The secret of your success is found in your daily routine. – John C Maxwell
We back ourselves into corners, don’t we? Oh, we never realize the low level of self-sabotage we partake in daily, until it hits us. It always feels like we were blindsided when we relapse, but in truth…we never are.
The Routine of Rehab
The entire time I spent in treatment I had a daily routine. I was put on a schedule. There was a time for everything, from therapy meetings and group sessions all the way down to what time my bed had to be made. When many of us first enter treatment, we may feel like these things debase us…as if our choices have been ripped away, and now we’re living in some kind of crazy preschool for grown ups where we’re told when and what we can do. It can seem like punishment.
But stop for a minute and think about what your life looked like before treatment? I know for me, there was a level of stress that came from my lack of routine. There was a type of lost listlessness that seemed to exude from the sink full of dirty dishes, the unmade bed, the lost items under piles here and there. Everything looked and felt like chaos. I couldn’t even see the floor of my car. I was always in a hurry, and the mess in my brain seemed to seep out and turn into real, tangible messes in my life.
For an addict coming into treatment, the routine of rehab offers protection. We begin to feel a sense of calm with our outside world because we recognize, if only subconsciously, that order is forming in our lives. This, over time, connects to the order forming in our messy brains through therapy and group counseling…and little by little we begin to breathe again.
Compromise and More Compromise
When I came home from treatment, I could tackle the world…literally. I was in addiction recovery mode. I had a very protected plan and I stuck to it. Not in a disciplined or dictator sort of way, but in a loving, nurturing way. I seemed to instinctively know what needed to be done next. I had developed a routine and my life felt like order.
As the weeks passed, I realized something pretty profound.
I was headed for relapse.
My daughter’s wedding was over, Christmas had passed, and I was sitting in my kitchen typing away at my keyboard. I was writing, which is my favorite thing to do, and also my livelihood…but something was different. Something didn’t feel right anymore.
As I looked around, it couldn’t be more clear.
My kitchen table was full of yesterday’s items, yet to be put away. Old coffee sat in a cup next to me. Nail polish remover, an AA Legacy workbook was under a bag of cotton balls. My journal, crumpled paper towels…
And then I backtracked to the moment I woke up. Did I talk to God? Yes, but just in passing as if I had met Him in the hallway while I was on my way to something else…something more important. I nodded, said hello and thanked Him for my life…and kept going.
I noticed I was irritated as I took my dog out. She’s my best friend. Why would I be irritated with her? Probably because I was looking at the hose that wasn’t rolled up laying in the yard from my last DIY project and my vegetables needed watering, but I didn’t have time to do that right now…or so I thought. And what about my license? I had a conversation with the hardship review board yesterday. That caused a pretty good bit of anxiety. Did I pray before that phone call? Did I pray after? I remember physically sweating while I was talking to them. A sure sign of high anxiety that I chose to ignore. But I did make dinner yesterday for my daughter and I. The dirty pots and pans were sitting right there on the stove to remind me.
In case you hadn’t guessed. That day of my realization was today. In fact, it’s right now.
I’ve begun to lose sight of my daily routine.
Oh, it didn’t happen all at once. It never does. Remember, we’re dealing with a disease that is ‘cunning and baffling’.
Relapse Prevention: Learning to See the Wrench Coming
I can literally feel the strain of compromise this morning. It’s affecting my mental state as well as my mood. But it’s still a good day. Why? Because for the first time in my life, I see it. I’ve been running into my days like a little kid who runs out the front door to catch the school bus with uncombed hair, no backpack, shirt half buttoned. All he’s thinking about is not missing the bus. Never mind the fact that he’ll have nothing he needs for his day once he arrives.
Okay, so you may be thinking, big deal….So, go clean up your house, take a breather, talk to God and you’ll be okay again…and this is 100% true. But first I want to mention the wrench.
The wrench is that one thing that pushes us over the edge…and it always comes. It’s like clockwork. We’ve let a little slide off our daily routine here, a little there, maybe we’ve lost some sleep, we’re not eating right, we can’t find our keys so we’re late for work…and then the wrench comes. I call it the wrench because it always feels like someone dropped one into the moving gears of my life and there I am, paralyzed, unsure of what to do, feeling frantic. In therapy they call these HRS or high risk situations. The wrench can be something as simple as receiving a disturbing phone call to opening a drawer and finding that one hidden bottle we didn’t realize was there. Whatever your wrench is, you should expect it. In reality, the wrench presents itself during more peaceful times as well, but we’re equipped to deal with it when we’re living in our established and protected plan.
So, what happens now? Now that I’ve recognized that I’m walking on dangerous ground?
I thank God, first of all…because years ago I would have just kept going like this. I think they call it white-knuckling. And I stop and take a deep breath of gratitude because today I’m living in self awareness. My connection with God and my belief that He has brought me through addiction won’t allow me to stray too far. He talks to me. He even lets me get this far and then sits me down like the daughter I am and reminds me of the good things He has for me. He has these same good things for you.
I’m off to clean up my kitchen. To make my bed and roll up the hose. But first, I’ll sit with my Bible and my journal so I can receive the strength I need to face this day.
Remember, you can start your day over at any time. Be thankful for awareness.
You are awake. Your spirit is alive. Feed it and protect it by doing the little things that really are the big things.