Almost four years ago, I was released from prison and put on probation. It was a very strict form of probation, one that required surprise check-ins from my probation officer at various times of the day and night. Just one violation would send me back behind bars for the remainder of my probation term: six years.
This gave me endless anxiety, and the fear of violating dictated my daily life. It was so forefront in my mind that I denied myself any sort of pleasure at all. I skipped any sort of gathering or get-together out of fear that my probation officer could twist an innocent situation into me somehow breaking the rules. I made myself miserable and actually longed to be back in prison again. After all, I was barely living life or enjoying the little amount of freedom I felt I had.
The same goes for sobriety. Some people spend days, months, or even years living in constant fear of slipping up and relapsing, no matter how “good” they’ve been. They deny themselves simple pleasures, like hanging out with friends and family, just because they’re scared the worst case scenario may result.
Don’t Live in Fear
Although relapse is always a possibility, it certainly isn’t inevitable. There are ways to recognize the warning signs and get back on track – without having to sacrifice your whole existence walking on eggshells.
- Trust Your Own Strength
When I’m feeling weak and controlled by fear, I make a list of all the obstacles in my life that I’ve overcome. It not only makes me realize that I’m strong enough to handle whatever comes my way, it also allows me to recognize that I have more tools to work with now than I had back then.
- Celebrate your Progress
When you’re focusing on the what-ifs, it can be easy to overlook all your successes in recovery. One day, I realized I was living in the fear of something that may never happen instead of living in the here and now. After all, I had made so much progress in personal growth and recovery since I’d been out of prison. The more I started to focus on all the good things I had going on, rather than concentrating on the fear I had, the less space there was for the negativity to enter my mind.
- Have a Plan
Make a list of all the tools and coping mechanisms that helped you recover. Then, be prepared to implement them again at the first sign of a setback. By having a plan in place, you’ll feel more ready and prepared to take it on just in case relapse does become a reality.
Additional Reading: Growing Old is Mandatory; Relapsing is Optional
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