Life After Addiction

By Dr. Dru

Getting clean involves tremendous amounts of discipline. Addiction preys upon an individual's weaknesses and tendencies, and it doesn't take much to slip back into old and nasty habits. Relapses can occur for a variety of reasons, such as suffering from emotional setbacks, being exposed to environmental situations that foster the use of addictive substances, and even boredom can trigger neurological impulses, creating the urge to revisit the mind-numbing world of drug and/or alcohol abuse. Escapism is fleeting, and the harshness of reality is a guaranteed inevitability when fighting the demons within.

Common sense usually takes a back seat to temptation, and the arduous task of dodging bullets from all directions remains a constant. The mind is a tricky thing; inner strength becomes a necessity in order to combat the ever-present and festering desire to backslide into a comfortably miserable existence. The road to recovery is more than bumpy in the beginning, yet over time the nagging itch to abuse will subside. Like most any human endeavor, success will not come to fruition in a day, a week, or even a month. One step at a time has proven to be effective in many cases, and yes, there are twelve steps in all; skipping one or more steps may result in starting over again.

Quitting "cold turkey" only works for a small percentage of addicts; in fact, this method is counterintuitive to the lengthy process devised by the folks at Alcoholics Anonymous. The organization's success rate regarding the twelve steps carried over and became part of the modus operandi for Narcotics Anonymous as well. Both of these groups deal with those who have problems with alcohol or controlled substances, and their main focus is to espouse a clean and sober living environment. The twelve steps are also referred to as the twelve traditions, and these steps are arranged sequentially.

Step one involves giving admission to being an addict, which entails the excessive and constant use of drugs and/or alcohol. People who join these programs must first come clean with themselves before getting clean and sober. They must also render themselves powerless over the substance, and as a result their lives have become unmanageable. This step is one of the hardest, yet most former addicts say that a huge weight has been lifted off of their shoulders afterwards, and they were finally able to let the healing process begin.

Phase two goes beyond the existential; addicts must relinquish themselves to a power perceived to be greater than their own, and that this power should be able to stop the madness and restore sanity to those who excessively drink, drop, smoke, snort, or shoot up. This "power" comes in the form of spirituality, and although the God reference is used in textual form, it doesn't necessarily involve religiosity. Some addicts, however, do turn to God, go with God, and stay with God while others decide to dance to the beat of their own musical choice.

Step three suggests that addicts turn their lives over to God, "as they understand him," which basically means the interpretive nature of what any god represents and means in the eyes of the beholder. Gaining trust in this higher power is crucial to recovery. Another facet to the step deals with acknowledging what can and can't be controlled, which can help with the rational decision making process.

Step four is the moral inventory segment, when addicts must dig deep to find the cause(s) for their deficiencies. Step four involves physically writing down or making a list of one's own principles of conduct, distinguishing the difference between right and wrong, but also recognizing, by societal chaste-like standards, conduct that is appropriate concerning daily routines. This falls under the assumption that alcohol or substance abuse stems from a resentful demeanor. These flaws are perceived to be character flaws, and these aspects in written form are paramount to the next step.

After completing the four steps: admission, submission, relinquishment, and an enumeration of maladies, the fifth step entails sharing these flaws with someone else in the program. The list should be comprised of 20 different possibilities for causation, including anger, fear, self pity, laziness, greed, jealousy, procrastination, and criticism of others. Also, addicts must tell their full life's story to a confidante in the program, and of course, share this same information with God. Upon completion of these listed items, step five is now in the wake.

Step six is also known as spiritual progress; after completing the first five steps, this level of enlightenment involves a complete willingness to let God remove all character defects; conquering the next phase is now within reach.No one ever uttered with accuracy that starving the monster would be easy, yet moving through step seven is not insurmountable.

Humility is a big part of step seven. This term is often misinterpreted; humility actually means being humbled, rather than humiliated. Although being humiliated may humble some people, the context of the word's intended meaning, in this case, is about letting go of these alleged petty emotions and any arrogance that accompanies these negative feelings. Staying even with or below the radar is a discipline, one that may take some practice. These tenets are what encapsulates step seven, which means that more than half of the battle is over.

Like step four, the eighth step starts with writing another list, a list that includes the amount of harm done to others as a result of addiction. Step eight can be seen as one big fat apology, or a string of smaller apologies to the people who have suffered from the butt end of another's addiction. Tracking down and apologizing to all may be a lengthy endeavor, yet this function is one of the keys to letting go and achieving a state of complete atonement.

Step nine is a continuation of the previous step, with a few extra added chores. This step includes restoring faith in others, and for those who can't be apologized to for the reason that they may be harmed in some way, staying sober one day at a time will make up for those who refuse to or cannot forgive.

The tenth step doesn't involve Santa Claus, yet it does require checking the previous lists twice to ensure that everything possible is being done for a solid recovery. Reflection and meditation are also included, and a certain amount of time should be dedicated to it on a daily basis. By this time, the process should be getting a little easier to handle, and the last two steps will perhaps be a piece of cake.

The home stretch of life after addiction is about spending time with God and praying every day, meditating, and reflecting on the day's actions as well. Step twelve reaffirms spiritual awakening, and at this point it is time to help others who may be suffering from addiction.

Other guidelines apply with these respective programs. Former addicts are encouraged to not associate with people who were part of the enabling and/or addiction process. The people who run clean and sober facilities also urge the formerly addicted to take up suitable hobbies and wholesome activities. Attending AA meetings on a regular basis is also recommended, as well as providing sponsorship and guidance to those who seem to be wandering around aimlessly, much like a child who walks into a movie theater half-way through the performance. Alcohol and/or drug abuse is no laughing matter; staying on the wagon may be difficult at first, but with the right frame of mind and continued support, beating the addiction, once and for all, can be a very fulfilling and rewarding experience.

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