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by Alana Gregg, MS

Have you ever walked down a dark street alone? What was that like? Did you walk a little faster? Were you a little more alert? Did your ears perk up to the noises around you? I had a very over-protective dad. When I first learned how to drive he instilled in me a healthy fear of walking to my car late at night. You always have your keys ready, and you always pay attention to what’s around you.

In recovery, there are many high risk situations that can pop up. These are situations like going to parties, being in a bar or restaurant, going to concerts or sports games, being around certain people, having extra cash on hand, increased stress or anxiety, boredom, exhaustion, loneliness, requiring pain meds for surgery or dental work, etc. All of these things could lead to relapse if you are not prepared to deal with them. The goal is to create a plan ahead of time so that when those situations arise you are ready to handle them. Like the person walking down the dark street, you need to adjust how you think and act.

Here are 9 tips for planning for high-risk situations:

  1. Avoid people that you used to use with. This may be difficult, because some of your relationships may have tended to revolve around using. When you take that away, you may realize there is little left worth holding onto. Although this is a painful process, it is necessary to avoid people who will only pull you down.
  2. Don’t go to places that will make you want to use. Especially early in your recovery, you may need to not go to certain parties and places that will make you want to use. I know this can be difficult to have to miss out on things that you enjoy. You may even think you will never be able to have fun again. But this will not last forever. Remember that your health and sobriety are more important than a few moments of fun.
  3. Have sober support. When you are going out, go with someone you trust or have the number of someone you can call if you start to struggle. There’s an AA saying that says, “You alone can do it, but you can’t do it alone.” You need people that can support and encourage you especially when you are in a potentially high risk situation.
  4. Go late, leave early. If you want to go to a party or event, think of ways you can be able to participate but not necessarily the whole time. Going late and/or leaving early can help minimize your temptation to use.
  5. Drive yourself. It’s important to always have an exit strategy. You may think you will be ok at a certain event, but once you get there, you realize staying sober will be harder that you thought. Having a car there can give you peace of mind knowing you can leave if you need to.
  6. Practice refusal techniques. At some point you will be offered drugs or alcohol, so you need to know ahead of time how you will respond. Practice saying “no” in an assertive way (i.e. tone of voice, body language). You don’t need to give excuses or explanations. It will just give the other person room to respond with a stronger argument.
  7. Alternate activities. Have an alternate activity planned in case your plans fall through or you need to leave. You could go see a friend or go to a 12-step meeting. Finding sober activities you enjoy are also important in keeping yourself busy and helping you avoid high risk situations.
  8. Take care of yourself. When you are taking care of your physical and mental health, you will be less likely to relapse. Make sure you are paying attention to your eating, exercise, and sleep habits. Remember the acronym HALT- hungry, angry, lonely, tired. When you are feeling any of those things, stop immediately and do something to cope with that feeling. The goal is to develop a healthy and balanced life.
  9. Know the craving will pass. In the moment when you are feeling tempted, it is easy to think you will feel like this forever. But the craving WILL pass. And every time you don’t give in, you will feel stronger and more confident in your ability to not give in.

Think of yourself as driving a MAC truck around the bend of a highway. You cannot take the turn like you were driving a Mustang because you are likely to crash. You will have bigger blind spots, so make decisions slowly and ask for help.

Start Addiction Counseling in Ambler, PA

At Lime Tree Counseling, our trained counselors understand addiction and the challenges that you’re facing. Staying sober means learning a whole new way to live your life. We are here to help you identify those patterns that are keeping you stuck in addiction. Recovery is not a weakness. It is a strength because it takes so much courage to admit that you are struggling and change your life. Our office is located in Ambler, PA, but we also offer online counseling which makes scheduling easy and convenient. Call us today to set up an appointment or to schedule a free 15 minute phone consultation. Please get the support you need so you can experience the freedom from addiction that you are longing for.