“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy, I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.” ~Anonymous
At some point along our journey in recovery, we are going to come upon rumble strips that will alert us when our spiritual vehicle has reached a critical end along our travels. Rumble strips are a series of raised strips across a road or along its edge, changing the noise a vehicle's tires make on the surface warning drivers of speed restrictions or of the side of the road. We, as the driver of our recovery, need to heed the warning and take action to prevent relapse when life serves up "its terms."
In my recovery, I have hit many rumble strips that have been out of my control. I have had setbacks, loss, unfortunate circumstances, and now, I have come upon unemployment, global chaos, and times of considerable uncertainty. None of which I could, nor can, control. The only thing I can control is how I respond to what is happening within me. If I am on autopilot, I risk drinking again. I would then lose my sobriety and everything I have built along the way. I value my sober journey, and I do not want it to end. So, to ensure I am protected from my stinking thinking, I listen to the rumble strips that tell me when I am veering too far off from where my spiritual center is. I must heed the warning and get back on course ASAP.
Here are three tips to help you create a road map for your recovery that will help you when you're in danger of veering too far off the sober path. As with all recovery, these tips are suggestions based on what has helped me, and others, overcome obstacles and celebrate sober victories. We don't tell people in recovery what to do, and we don't give our opinions as that can cause resentments and irreparable harm to a person's sobriety.
The 3 Tips
1. Create a Safety Net. If you are thinking about drinking as the result of living life on life's terms, it is suggested that you act fast. A safety net can catch you and support you if you fall. A safety net can be anything that supports your recovery, whether it be a list of numbers, a particular meeting, coffee with a sponsor, or a group intervention. If you're on the edge of something you feel you cannot recover from without drinking, try these suggestions before you pick up a drink. A safety net will also help you by creating a barrier between you and the problem. You can create a safety net when you inform your sober circle of what your triggers are and what they can help you with when you feel you've gone beyond the rumble strips. A safety net was essential for me, and it still is. Like a parachute, just knowing it is there can help ease the tension caused by fear and worry of situations that you feel may cause you to relapse.
2. Clean House. Do not keep things around, "just in case." This is true of substances, people places, and unhealthy vices. When we clean our spiritual house, we must also clean our physical houses too. Anything that is "leftover" needs to be put in the garbage can. We cannot recover when we are holding on to things that remind us of what we feel we may have lost. We are gaining so much more when we choose to "give up the high cost of low living," but when we are stressed, freaked out, and facing hardships, it is easy to fall back into old patterns. This is especially true if we have not adequately cleaned our physical and spiritual houses.
3. Help Others. This simple act has saved my sober soul more times than I can count. When I feel lost in self-pity, sadness, or the "woe is me," I lose track of how far I have come. I then risk losing my perspective on what it is that I can accomplish in my recovery. If I am sitting in my crap and feeling sorry for myself, I miss the opportunity to carry the message to those who are still suffering. Not once, have I ever regretted showing up to be of service to a newbie or to an old-timer who needed a friend and sober companionship. More times than not, we have helped each other, and to my surprise, the person I thought I was helping turned out to help me with something I thought nobody could understand.
Big suggestion, do not let your mind wander into the ditch or too far off the sober path. Be mindful of where you are in your recovery at all times. Some days are so great that you will feel as if nothing can stop you. You'll be effortlessly traveling down the road completely unaware of any dangers, twists, or turns that may be coming up. Then, out of the blue, something jumps in front of you, and you swerve to miss the danger. BAM! You're now somewhere you never expected to be. You're not alone! At some point along the journey, it happens to us all. What makes the difference is what we choose to do about it. Heed the warnings and get help.
The Next Right Thing
Now is the time to make a plan for if and when the crisis may come. I am not saying you need to be in a constant state of hyper-vigilance, what I am suggesting is that you make a disaster plan because, in the moment of chaos, it may be too late. Just like you did when you were a kid, make a plan now so that when the emotions come down like an avalanche, you can stay calm and sober on. We are all in this together sober friends.
Here are a few suggestions if you need immediate help
AA.org has a variety of meetings and resources.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration samhsa.gov is a tremendous resource for help. (SAMHSA)