You have to have a good grasp of the zero tolerance policy for yourself in order to be successful in recovery.
I recently had a friend of mine contact me for advice. He had “flipped out” in a doctors office and basically blamed it on his mental illness. In talking to him, I learned that he had first become really frustrated, and then he basically could not control his anger. The situation has created all sorts of problems for him and might even end up having some longer term consequences. He claims that the situation was beyond his control. My answer to him was that he wasn’t using a zero tolerance policy with himself.
The “zero tolerance policy” is just another word for discipline
Really, the idea that I wanted to put in my friends head was that you have to maintain discipline sometimes. Take me, for example. I happen to be a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. But I do not allow myself to use drugs simply based on that label, or based on the fact that “relapse happens,” or anything of the sort. I do not use the label as an excuse. Instead, I do not even allow myself to go there. Period. This is the zero tolerance policy; the discipline that I’m talking about.
Relapse starts long before we pick up the drink or the drug
If you’ve already picked up a glass of beer and you’re raising it to your lips, then it’s pretty much over. The zero tolerance policy has already failed you.
So when do we need to implement this discipline? It starts at the first sign of trouble. You have to shut these things downbefore they escalate. For example, when my friend started getting frustrated at the doctors office, he could have stopped, regained control of himself, and stabilized the situation. If others were truly giving him a hard time, he could have excused himself, stepped outside for some fresh air, or whatever. That “whatever” might be different for you, but you have to find it, and use it when necessary. It’s your lifeline; your coping mechanism that can pull you through when life gets frustrating.
Some people meditate. Others might use prayer, or they might call their friends in recovery and vent to them, or they might go to a meeting, and so on. We all use different methods to help us deal and cope. But before any of that stuff, you have to make an internal decision that you are not going to use drugs or alcohol no matter what. That is the idea behind the zero tolerance policy. You make the decision at the level of being, then you find ways to deal with it.
Example: “I don’t use drugs and alcohol.” That is a decision of being. It gets at the core of who I am. Much more powerful than saying “I’m not going to use drugs and alcohol anymore.” Notice also how it reinforces the zero tolerance policy and speaks of discipline.