We Start Romancing the High:
We may start only remembering the good times we had when we used and forget about the bad and consequences that follow from our use. We start to convince ourselves that if we use again it we can relive those good times and block the negative. To counteract this we must be mindful of these thoughts and force ourselves to play the tape all the way through. In other words, don't just remember the good first few minutes of the high, mentally walk yourself through the consequences like how you feel the next day after using, the next few days, and the consequences each use has on your life (broken relationships, money loss, time loss, jail time, etc.) When you walk through not only the good, but the bad parts of using, you can change your association of drug=positive to drug=negative.
We Awfulize Being Sober:
We start thinking about how hard it is to stay away from alcohol or drugs. We convince ourselves being sober is awful, unbearable, or boring. Many times we think we are funnier, smarter, or more fun when under the influence of drugs or alcohol but those attributes are already there, the substance just makes you feel more comfortable acting that way. We can find other ways to make us feel at ease or confident in social situations where these positive attributes can be shown. Once we realize we own these attributes and they aren't controlled by the substance, we can let them shine while sober. Boredom is definitely a high risk situation that can lead to use. One of the biggest initial complaints about living sober is the boredom factor. These times are especially pronounced during times when we used to use, like once we are home from work ready to relax. It is smart to have a list already made of positive things to do, maybe things you used to like or new activities, that you can pull out in times of boredom. In the beginning of recovery it is helpful to have your days planned out with proactive activities if you find yourself suffering from boredom that is leading you to want to use. If you can't think of anything else, you can almost always go to an AA meeting to beat the boredom and cravings. We may not get instant gratification like we are used to from the high dopamine level from substances, but over time, your body and mind will think less of using and more of these alternative activities.
Try to think of sober life as giving you more time to do more productive and healthy activities instead of thinking of being deprived of the substance.
We Face a Loss or Crisis:
The overwhelming feelings of a death, a life crisis, or even just a really bad day, can lead to substance use and relapse. Sometimes it's easy to try justify the use with the loss or crisis but use will only repress and/or prolong the feelings of sadness. It is important to feel the emotions sober and have a time of grief, but the grief shouldn't last more than a few weeks or months depending on the situation. Using in these situations may alleviate the feelings for a short time, but they will come back and using will only make the situation worse. We need to find a new way to self-soothe that is healthy, like talking to a loved one or counselor, working out, being in nature, or having some sort of spirituality or faith that can give you comfort that there is a bigger plan.
Think about your own high risk situations and decide how you are going to counteract them and stay sober. We don't want to be in high risk situations, especially in new recovery, but they eventually happen and it is best to have a plan on how you will cope with and handle life events in a healthy way.
**High-Risk Situation List adopted from Relapse Prevention Counseling Workbook by Terence T. Gorski (2000) and blog by Chelsea Kline.