Curtis Tyrone Jones, a U.S. Navy chaplain, a poet, and the author of “Guru In The Glass,” once wrote:
“One of the greatest paths to wholeness is learning how to accept the holes.”
In the psychological terms he’s discussing, I’m so full of holes that I’m literally bullet-ridden, as most recovering addicts tend to be.
We learned early on in life (quite mistakenly, yes, but we didn’t know that at the time) to plug those holes – those gaps in us – with drugs or alcohol, and plenty of it. Don’t want those holes to show now, do we? Don’t want to let others know that we feel incomplete, and not whole like everybody else seems to be.
In many cases (and I’ll more than happily admit I’m one of these), drug addiction or alcoholism is the direct result of many, many years of what can be described succinctly as “attempted self-medication.” Do not book an appointment with the family physician. Go directly to the shady drug dealer downtown, or simply walk into the local liquor store. And repeat. And repeat. On and on. Over and over.
By the time it finally sinks in that this “medication” is simply not working, it’s too late. In fact, you get to the point where you have to repeat and repeat the “prescription” just to feel even remotely normal, and, by the time that happens, you’re done, you’re hooked, you’re an addict. Full of holes. Bullet-ridden.
Addiction recovery is the only true and effective medication left. However, the actual prescription for that – recovery – usually lasts a lifetime. Certainly, no “take one 20mg tablet for the next ten days” with this note from the doctor. One whole lifetime – your lifetime. Get used to it, my friend.
To be able to succeed in your recovery from substance addiction, you’re going to need a plan. Part of this plan (and it’s usually provided by the drug rehab where you have lived for the past few months, and known as a Relapse Prevention Plan) are the skills and strategies you will need to remain clean and sober.
After over six years of cleanliness and sobriety, my own personal relapse prevention plan, an integral part of my addiction treatment, remains a significant and integral part of daily living, as should yours. So, here are your “4 Vital Coping Skills & Strategies for Addiction Recovery.” Obviously, there are way more skills and strategies available to you than the four provided for you here. However, these are the ones that have personally proven the most vital and the most effective:
1. Support Network
“No man is an island,” and all that, especially someone in addiction recovery. Being alone, isolated, and with no one to turn to during recovery? You will surely sink any island, and any chance of a sustainable recovery along with it, that you do have. Guaranteed.
Obviously, with many support groups and addiction services being present solely online, you can’t just rely on staring hopefully at your computer screen, thinking this will get you over any relapse triggers you may be experiencing.
You need to build a support network of people – friends, family, support group members, therapists even, that you can either see face-to-face (social distancing permitting, of course) or you can speak with on the phone at the very least. Someone to turn to in any hour-of-need that you may find yourself in. If you haven’t yet got a list of people that would be available, start building one right now.
2. Exercise & Nutrition
Essential. Exercising regularly will keep your body healthy, and will help to maintain a stable, calm mood too. You don’t have to be hitting the gym three times a day to achieve this, either. A long walk, a cycle ride, keep-fit at home, whatever you want – just something that gets your heart beating, and your lungs working a little.
Additionally, nutrition goes a long way to building that stable, calm mood too. You don’t have to turn vegan, or stuff yourself with vitamin supplements either. Plenty of wholemeal food, natural protein, fruit, vegetables, juices – fill your boots. Just lay off the sugary, salty stuff that’s no good for you whatsoever. Believe me, it tells after a while.
3. Time Out (Mindfulness & Meditation)
Being clean, sober, and devoid of any harmful substances makes you realise you need to concentrate on yourself. The world will still turn, and no one’s going to miss you if you take a time out once in a while.
Learning mindfulness (the art of living in the present moment), having periods of quiet meditation and personal reflection, even learning yoga – these are the things that will make your stable and calm mind even stronger, and go along way in preparing you for those stressful moments you simply can’t avoid. These are still part of my own daily routine – make them yours, too.
4. Written Journal
Clearly, I personally like getting my thoughts down on paper. It helps to rationalize the world outside, keeps me sane, and, when I’m reading them back every so often, the notes and reflections I write in my own journal remind me how far I’ve come, what I’ve achieved since my sobriety began, and what I hope to accomplish in the future.
Starting a daily journal is an excellent way of tracking your own personal addiction recovery journey, and, more importantly, learning what’s good for you and what’s not, discovering triggers you didn’t know you had, and feeling that sense of achievement that you deserve to feel. It is a highly positive thing to work at.
Staying Sober is Staying Free…
Sobriety has taught me many things, but the most vital for me personally has been the sense of freedom I always feel. I am no longer tied to getting my fix of the dangerous substances I took for so long every single day. Sobriety has given me the freedom to be who I wanted to be when I was self-medicating myself – during years of addiction.
By following these “4 Vital Coping Skills & Strategies,” you, too, will learn to value yourself as you are right now, right this moment. So, remember:
1. Support Network
2. Exercise & Nutrition
3. Time Out (Mindfulness & Meditation), and
4. Written Journal
With best wishes to you for a long and sustained recovery.