One of the ideas for successful long term sobriety is to start building up your recovery insurance.
What is recovery insurance? In my mind, it is the ability to build a buffer between yourself and potential relapse.
How can we build this buffer of recovery insurance? By going above and beyond what is necessary to stay clean and sober.
For example, reaching out and working with other recovering addicts. Or sponsoring people. Or doing service work and chairing meetings. And so on. These things might not be necessary for you to avoid relapse right now, but they provide insurance for the future. They become part of a long term support system.
For example, I quit smoking cigarettes about 3 years ago. And I’m quite sure that if I really got thrown into some heavy lifestyle turbulence, I would turn to cigarettes before I would ever think of picking up a drink or a drug. Is that a form of insurance? Absolutely. I have no plans of picking cigarettes back up. I have no hidden reservation about doing so. But I can almost guarantee that I would smoke before I would do the unthinkable and pick up a drink.
Now obviously, if I were still smoking cigarettes, this form of “insurance” would be unavailable to me. There would be nothing to fall back on in the case of extreme circumstances.
Does this mean that smokers are in greater danger of relapsing than non-smokers in recovery?
Not necessarily. But the studies suggest that quitting smoking does increase your chance of maintaining sobriety.
But you don’t need to quit smoking in order to build insurance against relapse. There are other ways of solidifying your position in recovery. Simply go back to the 3 recovery strategies of the creative theory:
1) Caring for self
2) Networking with others in recovery
3) Pushing for personal growth
Now examine your efforts in each of these 3 areas and challenge yourself to do more. If you are staying clean with your current effort, what would happen if you tried harder in one area? Or in all 3 areas? Doing so will build recovery insurance, as well as to benefit you in other ways as well.
Why you need insurance
There are a lot of people out there in recovery who are hanging on to their sobriety by the skin of their teeth. Whatever program they are working, they are only putting half of their effort into it. They have found how to be just active enough to maintain sobriety but not be making any real growth.
This is dangerous because if disaster strikes and really shakes up their world, then they are in danger of relapsing. However, realize this: if you stay clean and sober for the long haul, then disaster is going to happen eventually! Bad things will eventually happen in any of our lives, this is just a given and the natural ebb and flow of things.
Now if you happen to be consciously working a program and making definite growth in your life, then such a disaster won’t knock you off your square. You can respond with normal human emotions without becoming overwhelmed and reverting to your old coping mechanisms. If you have a support network in place, you can utilize that instead of self medicating. And if you’ve put in consistent effort at personal growth, your self esteem will be high enough that you will not revert to a destructive relapse as a coping mechanism.
This is how the 3 creative strategies keep you sober over the long run. They work together to build external support as well as internal strength. Use the 3 strategies and start using them to guide your decisions, and you’ll grow stronger and stronger in your recovery.