Recovery from addiction is hard. As many addicts know, it is most probably the hardest thing they have ever done in their lives.
What makes it worse are “mine-fields” that cause the ongoing cycle of recovery and relapse. Roadblocks to recovery have to be avoided if there is to be any recovery.
Early in their recovery, most addicts are “in denial” and resist following advice. They don’t want to believe that the following are roadblocks and consequently they become trapped in their insanity until they are convinced otherwise.
These are the main roadblocks to be avoided:
Continued association with “using” friends triggers two reactions within the addictive brain.
Firstly there is the “Pavlov’s Dogs” response. Pavlov, a Russian Psychiatrist, rang a bell every time he fed his dogs until eventually the dogs would start salivating at every ring of the bell, even when they knew there was no food. In exactly the same way, just seeing “using” friends triggers craving.
There is also the “Crab” response. In fish markets, live crabs are kept in baskets which are open at the top. Every time a crab tries to climb out, the other crabs grab it and pull it back. “Using” friends tend to feel betrayed when an addict goes into recovery and will actively sabotage that recovery.
Recovery means giving up these friends and associations. Unless a using “significant other” also comes into recovery, the relationship must be terminated.
Once again, places associated with “using” like bars, strip clubs, certain street corners even suburbs will trigger “Pavlov” cravings. These must be avoided like the plague. If going there is absolutely necessary, addicts must take a non-addict person with them.
Events such as rock-concerts, parties, etc. also have to be avoided, either because of memories or because others may be using there. In both cases the “Pavlov” response may cause relapse.
Many addicts “associate” with certain times of the day. For example, addicts that use immediately after leaving work at 5 PM. every day, would crave at that time even after quitting. This is overcome by programing an activity e.g. gym or cycling or choir practice at that time of day until the “Pavlov” conditioning fades.
Friday and Saturday nights are also difficult times. That’s why 12 Step meetings on these nights are usually packed.
5. HALT (Hunger, Anger, Lonely, Tired)
HALT events are known to weaken resolve and trigger cravings. Ensure availability of snacks, control anger (seek serenity) and always have a list of friends you can call on (or go to a 12 Step meeting) and avoid late hours and tiring activities.
These are some of the main roadblocks but here are a few others to be avoided:
Bad Diet - particularly too much sugar
A Poor Definition of Recovery – as discussed before
Item Triggers – a coffee table where you prepared your drugs, music, aromas etc.
Denial – about being an addict or the dangers which cause relapse.
Cross Addiction – From drugs to alcohol or to another drug
Switched Addiction – From drugs to gambling, sex, religion, other people or group meetings
Enabling – A family behavior such as bailing the addict out of debt, paying rent, making excuses for them etc.
Roadblocks to Recovery must be addressed early in recovery. Addicts need to accept that these threats to successful recovery exist.