amount of effort and time required to change the behavior. Altering habits requires minimal effort, time, and attention. On the other hand, addiction often demands an integrative, long-term plan to treat negative physical symptoms like withdrawal as well as the emotional disconnect between body and behavior.
Denial is a large part of addiction. It is one of the most commonly used defense mechanisms. Addicts often have to reach a low point before they admit they have a problem. The first step in recovery is admitting you have a problem. Knowing that you have a problem and admitting it are two different things. The usual way that addicts get beyond their denial is by hitting rock bottom. This means that things in their life get so bad that they are unable to ignore reality any longer.
Maybe you are by now aware that the addiction cycle ends in despair every time. It starts with a feeling or emotion that could be good or bad. It is a red flag.
- 1. You become pre-occupied with the thought – how am I getting through this?
- 2. Then you start rationalizing.
- 3. You justify what you are about to do.
- 4. Then you plan the act.
- 5. You start your ritual of coping.
- 6. You act out and do it.
- 7. You feel instant release.
- 8. Then despair sets in.
- 9. You feel guilt and shame.
- 10.You feel bad again and start wondering how to get through this – a viscous cycle that has enslaved you.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Did the action take your pain away?
- Did it empower me or give me greater self-worth?
- Did it help me to connect with God?
- Did it help me to feel relief or release?
- Do you want to heal?
The first step towards overcoming any addiction is acknowledging that you have a problem. You have to admit to yourself that you are powerless over your compulsive behavior and that your life had become unmanageable.
The word “addiction” is derived from a Latin term for “enslaved by” or “bound to.” Perhaps you are finding it difficult to understand why you just can’t stop or walk away?
An addiction requires lying. You have to lie about getting your drug, using it, hiding its consequences, and planning your next relapse. An addiction is full of lying. By the time you’ve developed an addiction, lying comes easily to you. After a while you get so good at lying that you end up lying to yourself. That’s why addicts don’t know who they are or what they believe in.
The other problem with lying is that you can’t like yourself when you lie. You can’t look yourself in the mirror. Lying traps you in your addiction. The more you lie, the less you like yourself, which makes you want to escape, which leads to more using and more lying.
Ask yourself this: will more lying, more isolating, and more of the same make you feel better? The expression in AA is – nothing changes if nothing changes. If you don’t change your life, then why would this time be any different? You need to create a new life where it’s easier to not use.
Recovery requires complete honesty. You must be 100% completely honest with the people who are your supports: your family, your doctor, your therapist, the people in your 12 step group, and your sponsor. If you can’t be completely honest with them, you won’t do well in recovery.
When you’re completely honest you don’t give your addiction room to hide. When you lie you leave the door open to relapse.
Honesty won’t come naturally in the beginning. You’ve spent so much time learning how to lie that telling the truth, no matter how good it is for you, won’t feel natural. You’ll have to practice telling the truth a few hundred times before it comes a little easier. In the beginning, you’ll have to stop yourself as you’re telling a story, and say, “now that I think about it, it was more like this…”
Show common sense. Not everybody is your best friend. But don’t be reluctant to tell the people close to you about your recovery. You should never feel ashamed that you’re doing something about your addiction.
Although some people who come from healthy and wholesome back grounds become addicted just by curiosity and experimentation, it is more often than not that addicts come from dysfunctional back grounds. Dysfunctional backgrounds are those where poor boundaries exist among family members, emotional needs are not being met, or where abuse of one form or another might exist. Addicts often have the same core beliefs, namely:
- I am basically a bad and unworthy person
- No one would love me as I am.
- My needs are never going to be met if I have to depend on others.
- Sex/drugs/alcohol/porn is my most important need.
- This affects me and nobody else.
- My life is screwed up anyway.
- God does not understand.
- This is my right.
Rational or irrational belief?
Addicts use these beliefs and delusions to rationalize their behavior. It is important to become aware of these in your own life and to question these thoughts and beliefs. Learn to separate them. This requires thinking before speaking. Your goal is to stop acting out or stop using. The beliefs people have about themselves and the world around them come in 2 categories
1. Sensible or rational beliefs: they are true; they make sense or are helpful.
2. Foolish or irrational beliefs: these are untrue; don’t make sense or are not helpful.
It is helpful to write down your thoughts and decide which is helping you get ahead and which ones are destructive and keeping you back.
How do you challenge and change foolish irrational beliefs (FB)?
A foolish belief can be turned into a question and then you can dispute it, for example:
· Irrational thought: I will have just gamble R100 and then quit when I have lost it.
· Question the irrational thought: Will I have just gamble R100?
· Answer: I may, but probably not. I never gamble just R100. I always try to win back what I lost and end up losing all my money.
· Irrational thought: The urge to act out is unbearable. I have to do it!
· Question the irrational thought: Is the urge unbearable?
· Answer: The urge is making me feel uncomfortable, but it won’t kill me. I can stand it, therefore it is not unbearable.
The roots of many addictions begin in childhood. If there was a lack of human care, there is potential for addiction. The addiction becomes confused with the need for comforting and nurturing.
The first “regulator” in any person’s life is their caretaker(s), who contains or modifies the baby’s anxiety or distress by providing emotional safety as well as comfort, soothing, joy and other essential psychological experiences. Mother and child constitute what we might call a “system,” meaning that you cannot look at one individual in isolation. A crying baby who is neglected by his mother cannot be blamed for not “controlling himself.” If this neglect is habitual, the child learns eventually that his feelings or needs within this system are “bad” because they are ignored or met with anger, irritation, etc.
Ideally, the child is provided for within a caring environment, and learns that caretakers can be counted on to help when needed. But what happens when the environment is neglectful, erratic, frightening or otherwise injurious? In this case the system is experienced by the child as rigid, abandoning, chaotic and/or punishing. Such a child learns that she is on her own, and that others cannot tolerate dimensions of her very existence; her desires, needs and wants have to be amputated, tucked away somewhere hidden.
The root of addiction is often unresolved emotional trauma. When traumas, be they extreme or mild, are not resolved they leave behind a slew of painful, unprocessed feelings in the unconscious. These feelings are never content to remain silent and instead cry out for release. When they express themselves openly and without disguise this activates the healing process.
The purpose of addiction is to divert and soften painful, upwelling feelings into a seemingly comfortable alternative without allowing them to become conscious. In the short-run this feels much more placid than healing, but in the long-run it only prolongs underground psychic misery and adds new consequences to an already troubled life.
- Have you been neglected or wounded in your life?
- It is time to look at the areas of deep wounding and acknowledge the hurt.
- You can write down what you remember as you journey back into your childhood.
Problems arise when a person is stuck in a story that makes him or her unhappy.
To determine what in your life story was good and made you flourish and what was bad and harmed you, it is necessary to do a timeline of your life from the time you can remember up till now. Draw a straight line on a piece of paper. On the top part note (with dates) only the positive / good things that happened in your life. On the bottom part, note the bad things that affected you. Take your time to complete this exercise. You wont remember everything at once. It might take weeks to complete your timeline and write the story of your life.
Your stories should consist of:
• linked in sequence
• across time
• according to a plot
You are the expert of your own life and will always be. Once you have done your timeline, you can chat to a online facilitator about what you have discovered. It is then possible to deal with hurtful events that still haunt you and to map out a new plan and journey for your life. You are the author of your life and you decide how it will play out.
Your addiction has given you the opportunity to change your life. Changing your life is what makes recovery both difficult and rewarding. Recovery is difficult because you have to change your life, and all change is difficult, even good change. Recovery is rewarding because you get the chance to change your life. Most people sleepwalk through life. They don’t think about who they are or what they want to be, and then one day they wake up and wonder why they aren’t happy.
If you use this opportunity for change, you’ll look back and think of your addiction as one of the best things that ever happened to you. People in recovery often describe themselves as grateful addicts. Why would someone be grateful to have an addiction? Because their addiction helped them find an inner peace and tranquility that most people crave. Recovery can help you change your life.
Can you describe what you feel and need? Many addicts have never acknowledged or shared their feelings with anyone. Spend time with yourself. What do you feel? What do you need? What would you like? Make a list.
Know your emotions.
When it comes your body or life, not much happens without emotion. All of us experience emotions – negative and positive – each and every day. Both are a part of normal everyday life. The first thing to realize is that no one is telling us that our negative emotions are bad, or not important, or to get rid of them. Those of us who have been through painful or traumatizing experiences may have very intense negative emotions. We want to validate these emotions, have them recognized and believed, accept them as real and meaningful.
- To your brain, emotions are essential chemical signals that connect all the systems of your body 24/7, in a complex and sophisticated communication network like no other.
- To be alive is to communicate, to relate, and to connect with the world within and around you.
- Your brain is a relationship organ, which makes you a social being at heart.
- To fully live is to be completely free to feel the full range of your emotions, pleasant and unpleasant.
Emotion mastery is the ability to consciously connect and feel, process and regulate your emotions effectively, particularly the painful or unpleasant ones.
This task is not easy for most of us, as our painful emotions are all rooted in fear, and our greatest fears are relationship or intimacy fears, such as: fear of rejection, abandonment, inadequacy, and so on. Mastery of emotions involves whole body listening and makes effective communication with your self and others possible. There are several reasons to develop emotion mastery, to include those emotions:
- Inform your choices.
- Add meaning to life and to relationships.
- Help you to better understand your self, own wants, drives, dreams, etc.
- Facilitates better understanding of others and life around you.
- Matures and grows your wisdom or wise-self.
The foundation for building emotion mastery is an awareness of your inner world of emotions. For example, do you feel and connect to your emotions? Can you identify and feel a wide range of emotions? Are some taboo, ones you believe you shouldn’t feel or insist you’ve never felt? How do you feel or relate to emotions rooted in anger or fear? Learn emotional regulation.
Regardless your level of awareness at present, emotions are designed to add multiple dimensions of meaning to your life. They are to your body what electricity is to a lamp or fuel is to a car. The absence of optimal emotion states can leave you stranded, whereas knowing how to plug in or refuel, can keep you energized and on your way to a destination. In other words, emotions are not just fluff or optional. They have a physiological effect on your brain and body, for one, because they modulate the body’s autonomic nervous system accordingly. Fear-based versus love-based emotions produce dramatically different results inside you. If you aren’t in charge of your emotions and choices in challenging situations in particular, your subconscious mind or body-mind will automatically “choose” how you respond (think, feel, act) — and you may not like the “results.”
- Pleasant / Love-based emotions
SECURE: safe, calm, comfortable, relaxed, relieved, trusting
LOVING: caring, warm, compassionate, affectionate, tender, friendly
ENGAGED: energetic, involved, interested, absorbed, fascinated
HAPPY: joyful, glad, pleased, delighted, amused, jubilant
CONFIDENT: optimistic, strong, empowered, hopeful, encouraged
GRATEFUL: appreciative, thankful, touched, satisfied, fulfilled
ELATED: thrilled, exhilarated, enchanted, exuberant, ecstatic
REFRESHED: renewed, restored, revived, invigorated, rejuvenated
SURPRISED: amazed, astonished, dazzled
PEACEFUL: calm, centered, serene, tranquil, still, blissful, mellow
- Unpleasant / Fear-based Emotions
ANGRY: annoyed, irritated, upset, furious, enraged, resentful
SAD: depressed, discouraged, unhappy, disheartened, despair
SCARED: fearful, frightened, insecure, terrified, overwhelmed
UNEASY: agitated, restless, uncomfortable, unsettled
FRUSTRATED: aggravated, annoyed, exasperated, impatient, irritated
HATE: contempt, disgust, repulsed, enraged, animosity
CONFUSED: puzzled, torn, perplexed, ambivalent, discombobulated
WARY: leery, mistrustful, suspicious, apprehensive, anxious, guarded
VULNERABLE: sensitive, fragile, helpless, reserved, guarded
ALONE: disconnected, cold, alienated, withdrawn distant, apathetic
FATIGUE: depleted, beat, exhausted, cranky, lethargic, tired, weary
GUILTY: liable, regret, remorse, awful, bad, culpable
EMBARRASSED: shocked, ashamed, flustered, self-conscious
PAIN: hurt, agony, despair, devastated, alone, lost, miserable, bitter
Triggers are factors which stimulate the desire for your specific addiction. Triggers can be
- emotional (for example boredom, depression, hunger, tiredness, loneliness, feelings of exclusion, anger, excitement)
- electronic (computer, internet, cell phone, television)
- visual (bill boards, advertisements, movies, magazines)
- auditory (music)
A trigger creates the urge to seek fast relief and it pushes the addict to fall back and use and abuse again. Triggers differ from person to person. You have to become aware of your triggers. What did you think or feel just before you used? Make a list of your specific triggers – because when you can identify your triggers, you can begin to develop safeguards and alternative responses to these triggers. It is called an a relapse prevention or action plan.
Addiction is characterized by shame, isolation and self-deception. Addiction is characterized by shame, isolation and self-deception. Like depression, addiction becomes a part of your soul. Sober companions are counterarguments to this, they’re the voices that help you balance the scales and think logically about your future, setting an example and making it easier for you to follow your own new plan without drifting off into a relapse.
- Get a ‘sober’ buddy.
- Join a weekly support group.
- Get a mentor to help you along your way.
- You will need the help of people around you to push through.
The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you re not going to stay where you are.
Get Some Buddies
These are friends that will help you when you want to relapse by coming over, talking over the phone, taking you out for some exercise, have coffee with you. This is someone you will see often and meet with every week.
Be Accountable to Someone – a Mentor
Everyone has a sponsor, a mentor to teach them the program, to guide them toward physical, mental, and spiritual health. Twelve-step groups use this method–called accountability–to keep people sober and on the recovery wagon. Having these folks around to divulge your misdeeds to is like confession–it keeps the list of sins from getting too long. It is good to have a face-to-face session with your mentor once a week in the beginning.
Join a support group
There are self-help groups available to you that will allow you to find support, guidance and understanding in your recovery. Iif it is difficult for you to join a group every week in person, consider joining an online group for your addiction.
Develop a relationship with God
We have found that the most powerful change agent in the recovery process from addictions is the role of God the Father and His son Jesus Christ. In Matthew 6:33, Jesus Christ stated: “ Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.” “All things” can include the mental, emotional and spiritual resources you need to defend yourself against temptation.
Have others succeeded without this spiritual component? Absolutely, but the programs and processes that have endured the longest and helped the most have been had this spiritual component. Most people understand that the important things in life are not things at all- they are the relationships we have. God has put a desire for relationship in every one of us, a desire He intended to be met with relationships with other people, but most of all, to be met by a relationship with Him. In 1 John 1, a remarkable letter, John tells us the truth about relationships- and shows us how to have relationships that are real, for both now and eternity.
The Incarnation of the Word of Life
1 John 1 :1 That which was from the beginning,a which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes,b which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared;d we have seen it and testify to it,e and we proclaim to you the eternal life,f which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete.
Observations on this first portion of the book, which is one long sentence in the original manuscript.
- John began with the beginning – the eternal God, who was before all things.
- He told us that this God was physically manifested, and that he and others could testify to this as eyewitnesses.
- He told us that this God is the Word of life, the Logos.
- He told us that this God is distinct from the person of God the Father.
- He told us that we may have fellowship with this God, and that we are often introduced into this fellowship with God by the fellowship of God’s people.
- He told us that this eternally existent God, the Word of Life, who was physically present with them, and present for fellowship, is God the Son, named Jesus Christ.
- He told us that fellowship with Jesus leads to a life lived in fullness of joy.
- We could say that in these four verses, John gave us enough to live our whole Christian life on.
- Find a church to belong to. Connect with people and pastors in your church to support you.
- Develop a real relationship with God. Let Him walk with you on your journey to sobriety.
Light and Darkness, Sin and Forgiveness
1 John 1: 5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness,m we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light,o as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
Sin and the nature of God:
God is light and in Him is no darkness at all: Therefore, if there is a problem with our fellowship with God, it is our fault. It is not the fault of God because there is no sin or darkness in Him at all. Many Christians are not aware of their true condition. They know they are saved, and have experienced conversion and have repented at some time in their life. Yet they do not live in true fellowship with God. When John speaks of a walk in darkness, it indicates a pattern of living, not an occasional relapse – rather a lifestyle of darkness.The Christian who temporarily walks in darkness is still saved, but not in fellowship with God.
The blessing of walking in the Light:
John’s message here means that a walk in the light is possible. We know that on this side of eternity, sinless perfection is not possible. Yet we can still walk in the light, so John does mean perfect obedience. The Christian life is described as walking, which implies activity. Since God is active and walking, if you have fellowship with Him you will also be active and walking.
Since God is light, when we walk in the light we walk where He is. We are naturally together with Him in fellowship. We also have fellowship with one another. Christians who walk in the light enjoy fellowship with each other.
If we do not have fellowship with one another, then one party or both parties are not walking in the light. Two Christians who are in right relationship with God will also naturally be in right relationship with each other. The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin: As we walk in the light we also enjoy the continual cleansing of Jesus. We need a continual cleansing because the Bible says we continually sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)
This does not mean the actual drops or molecules of His literal blood, but His literal death in our place and the literal wrath of the Father He endured on our behalf. The blood of Jesus Christ paid the penalty for all our sins- past, present, and future. The work of Jesus on the cross doesn’t only deal with the guilt of sin that might send us to hell. It also deals with the stain of sin what hinders our continual relationship with God. We need to come to God often with the simple plea, “cleanse me with the blood of Jesus.” Not because we haven’t been cleansed before, but because we need to be continually cleansed to enjoy continual relationship. Sins that haunt me every day, sins I didn’t even know I did- all sin can be cleansed by the blood of Jesus.
The Presence of sin, the Confession of sin, and the Cleansing from sin.
A Christian can become sinlessly perfect. To think this of ourselves is to deceive ourselves, and to say this of ourselves is to lie- the truth is not in us. There are few people today who think they are sinlessly perfect, yet not many really think of themselves as sinners. Many will say “I make mistakes” or “I’m not perfect” or “I’m only human,” but usually they say such things to excuse or defend. This is different from knowing and admitting “I am a sinner.”
To say that we have no sin puts us in a dangerous place, because God’s grace and mercy is extended to sinners. Not to “those who make mistakes” or “I’m only human” or “no one is perfect” people, but sinners. We need to realize the victory and forgiveness that comes from saying, “I am a sinner- even a great sinner- but I have a Savior who cleanses me from all sin.”
To confess means, “to say the same as.” When we confess our sin, we are willing to say (and believe) the same thing about our sin that God says about it.
You don’t have to go to a confessional to confess your sin. When you are baptized, you are confessing your sin by saying you needed to be cleansed and reborn. When you receive communion, you confess your sin by saying you need the work of Jesus on the cross to take your sin away. But of course, we need to confess our sin in the most straightforward way: by admitting to God that we have done is sin, and asking for His divine forgiveness, based on what Jesus has done on the cross for us. We are forgiven because our punishment was put upon Jesus, we are cleansed by His blood.
“No man was ever kept out of God’s kingdom for his confessed badness; many are for their supposed goodness.”
Confess your sins, to God and to fellow Christians – everyday if you have to. Also confess your triggers to God. Learn to live in the light in all you do. The start of your sobriety journey is not to live hidden anymore.
© 2006 David Guzik
Recovery is a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.
People often say motivation doesn’t last. Neither does bathing – that is why we recommend it daily.
Define my recovery
Depending on what you are addicted to – what does it mean for you to be ‘sober’ (clear-headed, to have self-control), to be in recovery?
Note: there is a difference between substance addiction and behavioral addiction. On the one hand, drugs to drug addicts are essentially the same thing as food to food addicts. That is, food addicts lack the same control and choice over food that drug addicts lack over their drug use. Depending on what you are addicted to, simple abstinence may or may not be realistic. For example, food isn’t like drugs or alcohol in the sense that we actually need it to survive. So, we can’t simply give it up like we give up gambling in gambling addiction rehab.
What is this difference? To begin with, not drinking or drugging is simply that: not drinking or drugging. It is defined in negative terms, the absence of doing something. By contrast, recovery from addiction is defined in positive terms: actually doing something. Of course, recovery requires that you never take that first drink or drug. But that not the end of recovery. It is the beginning. Recovery from addiction means so much more that abstinence.
- find your place in this world
- attaining peace of mind
- establishing relationships with family and friends
- discovering opportunities to grow
- finding happiness
Note: It is not a cure, freedom from symptoms, an and to challenges, the elimination of relapses or life going on as planned. But it can be a good different life.
Develop the habit of writing a daily “To Do” List. This simple idea will pay untold dividends. Your list should be a short synopsis of the major tasks you need to accomplish during the next 24 hours. These tasks should be numbered in order of importance so if you don’t get them all completed at least the important ones get done.
Identify your triggers.
Go into confession with God about your triggers: for example being lonely.
Make a list of what is now off-limits to you, places, people or things that you know will trigger your addiction:
For example: going out with drinking buddies (alcoholic); surfing the internet (porn addict); going to a casino (gambling addict); buying drugs, don’t drive/walk on a route where there is a sex shop / liquor outlet/ drug dealer; watching TV alone (sex addict). If you relapse, add to your list to make sure you eliminate that activity.
Make a list of what you need to do when you are triggered:
- Stop and check emotions.
- Practice God’s presence (pray/read Bible/ Listen to Praise& Worship music)
- Call buddy / support group
- Do something else that you planned for ahead in case this trigger arises
- Get out – a walk, change of scenery immediately.
- Get in contact with others immediately.
Make your own personal list on how to reduce your risk of relapse.
It should contain things to do everyday – not a list of things not to do. You don’t want to create a void or absence in your life. You want to create a new full life. For example: spend time every day with my wife and children, spend time every day in devotion with God. Go to the gym every day/ exercise. Eat healthy. Get enough sleep.
This doesn’t mean that you are closed-minded and don’t look for new opportunities or pathways to success throughout the day. It just means when you find yourself drifting into chaos or unproductive thinking patterns, you use your list to get back on track.