After you have been clean and sober for a while, there is always the chance for relapse to happen. We are never immune to the possibility. Therefore, it makes sense to prepare ourselves a bit and get educated on what we need to avoid in order to stay clean and sober. If we take a drug that we think is innocent, and it “sets us off” in some way, reactivating our addiction, then all is lost and we have essentially relapsed. Ignorance may be a good excuse but that does not help us if we are off to the races again.
So what are these addictive drugs that we need to avoid? Anything that has the potential to make our physical addiction kick in again. It is important to note that your drug of choice is not really the issue here; we have to stay on guard against all addictive substances in order to stay safe. So just because you were an alcoholic, does not mean that you should be taking prescription painkillers or heavy anxiety medications.
Likewise, someone who is addicted to Cocaine but never really enjoyed drinking should not be under the false impression that they can get away with having a beer here and there. This is the type of thinking that we have to be on guard against, because that is the sort of thing that can trip someone up in their recovery. What’s more, this sort of thing can and does happen to people who have been clean and sober for several years.
Therefore, if you are in recovery for any sort of substance abuse addiction, be it alcohol or other drugs, here is a list of things that you should avoid:
1. Alcohol – including “near beer” such as Sharps or O’dules, which still contains alcohol and is actually playing with fire for a true addict or alcoholic.
2. Opiates – prescription painkillers and opiate based drugs. Heroin, morphine, methadone, vicodin, oxycontin, percocet, dilaudid addiction, lortab, etc.
3. Benzodiazepines – sometimes given for anxiety or as a sleeping med. Valium, xanax, klonipin, ativan, librium, and so on.
4. Stimulants – Illegal ones such as cocaine and meth, but also prescrpitions such as ritalin, conercta, etc.
5. Marijuana – Some believe it to be innocent but it will lead you back to your drug of choice over time.
6. Hallucinogenics – mushrooms, lsd, etc.
7. Inhalants – huffing household chemicals, paint, glue, etc.
8. Club drugs – such as MDMA, otherwise knows as ecstasy.
Some of these items on this list are better described as “drugs of abuse” rather than being addictive drugs, but they all have the potential for addiction. More specifically, in our case, we are simply worried about them reactivating our addiction and causing us to return to our drug of choice. That is what we are trying to avoid and that is why it is important to be familiar with the substances that are off limits.
I realize some of those are very unlikely but it’s important to have a comprehensive list. Some people really have no clue about this stuff and it would be a shame for someone to get tripped up simply due to a lack of knowledge.
Are there ever exceptions to this list? Sure. For example, there are many recovering alcoholics who suffer some sort of pain and manage to successfully use an opiate based painkiller. If this is your situation, then all I can say is that you need to be extremely careful. Best to have a family member hold on to the medications and dispense them for you in this case. That might sound silly but you are treading on dangerous ground.
I have seen people in recovery who have fell victim to this sort of thing…..alcoholics with over 10 years of continuous sobriety who got addicted to painkillers following a minor injury. I know this because I saw these people in 12 step meetings 8 years ago and now I am treating them in detox at rehab (I work as a nurse aid in a treatment center).
So it can, and does, happen. People with a lot of time in recovery get tripped up due to “cross addiction.” They believe they are immune because they are taking something that is not their drug of choice. If you want to play it safe and insure your continued recovery, avoid all of these addictive drugs and you should be OK.