For so long I really thought I was a lost cause when it came to getting off of heroin. When it came to living a normal life that didn’t revolve around using drugs. It was an obsession every minute of every day and even though I had all of the tools to grow past a life of drugs. The drugs kept winning every day. Made it really hard to live a normal life and do things that I really enjoyed doing.
Most of the relapse prevention and coping skills I learned over the 13 years of going to rehabs all over the country were always in my mind and I liked to tell others about them. Living them was a different story. The last five years of going to treatment I would joke that I could teach this “shit,” and I really could have. It was after going to treatment about 30 times between 09’ and 16’, which when it is put like that, sounds absolutely crazy, 10 times from about 16’ to 19’ and that is even a lot. The point is I really was able to finally implement some of the things I learned in all of those years of rehab.
I really did start making my first real attempts at getting clean after my ex girlfriend killed MaryJane, read “Pink Diary” (Google (Animal Cruelty, 2012, Wausau, Mary)) Just so people know what I went through, it was on GMA and in USA Today. After that I went to rehab in Florida for 74 days and I really did try to learn about how to get and stay sober. I also always asked questions but then I did get side tracked and I got kicked out for going to South Beach with a girl. Yea, that happened. Funny Story. True Story. Real World True Story, 7 Strangers living in one house. Ask me about it sometime and I will tell everyone.
All of my attempts at rehab and recovery were really just building blocks for me to finally get recovering. Getting through detox and then after the recovery stage, all of the things I have done to really change my life are much different than how I used to handle my life. I never was much for using coping skills and relapse prevention was never a thought. How I could relapse and now get caught. That was the usual thought process ever before I thought about how I could be prevented.
That is the worst part about addiction, it is the only disease that tells us that we don’t have a disease. I always had people to turn to and talk to about my issues and to vent to, but I would always just turn to drugs because not only is it easier, it’s always there. Well it seemed like it was the best way to handle things. However, the self destructive behavior and not being able to just live a normal life because of the drugs made it obvious drugs were not the answer. Now getting off of them was the hard part.
Obviously you have to get through the detox portion of the recovery process. Listen to my Podcast and read the other articles on this blog about how I detox and got through withdrawal. I really wish I made a withdrawal video. It was awful and it would have really been eye opening for people who have never seen someone withdrawal hard. It really is not a pleasant sight. I was quite sick, like the flu times 100. But it is too late now for that video but I have talked about it. Once you get through withdrawal, I recommend going to a detox facility and just get through the hardest part with some medical help. Then is when the real work begins.
Relapse prevention really breaks down to the connections we build and the relationships we cherish. The people, places and things around us that we make important and that are healthy options for our treatment. I noticed that this time around things were much different. All of the relationships that I have built recently are extremely important and I would not let anything in the world interfere with those. Mostly with my son, but also with any of the family that I have recently reconnected with. Reconnection with myself has been really the biggest difference in my self esteem that I noticed. I lost who I was, I lost what I liked, and I lost what who made me me. Now getting back into things like skiing, biking, and fishing really are the things that I used to do that I cared about that occupied my time before drugs.
That can be the hardest part at times, finding something, a hobby or interest that is either something new or something that you use to do and make that your new focal point of your time. I prefer to have a few, at least I will not get bored, but at least having one main interest is better than doing drugs. Back to those relationships we built, now that becomes my support system. That group of people that you now want to just be around and spend time with and will know if you are using or drunk because I act so different when I am all fucked up. It is nice having family back.
I also have a team of professionals in my corner that have all really played a huge part in my recovery. Well my Primary Medical Doctor and my Therapist are super great. I have not met my Psychiatrist yet but he was referred by my Therapist and UW Health wants to hear my story and maybe study my brain. Pretty cool. My therapist is really great to talk to and that is always important. Having someone that has a non biased view on what they are hearing. He legit, has my best interest at heart. Then my MD. The man. He is who really did not give up on me like so many doctors have before. He stuck with me and we really worked together to try and get my clean once and for all.
The craziest part is I just recently had blood work done for my Hepatitis C treatment and I was waiting to hear about the blood work so I would be able to start the treatment and get it over with. THe treatment is only 8 weeks and it would be cured. The carry always has the antibodies but not the active hep c virus. I just talked to the doctor and like Madonna and like 25% of people who get Hep C. I passed it on my own with my own natural immunity. Fancy that. “My Junkie, Crack Head, Loser” self cause I heard those a lot, beat Hep C without treatment and now I can kiss my son again without people worrying. It was pretty awesome, I really could not believe it when my doctor told me. I am going to get a doctor’s note to show people because it is almost not believable. My doctor even said it is like having a guardian angel…..
All of the treatment, and therapy and groups, meetings, and circle of family and friends are everything you need for relapse prevention. Learn what is important in life and the people close to you will help you get through most everything. However, being able to handle the stresses of fine on your own and dealing with things like an adult, without drugs, comes down to being able to cope. And that is where coping skills come into play. Coping skills really are any positive action that does not involve using drugs or drinking and does not involve anything that will lead to using. I mentioned skiing and biking, those are definitely coping skills, talking to family and friends also mentioned, also a coping skill. A lot of people get back into their artistic lifestyle and go back to drawing or painting which is very therapeutic. I suck at art but I still try, that is the most important part, just trying new things, figuring out what things I like again and maybe trying things that I know nothing about just to see if I can learn.
The most important part about coping skills is that it really is the opposite of the people, places and things that you are told to avoid regarding triggers. The opposite of a trigger is a coping skill. Triggers I don’t talk about much because to me just waking up was my trigger, it controlled me every day. Those opposite people places and things can be used as coping skills and having those things to turn to besides drugs is the only way to really have a solid structure for long term sobriety. Triggers are people, places, or things that “trigger” a person to use drugs or drink. Triggers can really be anyone or anything and that is what makes getting off of drugs and booze so impossible sometimes. Triggers are all around us and they are every day all day. The opposite of a trigger is a coping skill, and those coping skills are just positive people, places and things. If that makes sense. I never had it put to me like that.
Just makes sense to me and I really do deal with life in a much different way than I used to. I don’t always fight with people when I could. I try to pick my battles and just create the kind of drama free like that I really want to live. Not always correcting people when they are wrong like I used to has really gone a long way as well. Just minimizing my conflict, and maximizing the positive people, places, and things in my life. Getting back to the old me and finding out who I am and what I want to do with my life, well maybe not what I want to do. But I know I do not want to do heroin anymore, or be a slave in a life of addiction.
I wake up every morning and I do whatever I want. The first things I think of now are being thankful for another day, my son, and what I can do for my recovery today. I no longer am obsessed with using drugs and getting money for drugs. It is no way to live and it literally consumed my entire life. I am such a big advocate for everyone having a different treatment program. The same program will not work for everyone, and the AA book was written in 1939 by some older white males that struggled with alcohol. I am all for the 12 principles of the 12 steps and having a group united for a common goal. I do not think it is the only way to get clean and I think people get hung up on that idea and may think they can not be helped because some part of the AA and NA meetings does not click.
That is why I believe that everyone should follow their own treatment plan and do everything that they need to in order to just handle life differently. In order to cope with the anxiety and stresses of life, the relapse prevention plan and coping skills a person has are some of the most important parts of getting clean and staying clean. We all go through different stress and trauma in life and when we all use a common solution like drugs and alcohol, we have different ways we will overcome our addiction.
My coping skills and relapse prevention tools on top of my MD and Therapist whom I actively speak to are all pieces of the recovery puzzle. Because that is honestly what it is like. 13 years and 40 rehabs of putting the pieces together. I finally have a life that I can say I enjoy. It also is just getting started. Follow my page and find me on Facebook and Instagram. Also Listen to my Podcast on Spotify. SoberSteveRecovery anywhere you go for your social media. I just recently found out that friend 42 has passed away. Please take a moment of silence for him, he was a good guy. That is why it is so important to carry Narcan, it does save lives. Please share my page with anyone you know who is still sick and struggling from the wrath of addiction.