Yesterday we looked at the need to make a decision for recovery from addiction. Today we are looking at the need for total abstinence and how to handle this mentally. This is another idea that is not revolutionary but it is extremely important regardless of which recovery program you claim to follow in your life.
If you can learn to moderate your drinking or drug use then you do not need a program at all. Go self medicate and be happy! I have no wisdom for you.
If, on the other hand, you find that you are actually addicted and really have a problem, then eventually you will discover that moderation does not work for you. This can take decades to fully realize for some people.
Once you decide that total abstinence is the way to go, now you have to work on the mental implementation of that idea.
How do you manage this idea mentally, the idea that you can never use drugs or alcohol ever again?
I call it “the zero tolerance policy.” It is a mental agreement that you make with yourself.
And what exactly is this agreement?
The mental trick that you have to engage in is just this:
Make an agreement with yourself, right now, that you will not allow yourself to entertain the thought of drinking or drugging.
Make an agreement with yourself, right now, that you will stop yourself immediately if you find yourself romancing the idea of being drunk or high.
Make an agreement with yourself that you will never again allow yourself to consciously fantasize about drinking or taking drugs again.
And of course, make an agreement with yourself that you will not take a drink or a drug, no matter what.
That’s it. That is your zero tolerance policy that you make with yourself. You do not tolerate even the thought of going back to using.
And why not? Because if you romanticize the idea of a drink or a drug, it will make you miserable in the long run. Eventually, it will make you miserable if you keep remembering “the good times.”
The trick is this:
After you have been sober for a while, taking a single drink or a drug actually would produce the effect that you want. It actually would work exactly as you want it to, at least in the short run. But that is the whole key: in the short run. Before the first day of your relapse is over, you will have seen how quickly the misery comes back. Your tolerance will shift instantly as the old addict brain kicks in, and by the end of the first week of a relapse you will be chasing a high that you can never reclaim. The vicious cycle will start all over again, and all of this because you romanticized the idea of getting drunk or high again. You entertained the thought for a split second too long, and your brain said “screw it! I am gonna go get me one!”
So you cannot “go there.” Not even for a second.
Now as an addict or alcoholic, your brain will ignore this idea at first, and you will find yourself having random thoughts of drinking or drugging from time to time.
Shut them down. Instantly. That is the agreement that you are making with yourself. That you will not DWELL on those thoughts. Because that is what creates the relapse. If you dwell on them, if you allow yourself to remember the good times for a hair too long, you will end up relapsing over it eventually.
Not worth it.
Use the zero tolerance policy to instantly shut down the thoughts when you have them. Make a decision that you will not purposely entertain the idea of relapse. It is off-limits for you.
Total abstinence is your new mantra. You must commit to the idea mentally, and shut down idle thoughts that could lead to relapse. If you are not taking an active role in managing those idle thoughts and redirecting yourself then you are on shaky ground.