Stress – Relapses happen.
Often. It’s not uncommon in the first few days or weeks of addiction recovery.
It’s not uncommon within the first few hours, either.
Why? Well, it’s called ‘Life on Life’s Terms’ by the addiction recovery fellowships. What that translates to is: stress.
High levels of stress are probably the most dangerous experience for a recovering addict to go through.
Sure, some people relapse when they’ve had a really great day. They want to celebrate, and their old friend, Damian Drug, is out there… waiting to pick them up.
Or they’re going through a sad time. Losing a loved one. A relationship breakup. Missing an episode of Game of Thrones, and then seeing a spoiler on Facebook.
(I hate it when people post spoilers about GoT – makes me want to invite them to a Red Wedding.)
But stress… man… that is hard for an addict to cope with.
It can be anything. Going under the microscope of that government agency named after an influenza. Thinking your partner is cheating on you, and you’re waiting to hear from the private eye – imagining writhing ecstasy in telephoto-lensed photos…
Or you have evil co-workers conspiring to make life a misery. And that’s a big thing, workplace bullying and office politics. I went through it once, and, in response, I guzzled alcohol like an SUV guzzles petrol.
So how does one cope with stress? Here’s what happens to me, maybe you can relate:
Something happens which makes my future feel precarious. Let’s say it’s my starting the new job. The job doesn’t only involve writing copy – which I’m pretty darn comfortable with. It also involves content management systems. These are the backend of social media. When you see an ad in your Facebook newsfeed? It seems bang on target for you, right?
That’s because the content management system (CMS) for Facebook business users allows them to hone in on specific audiences. You are a demography. A market. If you post pictures of you cycling the streets on the weekend then: ads for bicycles start showing up in your newsfeed. Or maybe you see diamond engagement rings being advertised? But you said nothing about getting married on FB, you were only just beginning to discuss it with your partner, so what gives? Well, you updated your singleton status to In a relationship with Jon Doe about 20 months ago. They have some algorithm that works out the average dating time before a guy gets down on his knee – as if you’re about to whip out a sword and knight him Sir Stayshomealot. You have been psychographed as being in the prime window period when a proposal is likely to happen, and you can be sure your hubby-to-be is seeing the same ads.
Essentially, CMSs manage content. It allows you to post content onto your business’s page, to do analytics on visitors, all kinds of stuff to bring in the bacon.
Anyway, back to our example: these CMSs are a bit complicated, and I stress that it’ll take me too long to work it all out. I’m now projecting future stress into the present moment like a nervous, sweaty time machine.
What if I don’t perform my job properly? What if doing my best isn’t good enough? What if the amount of work required overwhelms me, and no matter how much time I put in, I end up dropping big hairy balls?
The sheer length of the work list causes me to hyperventilate; panic, pace around the house smoking enough smoke signals to hail a Cherokee; and consider smoking a blunt, popping a tranquiliser, or drinking alcohol at an Olde English Pub with bugged-out eyes – at 10am in the morning.
Because the thoughts of what could happen obsess me. I don’t let go of them. They swirl around my brain like ravenous sharks. I get more and more anxious. It feels like the end of the world is coming… it’s around the corner, man, and my life – as I know it – is over.
It’s not even a case of: maybe I should go use drugs. It’s a case of: drugs, drugs, gimme drugs, drugs, drugs, anything to make me stop feeling this way!
Better options than flushing my life down the drug addiction toilet are:
Talk to somebody. Which I do. Reaching out like they’re a red lifesaver bobbing in the ocean.
Meditation. Going zen, man, as I click on youTUBE videos of trippy patterns playing to Indian sitars.
Not enough? I do research into CMSs, learning that maaaaybe they’re not so difficult to learn, and start trying them out. This is tackling the source of your stress head on, instead of ignoring it. Sometimes that’s all it takes.
Because stress isn’t a biological feature that mysteriously appeared just to make life more difficult.
Stress can be your friend. Some situations are appropriately scary. If I didn’t stress about learning how to manage CMSs, then I really would be in danger of losing my job. Stress helps you take threats seriously – so you can do something about them.
I see stress as divided into Good Stress and Bad Stress. The former is stress you can face, if you change your mindset, and use it to power through obstacles. The latter is stress where you’re powerless to do anything. And here is where Houghton House helped me a lot.
We were taught, in situations we had no power to alter, we need to accept we’re powerless over the outcome. Simply by telling ourselves, “Hey, man, might as well shrug, nothing you can do, except plan for the possible fallout,” we let go of the stress.
So a Bad Stress situation would be a nasty co-worker in a meeting with your boss. About you. They’re bad-mouthing you, trying to push you out the door. Either you’ll get a chance to speak up or you won’t, but there’s no control over that. What to do? Shrug, and send out your CV.
Best you can do. And knowing you’ve done your best, well, helps ease off the stress.
Making it easier to avoid the temptation for drugs or alcohol.
What’s your favourite healthy methods of easing off stress? Tell us in the comments section of this blog’s Facebook post. Maybe you’ll help a recovering addict manage their stress better.