Here is another excerpt from a new LifeSTAR workbook I just finished writing that will soon be available to participants in our LifeSTAR of the Central Valley program.
In Phase 1, participants learn the Cycle of Addiction and the importance of reaching out to escape this destructive pattern. This is not simply to create a distraction from temptation but to learn how to connect in emotional emergencies. Practicing this skill will help you stop the Cycle of Addiction when it begins, which must be mastered for successful recovery.
Your support network will include your Accountability Partner and others as well. It will include your Sponsor (if you have one) and other members of your group or 12-Step meeting. Utilizing the strength of your support network in times of need means learning to call for help. Here’s an example of how this works practically:
“Sooner or later, the urge strikes again…Often it begins in the privacy of our innermost thoughts, when we’re alone, when we’re living inside our head and the emotions we could never face overwhelm us. So what do we do? Naturally, we want to run for the drug again; that’s what we’ve programmed ourselves to do. Instead, we surrender…and we take the action of getting out of ourselves and making contact with another member. As soon as possible. The closer to the heat of the action the better. We use the phone. We make the call. Not because we want to, because we don’t want to. We call because we know we have to.” Sexaholics Anonymous (pages 67-68)
You will learn how to call your support network in times of temptation, struggle, and emotional pain. They will serve as sources of strength, encouragement, and, most of all, will be significant people with whom you will learn how to connect. Remember, learning to reach out in this way is also learning how to prevent relapse.
Although making calls is an essential part of recovery, everyone resists it. Remember, it is this resistance and inability to connect with others in times of turmoil and temptation that is the exact reason why it must be done. Eventually, it will come more naturally. But in the beginning it will feel uncomfortable and unnecessary.
Expect the messages that have kept you disconnected from others throughout your life to surface at the thought of calling someone else. You will say to yourself things like “it’s not that important”, “I don’t want to bother them”, and “I can do this on my own”. Learn to push through those voices, using a self-compassionate responses like “these thoughts and feelings are part of the process of learning to connect”, “they really do care and want to help”, “they’ve invited me to call any time”, and “I am worth it”. As you move forward through the fear, you will learn the valuable lesson that others do care and can be relied on as untapped resources of strength and determination. Calling others when excited or upset, you will find the Swedish Proverb to be true that says “Shared joy is double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow”.
In his book The 7 Principles of Highly Accountable Men, Mark Laaser emphasizes the essential role that phone calls play in recovery. He recommends “getting in the habit of making at least one call every day even if you don’t feel tempted that day” so that when you really need to talk you will have the habit in place and “it will come more naturally” (p 87).
When someone calls you in a moment of need, here are examples of helpful questions that will help them reconnect with both you and with themselves:
- What triggered you?
- What are you feeling?
- What are your bottom lines & reasons for fighting?
- How can I support you?
- What’s your plan? (How will you resist? Can you do something while we are on the phone that will help you make better choices when we hang up?)
- Will you commit to calling again if you start moving toward acting out?
Calling for help is like letting someone talk you down from the ledge of a building. When you return to your “right mind” you will be glad you reached out and received help when tempted to return to your addiction. When someone calls you, find a quiet place to talk with them and focus on what they are saying and feeling. If you cannot listen well in that moment, tell them. Try to empathize with them and validate their feelings. Remind them of what is true. You do not have control over their choices but you can be a positive influence on them. Then, when you are in need, you can reach out to them.