On Second Thoughts – Thought Of The Day

We all have had those times when thoughts of using or drinking come to mind, sometimes with real ferocity. For example, those days after lockdown has started to take one step back toward normality, you might find yourself wondering down a high street, past a pub and you suddenly glance at the cold sweat running down the outside of a freshly poured pint of beer or suddenly get a waft of that distinctive cannabis smell from someone else nearby.

No one is saying that these temptations will be easy to overcome, but I do however promise you that the longer you work on things like this, the easier they will become!…

Why Do We Have A Strong Urge To Find Out What Might Have Been — Even When This Leads To Feelings Of Regret?

Though we would like to live without regrets and sometimes proudly insist that we have none, this is not really possible, if only because we are mortal.

James Baldwin

Regret is a fundamental part of living within the human experience. Expressions of regret are easy to find throughout the history of thought, and as indicated in the Old Testament of the bible, intrinsic to regret is a sense of emotional pain: “God regretted making humans on earth; God’s heart was saddened”.

Given the aversive experience of regret, traditional models of decision-making predict that people should to try to avoid it. But of course, the picture is more complex — we all have experienced the desire to know “what might have been”, even if it leads to regret. Now a study in Psychological Science, led by Lily FitzGibbon at the University of Reading, finds that the lure of finding out what might have been is surprisingly enticing.

Across six experiments, the researchers employed the Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART) in which participants are required to inflate a computer animation of a balloon. The more they inflate the balloon, the greater the participant’s payoff — but each balloon has a randomly assigned “safe limit” above which it pops, and the participant is paid nothing.

In each trial, participants decided how many times to pump up the balloon and were then shown the trial outcome: whether the balloon popped (“bust” trials), or remained inflated thereby giving participants a reward (“bank” trials).

After this outcome was revealed, they had the opportunity to seek “counterfactual” information — that is, feedback about alternative possible outcomes; in this case, how far they could have pumped the balloon safely in the trial and how much they could have won.

Importantly, as the balloons’ safe limits varied randomly across trials, this information could not help performance later on in the task. Participants were asked to rate their emotional state, from sad to happy, after learning the outcome of the trial, and indicate whether this emotional state had changed after receiving the counterfactual information.

The researchers examined how often participants sought counterfactual information, as well as its emotional effects. They focussed their analysis on “bank” trials as these trials were expected to clearly elicit regret: counterfactual information on these trials normally signified a missed opportunity as the participant could usually have inflated the balloon more and therefore earned a higher reward.

Across all experiments, participants seemed to experience regret in “bank” trials: they felt significantly worse after receiving counterfactual information. Unsurprisingly, the greater the missed opportunity, the worse the participants felt. But even though this information elicited regret, counterfactual curiosity was high: participants requested feedback in 46% of “bank” trials across all the main experiments, and 71% in a replication study.

Strikingly, participants even spent money to receive counterfactual information: although counterfactual curiosity was higher when information was free, when they had to pay for it, they still requested feedback on 18% of bank trials.

Similarly, in experiments where participants needed to exert physical effort to obtain counterfactual information, they requested feedback around 50% of the time. This underlines how difficult it is to resist the motivational pull of learning about missed opportunities.

The counterfactual curiosity observed in “bank” trials also had detrimental effects on participants’ performance. After receiving such feedback, participants took greater risks on subsequent trials, which had a negative effect on the number of points won, particularly when this behavioural adjustment was large. This highlights a mechanism likely relevant to gambling and other addiction related problems: counterfactual curiosity can exacerbate damaging gambling or addictive behaviours.

While many regrets in life pertain to our own mistakes made in isolation, as social beings we continually fret over interactions with others. Of course, the BART test is an abstract paradigm so the study cannot speak to regrets of a more social nature.

While this is a question for future research, the strength of counterfactual curiosity exposed in the paper might suggest that many of us have a morbid curiosity to seek out regret in all forms.

What Do Addicts Tend To Regret The Most Once They Enter Recovery & Leave Active Substance Use Behind?

During active addiction, people often tell themselves they are fine, even if they don’t feel that way. They often blame other people for their problems. It’s not until they get sober that they see the full extent of the damage addiction caused. Here are the top 4 things that people in recovery tend to regret most.

Alienating Friends & Family

It’s pretty common for people in recovery to realise that their addiction was responsible for many strained and broken relationships. Perhaps most painful is realising just how much your parents and some of your friends actually put up with. Some relationships will never heal, and others will take a long time to repair.

Damaging Their Health

You don’t care that much about your health and personal hygiene during active addiction, but you might face some stark news early in recovery. It might even be health concerns that finally convince you to get help and ultimately cease using and/or drinking.

Most of the damage will heal if you quit early enough with proper, professional support and treatment, but you might be stuck with some problems.

If you contract HIV from IV drug use, get bad teeth from meth or develop liver cirrhosis from alcohol, you just have to live with it the best you can. Other problems such as fatty liver, malnutrition and mild cardiovascular damage will heal eventually, but it won’t be fun and you’ll probably worry about it a lot.

Missed Opportunities

Addiction subverts your priorities and impairs your judgment. Often your performance at school, work, volunteering or any other type of contractual task will suffer.

Addiction may cause you to lose opportunities because you’re too impaired, distracted or loose enthusiasm when substances dominate everything about the way you think, what you think about and the way that you actually behave. This might take the form of getting fired, or it might be subtler like not getting a promotion or scholarship because of mediocre performance when in reality, if your life wasn’t ruled by substances at the time, you may have succeeded in getting that promotion, training, business client, opportunity or anything else.

You might not even realise what’s happened until you get clean and sober further down the road.

Wasted Time & Money

Addiction takes up a lot of time and money. People in recovery are often surprised just how much extra time and money they have once they quit using or drinking.

All that time and money could have gone to better things. You could have been earning interest on the thousands or hundreds of thousands of pounds you spent on drugs and alcohol.

You could have learned several languages, explore interesting places around the world, bought your dream car or motorbike, started your dream business or spent more time with your family with all that extra time. It’s natural to feel some regrets. To some extent, regret is inevitable when you begin to see your situation more objectively.

Regret and guilt may also increase when a dearly loved family member, child, friend or colleague die and once you begin to “clean your act up” so to speak, the thoughts of those many missed opportunities to spend valuable time and enjoy experiences together with them which you know you can never get back again. This weight can also be one of the core reasons why people become stuck in active addiction as the pain of this realisation is too painful to cope with mentally and sometimes even physically.

This is where turning to receive help and support from trained and experienced professionals is vital as they can help you work through this type of pain which may be holding you back from successfully achieving and maintaining a long lasting recovery. We provide services who can help with this and many others issues with the help of our highly trained and experienced therapists. You can find out more here. You can also find a list of a wide variety of groups, charities and organisations who can help you on our help and support page here.

The important thing is not to fixate on it. You can’t change the past. All you can do is learn what you can, remember what addiction cost you and do whatever it takes to stay clean and sober at least for today.

TIP: We know that in reality, this can be easier said than done, but it is possible and one area of your recovery that you must continue to actively work on in order to achieve a long lasting, successful recovery.

10 Top Tips For Dealing With Regret About The Past While In Addiction & Recovery

1. Expect Feelings Of Regret & Guilt To Arise

The fact that these emotions of regret and guilt occur so commonly mean that it could be described as part of the healing process. On the other hand, to be even more accurate, these are one of the obstacles that people are likely to face in early recovery.

If you are prepared to be challenged in this way, you will be better able to deal with it, and any other guilt that may arise throughout life. It will mean you understand that what you are feeling is not anything unusual and that you will not feel this way forever. The fact that you have been expecting this regret and guilt to arise should also mean that you are better able to deal with it now that it has and that you are beginning to move in the right direction in order to heal and recover.

2. Understand That You Can’t Change The Past

It sounds like a cliché, but it is also the truth – there is nothing you can do that is going to change the past. What is done is done. It matters not how bad you make yourself feel; it is not going to change anything.

TIP: Getting upset and fixating upon the past is about as effective as getting upset over the weather. You can’t change or redo what’s happened, but you can change what you’re going to do about now, today and the future.

3. Remember That The Important Thing Is What You Are Doing Now

The important thing is not what you have done in the past but what you are doing right now; it is this that will determine your future. You deserve to have a second chance in life, but this will only be possible if you are prepared to move on with your life, admit that what’s happened, happened and now things will change for the better.

The way to do this is to now focus on doing positive, active things so you can begin to reap the rewards of this later on. Looking backwards is only going to ever hold you back, so the important thing now is for you to keep looking forward and making physical and mental progress which is the best thing you could possibly do to make up for the past.

4. Be Aware Of How Regret Can Be Used To Justify Relapse

One of the most dangerous aspects of this guilt about the past is that it can actually be used as a justification for relapse. In fact, some people dwell on these thoughts because they are just not fully committed to recovery and they want to have an excuse to go back to drinking alcohol or using drugs.

This type of thinking can occur consciously, but it can also be going on unconsciously. If you feel overwhelmed by regret, you need to understand that this is related to addictive thinking and it could mean that your sobriety or abstinence is in jeopardy. Having a sponsor, Keyworker, therapist or healthcare/recovery professionals can help you identify when this may be happening, even when you may not be able to recognise it yourself. They can also help you to come up with ways in which you can successfully overcome the feelings that you’re experiencing.

5. Understand That Obsessing About The Past Could Be Considered Selfish

Feeling regret about the past is never really about others, even if the regret you feel is connected to those you have hurt. The problem is that if a person really wants to make amends for their past misdeeds, they need to understand that feeling bad is not going to benefit any other person. This is why instead of feeling guilt and regret, it is much better to actively do something positive about the situation or circumstances instead of concentrating on past misdeeds, words that were said, things that were done and even what or who you may have lost.

6. Use A Recovery Programme To Help You Clear Up The Wreckage Of The Past

The 12-steps can be a particularly good programme for helping people deal with the mistakes they made in the past. This is because part of the process is about doing an inventory of past mistakes and making amends for these mistakes.

The 12-steps also include an on-going assessment process so that you are far less likely to end up with similar regrets in the future. Those who have completed the inventory part of this programme and have started to make amends can develop an almost born-again feeling.

If being part of a fellowship style program isn’t for you, you can find other groups, programs or therapies which can help you to carry out the same process. You can find a list of organisations, charities and groups who can help you on our help and support page here, by using our professional therapeutic services here or by contacting us directly and we can help you with this.

7. Speak with A Therapist Or Addiction Professional

If these feelings of guilt and regret persist or become overwhelming, then there is a danger that it could reduce or hinder your current chance of finding happiness in recovery and it being stable.

It is therefore vital that you do something to deal with them at the earliest possible opportunity before things become overwhelming and any possible collateral damage done.

Attending sessions with a therapist would be a great way to begin dealing with this “wreckage” of the past. One of the great benefits of entering a rehab or community based drug and alcohol service programme is that you will usually get to spend a good deal of time with these types of professionals who can best advice and help you.

This means you really get to dig down into your experiences. It is also going to be possible for you to spend time with a therapist as an outpatient (or on an ongoing basis if you are currently undergoing or wanting to go through a community based service/program), which can be an excellent way for you to strengthen your recovery and minimise any chances to lapse or relapse.

8. Develop Some Self-Compassion

One of the overriding reasons why the regret we experience about our past can be so crippling and overwhelming is that people often have an almost constant bombardment of negative and repetitive “flashbacks” and hindering thinking going on inside our heads, no matter what we’re doing or who we’re with.

This inner dialogue that we all often experience can be highly destructive and distracting, so it’s vital to be able to take control of it by identifying it when it arises, attempt to work out why it’s suddenly come to mind when it has, and challenging it with alternative, positive thinking strategies techniques to change this.

TIP: One of the best ways of doing this is to start developing some self-compassion. This means changing the soundtrack in your brain from one that is bullying, degrading and negative to one that is supportive, productive and positive!

We as human beings don’t get to choose which thoughts suddenly appear in our brain, but we do get to decide which ones we are going to focus and act on; this is what developing self-compassion is all about.

There are different techniques available for developing self-compassion, but one of the most effective is loving kindness meditation and mindfulness techniques. You can also speak to a therapist or drug and alcohol professional to find others that suit your needs and circumstances.

Also in the beginning, we often come up against thoughts such as:

  • I can’t do it
  • I’m not strong enough
  • I can’t cope with the overwhelming withdrawal symptoms
  • No one likes me
  • I’m not worth it or I don’t deserve it
  • Ect

I’m sure that you will be able to identify most, if not all of those thoughts and feelings at one time or another, and I’m sure that you can add many, many more too, but this type of behaviour is tiresome and draining, sapping your happiness and enthusiasm daily.

But don’t fret, you can do something about this. It can be done by learning to use an altered thinking process and also by using positive affirmations daily. This may sound dodgy at first but I promise, once you’ve learnt about it and how to apply it to your life, you’ll reap the benefits straight away. You can read our previous article on this topic by clicking here.

9. Do Some Form Of Service For Others

Doing volunteer work or helping others can be an excellent way of overcoming feelings of regret while increasing your self-esteem at the same time. Even just trying to do one kind act every day for either someone you know, or even better, someone that you don’t know can be a great way to enjoy the benefits of helping others.

TIP: Doing something for someone else who you don’t know can have other benefits which may not be apparent at first. A stranger may be having a really bad day or be suffering with an addiction or mental health condition, which may be made easier simply by doing something positive for them. We would all like to think that others would help us if we needed it, so share kindness with others and both you and them will benefit!

If you belong to a recovery fellowship or some other form of recovery group, you will find that these organisations offer many ways for you to do service. You do not have to spend every waking hour helping others or even spend absolutely zero money, but you should try to do at least one good action like this every day for someone else, even if it’s something as little as making someone a cup of tea or coffee if they seem down, distracted or upset. This is also about planting positive “karma seeds” that are going to benefit your life in the future.

10. Understand That You’re Just A Human Being Like Everyone Else, Who Has & Will Make Mistakes Throughout Their Recovery & Lifetime.

It is part of the human condition to make mistakes, and everyone has done things that they deeply regret. These could be knowingly, unintentionally or as a direct side effect/consequence of having an addiction.

It is vital that you are able to accept your fallibility and just move on with your life – always trying to be better in the future. This is not to justify doing wrong, but to allow you to function in recovery. As long as you learn from your mistakes, you do not need to obsessively beat yourself up or even punish yourself over them. It isn’t productive and will not change what’s happened, however like we said earlier, you can decide to change the things that you will do from now onwards, this is productive and positive.

So, You’ve Ended Up In A Situation Or Circumstances Where Your Lifelong Dreams Have Caused Nothing But Regret. What Should I Do Now-Onwards?

So, we all often continually reminisce or dwell on the if’s, but’s, maybes and “what could have beens” that are often a direct result of having an addiction. When you begin to see certain aspects of your lifelong plans or relationships being thwarted from those big, far reaching dreams and desires, that we all begin with when we were at school, work or anywhere else come to that.

We then tend to focus on the various overriding feelings of regret, emptiness, failure or loss that our addiction ended up leading us to feel.

TIP: No matter what you may feel that you’ve lost out on, sold, exchanged, neglected or any other, you can change this from today onwards.

Every day is a new day in which you can become whatever you want to become and achieve whatever you want to achieve.

Remember that you can’t change the past deeds that you and others may have committed, but you can do, and become whatever you want to be and do each and every day from now onwards.

So, push the metaphorical boat out and explore the new strange and exciting opportunities that await you every single day instead of reliving past experiences that can’t be changed!

I Want To Change My Life Around But I Have No Idea Where To Start, Where Can I Get More Help?

First of all, give yourself a huge pat on the back for recognising that your substance use/dependency has become overwhelming and unmanageable!

Many people don’t appreciate the self-praise that they deserve when it comes to realising that what they’re doing just isn’t working, nor sustainable.

We want to do all that we can to help you get off to the greatest and most comprehensive, start. Check out our suggestions below to get you going with:

  1. Get in touch with us here at Drink ‘n’ Drugs. Our highly trained and experienced professionals are all recovering themselves who began as qualified and registered healthcare professionals before they developed their own addictions themselves (this just goes to show that no one is immune to being pulled into the world of addiction), as no one can truly empathise with another addict who’s also walked many, MANY miles in your shoes. You can contact Drink ‘n’ Drugs directly by contacting us through our contact us page here.
  2. Our therapists, Keyworkers and supporting staff/volunteers have all had addictions themselves to drugs, alcohol or both, so we know what works and what doesn’t! You can find out more about our professional therapies and recovery services by clicking here for more information.
  3. On our help and support page, you can find contact information for a wide variety of groups, charities and organisations who can help you overcome your addiction. You can find out more about our professional services by clicking here.
  4. Likewise if there’s something that you think may help you but are having problems with it, then please feel free to come forward and we will do our best to help you!


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Can You Cure Yourself of A Drug Addiction, Simply By Wanting It? Actor Charlie Sheen Seems To Think So!

Warning: This article contains personal views and opinions by those who were being interviewed. They do not represent those of Drink ‘n’ Drugs or any other organisation except those who are specifically cited in the article.

Actor Charlie Sheen, known for his heavy cocaine and alcohol use, has been stating in interviews that he freed himself of his drug habit “simply by closing my eyes and make it so” according to him.

But How Likely Is That?

Is this public display damaging the hard work that those in the recovery field work so hard to build upon, and the addicts who come to succeed in their recovery thanks to various coping strategies, organisations and fellowship groups?

Let’s see what he has to say about this!…

When asked recently on The Today Show how he cured himself of his addiction, Two and a Half Men sitcom star Charlie Sheen replied, “I closed my eyes and made it so with the power of my mind.”

Until recently, he was the highest paid actor on TV, despite his well-known bad-boy lifestyle and persistent problems with alcohol and cocaine. After the rest of his season’s shows were cancelled by producers, Sheen has gone on an interview tear with many bizarre statements, including that he is on a “winning” streak. His claims of quitting a serious drug habit on his own, however, is perhaps one of his least eccentric statements.

His HIV Diagnosis

On 17th November 2015, Sheen publicly revealed that he was HIV positive, having been diagnosed roughly four years earlier.

In an interview, he referred to the acronym HIV as “three hard letters to absorb”. … Sheen noted that since 2011, he had paid extortionists approximately $10 million to keep his HIV status secret. That was until it became too hard to conceal.

So, Where Do Addiction Experts Stand On This?

A prevailing view of substance use, supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Alcoholics Anonymous and the NHS, is the disease model of addiction.

The model attributes addiction largely to changes in brain structure and function. Because these changes make it much harder for the addict to control substance use, health experts recommend professional treatment and complete abstinence/sobriety for life. This has been proven by scientific research and clinical findings. You can learn more about the science behind addiction by reading our article on the topic here.

A Small Minority

But a minority in the field point out that many addicts successfully recover without professional help. A survey by Gene Heyman, a research psychologist at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts, found that between 60 to 80% of people who were addicted in their teens and 20’s were substance-free by their 30’s, and they avoided addiction in subsequent decades.

Other studies on Vietnam War veterans suggest that the majority of soldiers who became addicted to narcotics overseas, mainly heroin, later stopped using them without therapy when they returned home.

Scientific American spoke with Sally Satel, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research and lecturer in psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine, about quitting drugs without professional treatment. Satel was formerly a staff psychiatrist at the Oasis Clinic in Washington, D.C., where she worked with substance use patients.

[An edited transcript of the interview follows.]

Is it possible to cure yourself of addiction without professional help? How often does that happen?

Of course it’s possible. Most people recover and most people do it on their own. That’s in no way saying that everyone should be expected to quit on their own and in no way denies that quitting is a hard thing to do. This is just an empirical fact. It is even possible that those who quit on their own could have quit earlier if they sought professional help. The implicit message isn’t that treatment isn’t important for many—in fact it should probably be made more accessible—but it is simply a fact that many people overcome it themselves.

How do addicts stop on their own?

They have to be motivated. It takes the realisation that their family, their future, their employment—all these—are becoming severely compromised. The subtext isn’t that they just “walk away” from the addiction. But I’ve had a number of patients in the clinic whose six-year-old says, “Why don’t you ever come to my ball games?” This can prompt a crisis of identity causing the addict to ask himself, “Is this the type of father I want to be?”

If not, there are lots of recovery strategies that users figure out themselves. For example, they change whom they associate with. They can make it harder to access drugs, perhaps by never carrying cash with them. People will put obstacles in front of themselves. True, some people decide they can’t do it on their own and decide to go into treatment—that’s taking matters into one’s own hands, too.

What do professional drug addiction programs offer that is difficult to replicate on one’s own?

If you’re already in treatment, you’ve made a big step. Even for court-ordered treatment, people often internalise the decision as their own. You get a lot of support. You get instruction in formal relapse prevention therapy. You might get methadone for withdrawal and medications for an underlying psychiatric problem.

Most experts regard drug addiction as a brain disease. Do you agree?

I’m critical of the standard view promoted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse that addiction is a brain disease. Naturally, every behaviour is mediated by the brain, but the language “brain disease” carries the connotation that the afflicted person is helpless before his own brain chemistry. That is too fatalistic.

It also overlooks the enormously important truth that addicts use drugs to help them cope in some manner. That, as destructive as they are, drugs also serve a purpose. This recognition is very important for designing personalised therapies.

Don’t most studies show that addicts do better with professional help?

People who come to treatment tend to have concurrent psychiatric illness, and they also tend to be less responsive to treatment. Most research is done on people in a treatment program, so by definition you’ve already got a skewed population. This is called the “clinical illusion,” and it applies to all medical conditions. It refers to a tendency to think that the patients you see in a clinical setting fully represent all people with that condition. It’s not true. You’re not seeing the full universe of people.

Based on his public interviews, does it seem likely that Charlie Sheen cured himself?

I doubt it. Of course, I haven’t examined him, but based on what one sees, one would be concerned about ongoing drug use and underlying mental illness.

Is there brain damage/change from drug use? Is it possible to recover from such damage?

The only drugs that are neurotoxic are alcohol, methamphetamine, probably MDMA [ecstasy] and some inhalants. Cocaine can lead to micro strokes. That’s brain damage. Yes, addiction changes the brain but this does not doom people to use drugs forever.

The most permanent change is memories. Some people have stronger memories and they are more cue-reactive [more reactive to stimulus that triggers the reward pathway]. Nonaddicts won’t show that level of cue-reactivity.

For some people the addiction and withdrawal will be more intense through genetically mediated problems. Those people have a harder time stopping.

What else might account for Charlie Sheen’s strange behaviour in those interviews?

One would want to explore the possibility of underlying psychiatric problems, possible lapse in substance use or adverse side effects of mixing medications. The grandiosity, the loose associations, the jumbled flow suggest a thought disorder.

Heavy, heavy drug use could cause that. Stimulant use can cause temporary thought disorder or intensify an underlying thought disorder or hypomanic state. To try to make a good diagnosis, whatever ongoing drug use there is would have to stop.

After the withdrawal phase is resolved clinicians would then need to see if an underlying thought or mood disorder persisted. That would aid in parsing how much of a confusing clinical picture is due to drug use and how much is due to a primary mental disorder.


Charlie Sheen stating that he cured his addiction, simply by wishing it to be so is often unsustainable. Many hundreds of thousands of addicts each year who wish to stop and simply try to do so by gritting their teeth and wishing that it’s gone forever.

Clinical research findings tell us that most recovering addicts will need a lot of help and support from not only healthcare and addiction professionals, but also their family members and friends. Once any detox phase has been completed, many will continue to need some form of lifelong holistic program which may include some or all of the following: fellowship meetings, sponsors, lifestyle/daily life structuring, adjustments to their social circle, the types of job they do or need to avoid and many others.

Some people may be able to “kick their habit” simply by making some lifestyle changes, however they often tend to be those who are relatively “new” to addiction and haven’t sustained the physical and mental health issues that accompany addiction.

We would highly recommend that if you feel you have an addiction or problematic use of substances which are slowly beginning to dominate your life, we’d suggest that you contact your GP if you are having problems with drugs, alcohol or prescribed medications. If you feel that you need more comprehensive help, we would recommend that you get in touch with your local drug and alcohol service or rehab facility. They can then help you work out what’s going to be best for you. You can find their contact information on our help and support page here.

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Happy Easter Everyone

Happy Easter everyone! Today is an occasion to celebrate not only Easter, but also the work and determination that you’ve been applying towards your recovery.

If you aren’t yet in recovery, today is the perfect opportunity to start!…

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Who Would You Give To, A Homeless Dad Or A Homeless Addict?

With a pair of cardboard signs, prankster Coby Persin conducted a social experiment that tested the consciences of New Yorkers.

Coby Persin

Would you be more likely to give money to a homeless man who says he will use it for drugs and alcohol, or a homeless father with a coughing child beside him?

New Yorker Coby Persin, known for his shirtless selfies and Pranksters videos, has released a popular new “social experiment” video in which he tested the social conscience of New Yorkers with this very question.

First, Mr. Persin posed as a homeless person with a sign which read, “HOMELESS need money for weed, drugs and alcohol.” He found that the humorous forthrightness of his sign met with an abundance of charity.

But when he switched to a sign stating that he was a homeless father seeking aid for his family, with a little girl as a prop, he became invisible to charitable eyes.

Just one person, out of thousands of passersby, to give to the alleged homeless father was a homeless woman who offered up all she herself had collected for the day.

Lt. Colonel Ron Busroe, community relations and development secretary for The Salvation Army’s National Headquarters says in an interview that the psychology of giving at work in both scenarios was less about the homeless person and more about what the potential donor can relate to.

“The first thing I noticed was the people who gave to him when he was a single, homeless man wanting money for weed, drugs and alcohol and it was almost exclusively people his own age who might be looking forward to going home and perhaps having some weed, drugs and alcohol,” says Lt. Col. Busroe. “They just identified with him, his honesty and things like that. At the end of the day, it wasn’t about helping him. It was just about giving him some weed, drugs and alcohol, which is what he said he wanted.”

Busroe says that seeing people walk past a homeless father and child as if they were invisible “almost made me cry.”

But Busroe says he is not surprised that it was a homeless woman who stopped to help. “Out of her little, she gave, which is biblical.

“We’ve seen this over and over in studies and with the Christmas [donation] kettles,” Busroe says. “If you put one in front of a high-end store where the wealthy shop you won’t get nearly as much as the kettle you put in front of Wal-Mart.”

The psychology of this type of giving pattern, according to Busroe, may be driven by the fact that those living paycheck-to-paycheck are more able to relate to the needs of the homeless.

“So many people are just one paycheck away from being homeless,” he says. “It explains why this happens in society.”

Why then, did people walk past the homeless father and child without giving?

“I think there’s where you see the people who are jaded and somewhat cynical. Questioning why, as a father, you’d do that. Those are the kind of questions that come into people’s minds when they see that.”

Busroe explains that people may also exhibit a bias against a homeless man like the one portrayed by the young and healthy Mr. Persin, on the streets with a child. “I think the issue there has to do with, are you exploiting your children?”

A section of the New York Coalition for the Homeless website titled “What should I do if” advises: “As hard as it is to witness the suffering of others, we encourage all New Yorkers to exercise empathy – to imagine what it’s like to have no home and no support network, to be cold or hungry or sick, to have hundreds of people walk by you each day and pretend you don’t exist.”

“In the case of a homeless person with a child I would ask, ‘Can I take you and your child for a meal,’ or put them in a cab to a shelter,” Busroe offers. “In the case of someone asking for money for alcohol, weed and drugs don’t give them anything. What’s that about? How’s that helping?”

Other Similar Street Experiments

Other people have also tried helping addicts who are sleeping rough. Here’s one example:

You can find out how they got on here:

Let Us Know What You Think?…

What do you think? Would you still donate if a homeless/rough sleeping member of your community were honest and asked for money that they’d use for drugs and alcohol?

Let us know by commenting below or through our social media platforms.

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Who Would You Include In Your Emergency Contact/Next Of Kin Card?

If you still use or drink, or have recently stopped and may relapse, having emergency contact information in a visible, easy to access place could save your life if you were to overdose or become unwell.

Keeping a card with you that provides those who find you and emergency service workers with all of the emergency information they may need and who to contact if something happens to you.

Overdosing Or Becoming Unwell Outdoors

If you were to use outdoors in public, or in an unfamiliar environment, carrying some form of emergency contact information can provide Paramedics, Doctors or other healthcare professionals with the necessary information they need to save your life. This should be kept in a place that is easy to find, should you be unconscious and be unable to talk to them or tell them that you have an emergency card. Have a look at the example below:


At Home Or Temporary Residence

It is also a really good idea to keep one at home or wherever you’re currently staying as well. If you live alone or in a house with housemates, having a copy in your room stuck to the wall or taped to the fridge can also be a lifesaver!

The same information that you include in your wallet/purse copy should be the same for continuity purposes and to remove any possible confusion.


What Information Should They Contain?

The cards or signs should include:

  1. Your full name
  2. Date of birth
  3. Address
  4. Ideally two different peoples contact information for someone who knows about you, your health and substance use history. Include their name and ideally two different phone numbers for them such as a mobile and landline.
  5. A list of any medications that you’re taking (prescribed, from someone else and any medication assisted treatment medicines such as methadone).
  6. Any allergies you may have to medications or any other.
  7. A list of any medical illnesses or traumatic injuries you may have.
  8. What illicit drugs, alcohol or street bought medications that you’re currently using/addicted to.

Top Tips:

  • Be careful using an app or mobile device to keep this information on as the emergency responders may be unable to access it or waste valuable time trying to locate it. This is why having a hard copy like a paper card is preferable.
  • Make sure that it’s big enough and easy enough to see and that it’s in a highly visible location.
  • If you drink or use alone, leave your card out next to you so that if you overdose or become unresponsive, the emergency responders can find it next to you.
  • Make sure that you check it and amended it as needed regularly, ideally at least weekly.
  • Tell others that you have chosen certain people as your emergency contacts and where they can find your emergency contact information card.
  • If you haven’t used or drank recently, your tolerance to substances drops quickly and as such, you’re at a higher risk of overdosing. Remember to use less the first time you use or drink. You can take more but you can’t take less once you’ve used it!
  • You can also stick a sign near your front door telling emergency services workers that they can find your emergency contact information in a specific location.
  • You can also contact the emergency services and provide this information beforehand (Depending on your location and country).
  • If you have a Naloxone kit, make sure that you have it with you and that you tell others where it is kept on all of your cards.

Do You Have Any Other Suggestions Or Ideas?

We want to hear from you if you have any ideas or suggestions that we can add to this article. Please comment below or through our social media platforms. Let us know!…

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Creating And Implementing Relapse Prevention Plans – Our Comprehensive Guide

A Relapse Prevention Plan (RPP) is designed to help you to recognise the warning signs that you may be about to relapse or use/drink again. RPP’s also provide you with clear, simple instructions to follow in order to avoid relapsing.

A relapse prevention plan features a concrete course of action, outlining coping mechanisms and ideas for managing cravings and triggers in times of stress. The plan can be amended and added to as time goes on and needs change. The more detailed your plan is, the more likely it is to be helpful during a variety of situations and events, should they arise.

A RPP shouldn’t be confused with a daily recovery plan, a DRP provides you with a structured way to ensure that you’re getting the most out of every single day, hour by hour, activity by activity. You can read our ultimate guide to creating and implementing your own daily recovery plan by clicking here.

Marlatt’s Model of Relapse Prevention

Dr. Gordon Alan Marlatt, a University of Washington Psychology professor, founded this relapse model centered around high-risk situations.

The Marlatt Model illustrates how both tonic (stable) and phasic (short-lived) influences interact with each other in order to evaluate the likeliness of a relapse. The difference between these two variables are that tonic processes represent how susceptible one is to relapse while phasic responses serve as factors that either cause or prevent relapse.

The Marlatt Model

For additional information on the Marlatt model see this resource.

A Good Plan Might Include These Relapse Prevention Strategies:

  • Specific triggers
  • Tools and methods for coping with stress, cravings and triggers
  • Communication ideas for family and loved ones
  • Accountability methods
  • In case of emergency information

Step 1: Identify Your Personal Goals In Recovery & Motivations For Positive Changes

A relapse prevention plan is individual and it will not be the same for everyone. It is important for you to think about what you want out of recovery and what your own personal goals for the future are.

What changes are you willing to make, and what are your motivations for making them? For instance, things like keeping a job, making amends and improving relationships with loved ones, consistently fulfilling family obligations, becoming physically healthier or enhancing self-esteem can all be great goals to give you motivation to keep on track with your recovery. Making a note of these within your RPP can help remind you of what you may loose if you were to relapse. This can provide you with some extra motivation in those tough times.

Step 2: Make A Plan To Manage Cravings & Triggers By Naming Specific Challenges & Methods For Overcoming Them

A trigger is something that can cause stress, or urges, and potentially induce cravings to drink alcohol or use drugs. Each person will have their own specific triggers. They may be caused by certain events, places, people or circumstances.

For instance, you may frequent certain places where you always drink beer with your buddies, and these people and/or places may need to be avoided, at least for a while until you are more comfortable and experienced in your recovery. You can then decide the best way to manage these situations if or when they arise and how you want to deal with them, however we suggest that initially you simply avoid them altogether initially.

Stress is a natural part of life, and it is important to have coping mechanisms and tools in place for managing it in a healthy manner that don’t revolve around you using or drinking.

TIP: You can’t stop or choose stressful or negative feelings or situations from happening, but you can however choose how you cope with them when they come up and what you do to get past them in a constructive and productive manner.

What specific things will be the biggest challenge for you personally, and what can you do to manage them?

Come up with relaxation techniques, stress-management ideas and coping strategies, and include these in your plan as a reference for you to look back at.

You can find more of these by utilising the following:

  • Through our blog
  • Through our social media platforms (links are at the bottom of this guide)
  • By contacting us
  • By doing a search through your chosen search engine
  • By talking to others in recovery or your sponsor

Step 3: Find Ways To Improve Self-Care & Maintain A Healthy Lifestyle

The best way to avoid relapsing is by having a strong and stable plan in place which maximises your recovery efforts. You can create your own daily recovery plan by checking out our ultimate guide by clicking here.

It’s very beneficial to set up a daily ritual for maintaining physical health, such as a structured sleep schedule, plan for balanced meals, having hobbies and interests that you enjoy and having a fitness regime. Getting enough sleep and eating healthy can aid in setting up a strong foundation to build from. Being physically healthy can help you to have a clearer mind and improve your mental health, immune system, physical health (if you have health problems related to your substance use such as ulcers from injecting), boost energy levels, feel less stressed as well as increase self-confidence among many other benefits besides.

Finding hobbies that keep you busy and occupy the mind can be a great relapse prevention tool as well. Take up a creative outlet like dance or painting, attend a yoga class, find ways to help yourself relax, join a club or society related to your hobby or interest, create a bucket list and try new things, study or attend a course or invest some of your time volunteering. Decide how to take care of yourself physically and emotionally, and make plans to schedule this practice into your daily life.

Step 4: Prepare Communication Tools & Set Up A Support System

The people around you can be great resources in recovery. Surround yourself with people who support your goals and have also gone through the early recovery process like you. After all, no one can understand an addict in recovery like another addict who has been through a similar situation to yours.

Peer support, group meetings and 12-Step fellowship groups can also be highly beneficial during recovery to aid in relapse prevention. The Journal of Addictive Disorders indicates that people actively participating in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA)—a mutual support, 12-Step program—were more likely to remain abstinent over those who did not.

It can be helpful to have people you can talk to when you need to. Think about ways to communicate effectively and ask for help when you need it. Keep numbers for counsellors, mentors, friends and family nearby, and don’t hesitate to talk it out.

TIP: We often worry that we’re putting people out or inconveniencing people by calling or texting them. However this isn’t true. People can only help you if they know that you need help, after all, they aren’t psychic!

Step 5: Identify Your Warning Signs & Triggers When Things Get Tough

Identifying your warning signs and the things that may trigger you before you relapse is critical. These could be people, places and things that set you off. They could include the following:

  • Shops, bars, dealers houses or meeting spots
  • People who still use or drink
  • Days you get paid
  • Anniversary’s of deaths, births or birthdays
  • Seeing injecting equipment
  • Receiving text messages or calls
  • Certain feelings
  • Certain bodily sign and symptoms
  • Walking or driving a certain way or past a certain location

Spend at least 10 minutes writing down all of your triggers and warning signs as they will be different for everyone.

Relapse Prevention Plan Example

A relapse prevention plan can serve as a way to hold yourself accountable and have a plan, should you feel tempted to use or drink. Keep it in an easy to see location that is easy to access when it’s needed, so putting it in a drawer and forgetting about it won’t help you!

The plan will change with time and as you identify new or different areas of your life that you may wish to focus on that you feel may b difficult for you to manage and could be at risk of causing a relapse.

Being aware and taking note of early warning signs of stress can be extremely helpful in working to prevent relapse. In addition, having a strong “relapse prevention plan” in writing can be a great resource. The action plan should offer guidance and be a tool for accomplishing and holding fast to your abstinence, sobriety and goals in recovery.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Your Relapse Prevention Plan

Below is a sample of a relapse prevention plan that can serve as a guideline when creating your own recovery care plan.

Personal goals and motivational factors:

Why are you going through recovery? What’s motivating you to succeed? Write these down so that you can refer to them when you feel like giving up or relapsing.

  • I want to be more physically fit and will work to take better care of my body
  • I wish to regain my position at my job and will work toward being a better employee and more financially stable
  • I will attend anger management classes to work on staying calm and controlling my emotions and temper
  • I want to make amends with friends and family members who have suffered as a result of my addiction and seek to improve these relationships
  • I want to start my own business
  • And others

Triggers and potential challenges:

What are your triggers and what are the potential challenges you face which may become an obstacle to success?

  • Going to the bar after work
  • Hanging out with Joe and Bob who are still drinking heavily on a regular basis
  • Financial difficulties and work-related stress
  • Parties and social activities where there will be alcohol
  • Troubles with my partner and strife in my home life
  • Living near to my drug dealer
  • Constantly receiving calls and texts from dealers and friends, tempting me to use or drink
  • Having needles around me
  • Struggling with my mental health conditions
  • Criminal records
  • Feeling unwell, sweating, achy, agitated or angry
  • Lack of proper, restful sleep
  • And others

Methods for coping with stress and minimising triggers:

  • I will use relaxation and mindfulness meditation techniques when I am feeling stressed
  • After work, I will go straight home and avoid the bar as well as friends who do not support my sobriety
  • I will attend 12-Step meetings at least two or three times a week
  • I will take non-alcoholic beverages to parties and social gatherings and avoid ones where this isn’t possible
  • Every day, I will spend at least 20 minutes on self-reflection and keeping a journal
  • I will do something fun for myself at least once a day
  • I will spend at least an hour each day doing a particular hobby or interest
  • If I get into trouble, I will call a friend, mentor, family member or support person
  • I will leave my current location and go to (name your safe space) location until things settle down
  • I will delete phone contacts or change my number completely so that dealers and those who still use or drink can’t contact me anymore

Daily life & self-care plans:

This runs alongside a daily recovery plan if you have one. This will help you to become more resilient and help you to avoid actually relapsing, so being aware of these is also an important aspect to consider.

  • I will eat healthy and balanced meals and be sure to drink enough water
  • I will strive to get at least eight hours of solid sleep each night
  • I will join a gym and plan to exercise three times per week
  • I will go for a walk each day
  • Emotionally, I will work toward being more aware of my own feelings and needs and take time to “check” myself throughout the day

My support system:

Do I just need to HALT?

HALT is an acronym which stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. These 4 aspects of life may seem small, but they can commonly be found to be the root cause of some people’s relapses. You can learn more about HALT in our previous article here.

Consequences, gratitude and accountability actions:

  • If I use or drink, (list consequences) will happen to me
  • My job and financial stability depend on me remaining sober and in control
  • I may lose my job and be unable to live at home if I am not clean and sober
  • My physical health is directly related to my abstinence and sobriety. If I drink or use, I will get sick and be unable to take care of myself and others and may overdose and die
  • I understand that my recovery plan is a promise to myself and my loved ones to remain clean, sober and to be the healthiest version of myself
  • List who else your decision to use or drink again could also directly or indirectly affect

My emergency statement

On your plan, you should have one clear, easy to see and read section that you will follow if you notice the warning signs occurring or approaching, or you feel that you’re tempted to use or drink again. This statement should include the following:

  1. What signs and symptoms you want to look out for?
  2. Any other triggers or identifying factors that may indicate a possible relapse approaching?
  3. At what stage will you act upon your plan?
  4. Who and how will you contact a chosen person or people?
  5. Where will I go or what will I do once I’ve done this?
  6. How can I avoid the same thing happening again in the future? What can I learn from this?
  7. What physical actions will I put in place to help me to avoid this happening again?

Example Statement

If I notice (signs and symptoms) approaching or occurring, and I identify (triggers) happening, I will contact (person or people) immediately as soon as I recognise this is happening. I will be open and honest with them and ask for their help, support and advice. I will then go to (location) to keep myself safe until things settle down or until certain things are in place to stop me relapsing.

Straight away, I will sit down with my chosen person or people and work out how and why I ended up getting in this position in the first place and what I will add, amend or remove from my daily routine to avoid this happening again in the future.

What If I Do Relapse?

The important thing to remember about relapses is that they will more than likely happen to most people in early recovery. We will often punish ourselves and see them as failure, however it’s important to cut yourself some slack, use them as a learning opportunity and move onwards and upwards rather than stop and focus on them which isn’t productive or helpful.

Top Tips & Expert Advice

  • Make sure that you update and amend your RPP regularly as things will change as time goes by, ideally monthly
  • Make sure it’s in a visible and easy to access location
  • Ask someone you trust and who have been through the same situation as you before for their help and advice about your plan
  • Make sure that the information you use is accurate, honest and upto date
  • You could also keep a copy of this next to your emergency/next of kin emergency contact information so that emergency service workers have as much information about you as possible
  • If you add it to your plans, make sure that you stick to them otherwise they are no use to you and your recovery
  • Use this as a tool holistically with others you may already have, and make the most of them by combining them all together to better support your recovery. You can learn new techniques and coping strategies by browsing through our large back catalogue of articles in our blog here.

Print Off Checklist

You could print off these questions to ask yourself every day, or when you feel like you may slip up and possibly relapse.

RPP Template Ideas

Template/Idea 1
Template/Idea 2
Template/Idea 3

Have An Ideas Or Suggestions?

Do you have any ideas, suggestions, advice or tips that you want to share with others? Let us know by commenting below, contacting us through our social media platforms (links below) or by contacting us.

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How My Friends And Social Life Changed In Recovery

“A good friend will help you to discover the potentials you haven’t uncovered. A bad friend will help to cover up the potentials you have already recovered. Make your choice!”

Israelmore Aylvor

Early on during when I began on my journey of recovery from drug and alcohol misuse to sobriety and abstinence, I learned that if I wanted to protect everything I had worked so hard to regain, I would have to separate myself from the people, places and things that were part of my former drinking and using life and learn new skills, techniques and ways of making new friends. Not like our old “friends” that are simply with me because I drank or used just as they did, or because of what they could get from me.

It would be too hard – virtually impossible – for me to make the necessary personal (internal) and behavioural (external) changes in my life that would support my newly-found but hard-won sobriety and abstinence if I continued associating with the same individuals, going to the same places and doing the same things as the “drunk or high me”.

I Went To Rehab Or Through Treatment & Made Some Changes – Now There’s MORE!?…

When I was first presented with this idea, I naturally balked. These were my friends and this was my life. Wasn’t it enough that I was going to stop drinking and using?

When they saw my resistance, my counsellors, Keyworker, my sponsor and all of the “old-timers” at the meetings I attended all told me the same thing in their own way – I was free to go anywhere and do anything I wanted with whomever I pleased, if I was willing to pay with my sobriety and abstinence.

That woke me up a little bit.

Recovery From Substance Use Requires Lifestyle Changes

Alcoholism and addiction to drugs is a disease, and as anyone with an incurable – and possibly fatal – condition, there were certain steps I had to take, and lifestyle changes I had to make if I did not want to suffer from the worst the disease had to offer:

  • Diabetics have to monitor their blood sugar, lose weight, exercise more and change their diet if they want to stay healthy and avoid complications such as blindness, nerve damage or loss of a limb.
  • People with high blood pressure have to avoid stress, reduce their sodium intake and lose weight if they don’t want to be at increased risk of stroke or further, worsening cardiac conditions.
  • Individuals with heart disease have to exercise, carefully monitor their diet, give up smoking and take their prescribed medication if they want to reduce their risk of a heart attack.
  • Those recovering from an addiction to alcohol and drugs or those still using is to abstain from using any intoxicating substances, have to find new and positive ways to deal with negative emotions, cravings, urges and have to avoid “triggers” that can lead to relapse, overdose or even death.

My New Clean & Sober Life After Rehab Or Community Treatment

I was in a 90-day residential alcohol rehabilitation program, so I had plenty of time to reflect on everything I was told. Luckily, some of the message sunk in, despite my stubbornness. Returning to “the world” after so long a time in a safe, controlled environment, was an eye-opening experience.

A. Nonymous

To support your recovery from alcohol or drugs, We highly recommend that you avoid old:

  • PEOPLEbut not at first. I said I was stubborn, and I am. One of the first things I did after returning home was to visit some of my old drinking buddies. In my mind, I had spent so much time with these people that it would be downright rude to just completely cut them off. After all, they care for me… don’t they?…

Everyone was glad to see me, and for a few minutes, it was great catching up.

Then somebody handed me a beer to congratulate me on “getting out”.

For just a moment, all of my enthusiasm for my new sober life threatened to go right out of the window. Despite all of my progress, there was a sneaky voice in the back of my mind telling me that it was okay – that I had earned the right to party a little bit and I could surely have one, couldn’t I?.

I have never been so scared in all my life as I was at that moment. I got out of there as fast as I could and called my sponsor.

Lesson learned. I was going to have to make new friends. More on that in a moment.

  • PLACES – Have you ever noticed how bars aren’t really that much fun when you’re not there to drink? Or that the food at the typical so-called “bar and grill” isn’t very tasty? Or the smell of weed as you pass a group of teenagers sat in a park which now simply makes you feel sick?

From a new, clean and sober perspective, it’s easy to see that hanging out at establishments where alcohol or drugs are the focus don’t make sense, from either a recovery aspect or a financial one?

It boggles minds how much-overpriced alcohol people have consumed at various bars or clubs, or how much money are spent on a tiny piece of drug which is half filler and the quality of the actual drug has been cut numerous times to begin with!

Even bearing that in mind, It’s best not to tempt your disease. Because a bar doesn’t have anything to offer anymore, make it easy on yourself – Just stay away!

  • THINGS – When you’re making the conscious decision not to drink or use, it often becomes necessary to pick out those activities that don’t revolve around alcohol or drugs.

It’s extremely common to go on a date where you “meet for drinks” or celebrate a birthday party. Even hanging out with some friends on the weekend to watch the big game can mean breaking out a cooler of beer or finding yourself being roped into going to places or doing things based upon on peer pressure.

Any of these “innocent” pastimes were extremely dangerous for someone like me – someone in recovery for alcoholism.

A Nonymous

At first, I just declined any invitations, but that got real lonely real fast. As time went on, I learned to be a lot more creative. Now I have fun, but in a way that doesn’t jeopardise everything that I’ve accomplished:

  • Instead of “meeting for drinks”, I take my dates out for coffee or to the cinema.
  • I am extremely choosy about the get-togethers I attend – barbecues, dinners or office parties – and I never go without an escape plan.
  • Because it is harder to abuse alcohol in public than it is in secret, I do a lot of outdoor activities – picnics at the park, bike rides, and visits to the zoo.
  • I’ve always loved to bowl and play pool, but now I do so in “family fun centers” where alcohol isn’t even offered.
  • I’ve cultivated an interest in local museums.
  • My friends and I have a regular movie night get-together.
  • I host my own dinner parties and gatherings, and my guests already know not to bring booze.

So where am I meeting all of these people – these dates, friends, and guests?

It’s easier than you might think. When I was actively drinking, I wasn’t aware of how off-putting my behaviour could be. I never knew about all the places that I didn’t get invited to because people weren’t sure how I would act.

Now, everyone in my circle – my friends, family members, and coworkers – can see that there is a change in me and that I am working hard at staying clean and sober. There are a lot less apprehensive about inviting me. Obviously, that makes it easier to be sociable.

I’ve also made friends in recovery meetings. I even regularly go to special events that my local group puts on. Not all of my friends are in recovery from alcoholism or drug addiction, but it is nice to have one subset who know exactly what I have gone through.

The main point that I want to get across is this – safeguarding my abstinence and sobriety early on meant that I had to make real changes in my life. Now, I just have to use a little creativity to maintain. To my pleasant surprise, I found that I could have just as much fun – actually, even more fun – than I ever had when I was an active addict.

Do you want to know the best part? I ran into one of my old drinking buddies a while back. He said that I looked so much better than I used to and that I seemed really happy. Of course, he wanted to know how I did it. So I told him.

Now, my friend is participating in his own alcohol rehabilitation program.

Look at me… I just performed the Twelfth Step.

A Nonymous

You never know how many other people you can inspire with your own recovery journey. Once they see that it is possible to live happily without substances, others will gain motivation and inspiration to do the same.

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Top 5 Techniques To Overcome Obstacles In Addiction Recovery

Life is full of obstacles. This is certainly true if you struggle with an addiction. The road to recovery from substance use is often long and difficult, and there will be obstacles that all of us will face, some are common and others will be unique to you and your situation. Will you go over, under or around them? Will you stop and give up? Fortunately, life is also full of choices.

There are many tools you can use to help avoid relapse. One option might be as simple as taking a moment to put things in perspective and realign your thinking.

Another might be to call a friend or your sponsor to talk through a difficult situation. Or in times when you need an immediate action to curb a craving, you may want to do push-ups, try urge surfing or use mindfulness based techniques.

Let’s take a look at a few of the techniques we find most commonly occur when you’re new to recovery and come up against an obstacle and aren’t sure how to overcome them.

When you feel anxiety, agitation or a craving building, you can keep it from escalating into an impulsive action with the following techniques:

1. Focus On Controlling You

We have a tendency to spend a lot of our time and energy trying to control things, situations or circumstances that aren’t in our power to control, no matter how hard we try. It’s not worth the frustration, agitation or disappointment. Likewise, we don’t have control over what other people say or do around us, but we do have control over how we react. For example, you may not be able to control your child yelling at you, but you can control your response. Resolve to respond in a calm manner, instead of yelling back.

Other things that you can control are:

  1. Whether you keep or change your mobile phone number which you know dealers or users can contact you on, possibly causing a temptation.
  2. Whether you call dealers or those who drink.
  3. What you spend your money on.
  4. Where and when you go to certain places.
  5. Managing other associated triggers.
  6. Who you associate with.
  7. Whether you attend group meetings or fellowship meetings, appointments and therapy sessions ect.
  8. How you start and end your day. Are you using a daily recovery plan to maximise your time and efforts?
  9. Are you eating and drinking properly (not alcohol)?
  10. Whether you use drugs or drink alcohol.

2. Practice Mindfulness Techniques – Staying In The Present

Many people spend a lot of time focused on the past or the future. Saying or thinking such things as “I never should have done that.” “What if the judge rules against me?”What if I can’t manage to sustain it?”and others similar to that.

The past is behind us; we can’t do anything about it now. And, we don’t know the future, so it’s not worth driving ourselves crazy over it. You do however, have control over what you do right now and throughout today.

Mindfulness — or staying in the present moment — is a big component of our treatment program. Focus on where we are and what can we do right now. We don’t want our thoughts taking us to places we can’t control.

There’s a saying “Don’t go into your head alone; it’s a dangerous neighborhood up there!”

There is scientific studies currently taking place to see whether mindfulness techniques could make you immune to temptations. You can find out more about this here.

3. Act With Your “Wise Mind”

We teach our followers to act with their “wise minds” and balance emotion with logic. We have a rational mind and an emotional mind, and both of these need to be satisfied.

Here’s how it works: Your emotional mind tells you, “I can’t deal with this anymore. I just want to get high.” You then pull in your rational mind to say, “You know where this leads and you know you don’t want to go back there. You are going to walk away from the temptation to use drugs or alcohol and call your sponsor, friend, family member.” You could also follow your relapse prevention plan should you have one.

4. Lean On Your Support System

Surrounding yourself with a strong support system is one of the most important things you can do to overcome substance use and addiction.

You know what they say: “A burden shared is half as heavy.”

We recommend joining a 12-step fellowship program or group meetings at your local community based drug and alcohol service. It’s easier to stay on track when you consistently engage with people who have the same ambitions and goals as you do. These various types of program also pair you with a sponsor you can call when you need a little extra support.

5. Try Physical Activity When You Need An Instant Distraction

There may be times when your addiction and cravings are so strong you don’t have time to call your sponsor or even the mental capacity to think clearly. We recommend to our followers that in those instances, to drop and do push-ups until they can’t do push-ups anymore. Or sit-ups, or running or whatever physical activity you can do to interrupt those impulsive moments that are about to lead you to alcohol or drugs.

Exercise also provides you with a natural “feel good” feelings which your body produces naturally when you exercise. it’s also a good way of causing you to sweat and work out the toxins you have in your body more quickly from previous drug or alcohol consumption.

Not all of these methods may work for you and not all of them will work in every situation. But by arming yourself with options, you’re more likely to find the right tool to help you overcome each obstacle on your substance abuse recovery journey.

The more tools, techniques and contacts you have when times get tough, the more flexibility you’ll have when the time comes to needing them.

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