I first noticed this phenomenon about addiction and recovery when I was only a few months clean and sober. I was living in long term treatment and attending meetings on a regular basis. The whole idea of recovery was still very new to me, and I was still adapting heavily to living my life without self medicating every day.
At the time, because I was living in long term treatment, I was very “plugged in” to recovery. I lived with recovering addicts. I went to meetings every day. I had group therapy twice a week. All of this support was helping me to stay clean and sober, there is no doubt about it.
After several months of this routine, I started to notice something. I would still have the occasional thought of using drugs or alcohol, and my peers and I discussed these thoughts of using at great length. They were really no big deal, as long as we did not act on them, and it was fairly normal for someone in early recovery to have thoughts to using or drinking. The key was that if we started obsessing about them that we share this with others and take action about it.
So here is the bizarre phenomenon: there were time when I was working through my early recovery where I was not fully “plugged in” to my recovery routine. Maybe I was busy with work and school related stuff and I missed a 12 step meeting. It was at these times that I slowly started to notice something: the occasional thoughts of using had a bigger impact on me.
Now this is not to say that I had more random thoughts of using drugs or alcohol, or that they happened more frequently. That was not the case. The issue was that I found that I would entertain the thought for a split second longer than usual. Not sit there and dwell on the idea of getting high for 5 minutes or anything…..just for a split second longer than normal. And I noticed that doing so had the power to throw me off a little bit. In fact, it had the power to make me crave drugs and feel a bit deprived of something when I denied myself of it. Because I had entertained the thought for even 2 seconds more, it was making me miserable.
I noticed that this only happened when I had stepped off my recovery square. If I was fully “plugged” in to my recovery, then this would not happen to me, and having the occasional thought would not bother me at all.
The only explanation I have for this phenomenon is that we actually forget that we are addicts and alcoholics if we do not stay involved with our recovery on a daily basis. Most people use 12 step meetings in order to combat this phenomenon, but there are other routes to staying connected to a strong path of recovery as well. What is important is that you stay highly aware if you are experiencing these subtle cravings and take action in order to do something about the problem. If you do nothing to change your recovery efforts, then small cravings like this will add up over time and eventually push you over the edge.
Stay plugged in.