‘Keeping the monkey off your back: top five tools to sustain recovery’ by Peapod

P1011013“Just because you got the monkey off your back, doesn’t mean the circus has left town” George Carlin, comedian and author.

Getting sober and drug-free is hard enough for most of us, but staying that way is a challenge. The evidence is that many people coming out of abstinence-oriented treatment will relapse in the first year and most of them in the first few weeks. Recovery initiation, the start of the journey, is just that: a beginning. In the past, we’ve treated it like the main event and had little thought for what happens next.

The circus may not have left town, but there are ways to avoid ending up in a ringside seat and having that pesky monkey trouble you again. These things are the tools of recovery. There are plenty of them and we need to find the ones that work for us. Some however are more reliable than others according to the evidence we have. Here are my own top five tools:

1. Ask for help
This journey is so much easier if we do it in the company of others. Get help. Find peer based support, service user groups, a mentor, a recovery coach, a counselor, or a support worker. Use their support and keep using it.

2. Aftercare
If just out of treatment, go to aftercare. If they don’t have aftercare see if you can find another service that does and ask them if they’ll let you come along. We do that in our service from time to time and other recovery-oriented services may well do it too.

3. Get connected

Connect to mutual aid and recovery communities. Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous and SMART are examples of mutual aid groups. If you go to a 12-step fellowship, get a sponsor; research indicates you are much less likely to relapse if you do. Find recovery activities like Recovery Cafes or social groups. And stick with the winners.

4. Find something to do

Meaningful activity is a predictor of sustained recovery. By that, I mean thing like volunteering; getting some qualifications or training or a job; getting to the gym or for a swim; join a leisure or social group. Meet regularly with recovery friends and supportive family members. Make plans and keep them.

5. Help others

Giving something back and supporting other folk is good for us generally, though we need to keep ourselves safe too. A kind word of encouragement to a nervous newcomer goes a long way. Spreading the message of recovery and sharing what works for you is something we can all do. Recovery is infectious and we need to spread it around.

These power tools worked for me, but there are many more in the toolbox.

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