By: Marilyn L. Davis
What Threatens Our Recovery
“The greatest threat that I need to be rescued from is myself. Everything comes a lot easier after that.”― Craig D. Lounsbrough
In our violent world today, the military, governments, and schools have protocols for a threat assessment. Active threat assessment requires a focused observation of behaviors & actions. When I was listening to the news, and the commentator mentioned a threat assessment, I thought about how this practice should be a part of our recovery observations.
Many things threaten our recovery; some we can remove, like the people, places, and things that trigger a desire to use. Then there are the feelings that pop up at unexpected times like anger, fear, boredom, guilt, and loneliness. These five feelings will often threaten an individual’s recovery and, if severe enough or not worked through, may take them back out and into their addiction again.
But what about the threats imposed by others or circumstances we don’t control? The pandemic worsened many people’s fear, boredom, and loneliness in recovery. For most of us, there wasn’t much we could do to engage with other recovering people except online, and that wasn’t enough for many. They still spent too much time in their heads, listening to the negative self-talk, or found that Zoom meetings were too impersonal. Unfortunately, many people went back out, and too many died.
We Are the Enemy and The Threat
“As I look at my life, I might ask, “Who is the person that represents the greatest threat to me?” And if I happen to have a mirror around somewhere, I can rather quickly answer that question.”― Craig D. Lounsbrough
Spending time in our heads is dangerous and an actual threat when it’s negative self-talk. Assessing these negative thoughts and seeing if they are true takes time, energy, and effort, and unfortunately, some people don’t take the time to neutralize the threats.
We always have to counteract the negative self-talk with positive affirmations about how far we’ve come in our recovery, the new choices we’re making, or the amends that went smoothly.
If you’re entertaining negative self-talk too much, ask friends and family if they can help you put your life and actions into a better perspective.
Not Everyone Is Safe – Some are a Threat
“In calm waters, you still find sharks.”― Matshona Dhliwayo
I remember thinking that all those people in my first recovery support meeting were upstanding, helpful, and there for the right reasons. It sounds naive, but everyone seemed friendly and asked how they could help me. Back then, while I wasn’t drop-dead-kick-ass-gorgeous, I got hit on by multiple men who didn’t care that I had five days in recovery and was vulnerable – they just wanted to hook up.
Not understanding that they were less than honorable, I spent too much time wondering what I’d done to attract unwanted attention. It wasn’t until group the next day, when I cried and told my counselor what happened, that the group helped me see that there were predators in the groups, and no one saw me do anything wrong. So, we always have to assess the threat from others to see if their actions match their words.
Find the Safe, Supportive People
“I think the most successful people are those who can show courage and admit they can’t do it alone. It’s pointless to struggle silently behind a fake smile.” ― Brittany Burgunder
Besides assessing threats, we need to know who, what, and where is safe for us. We hear it said that we need to change people, places, and things, so we aren’t triggered and go back out. But it takes courage to change anything. I found it easy to let people from my addiction go their own way, but other things weren’t so easy to change in the beginning.
I’d gone back to the college after six weeks of treatment, and there were people I had to distance myself from on campus. They weren’t part of my drug-using friends, but I’d enjoyed drinking with them at lunch, and I didn’t want to risk triggering my addiction by seeing a full glass of wine. Thankfully, they understood my hesitation, and they didn’t drink when we went to lunch. They became some of the most supportive people outside of individuals at my recovery support meetings.
Stop Making Risky Choices
“There is a type of courage that cannot always be seen. It’s a bravery that you have to choose for yourself. You use it in the little, seemingly insignificant choices and decisions you make each day. Keep making these tiny, good choices over and over until you realize your whole life is different, and the hero who saved you is yourself.”― Brittany Burgunder
Each day I had a choice to make – change something, even minor, or revert to my old self-destructive thoughts, feelings, and actions. One of the ways that helped me make incremental changes was to read a meditation book each morning before work and put the intent into practice that day. I had two books that I still use – The Courage to Change and Twenty-Four Hours a Day.
While The Courage to Change is written for Alanon, I found it helpful for my thoughts, feelings, and relationship issues. I liked that I had intent, and with Twenty-Four Hours a Day, I had a prayer.
Be Ready for What Comes Next
“One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that life can change unexpectedly and instantaneously. Regardless, you have to keep putting one foot in front of the other so that when life unexpectedly changes for the better -you already know how to walk and can seize it.”― Brittany Burgunder
While assessing threats can be a process, sometimes, we’re faced with a threat we didn’t anticipate. One morning, I went to the Post Office to mail some packages for my father. Two of my drug-using friends came in, walked up to me, and asked me where I’d been.
Standing in line at the Post Office, I didn’t want to blurt out, “I’ve been in substance abuse treatment,” but then I didn’t want to get caught up in a “guess what I’m holding” conversation. So, I opted for “I’ve been in treatment.”
These men laughed and said, “Boy, you needed that; you were a mess.” Well, I wasn’t expecting that. I thought they used more than I. They left, and I didn’t think any more about it except to realize that I would run up on threats even when I was doing something unrelated to my addiction or recovery.
I knew I couldn’t be paranoid about going to places like the Post Office. Still, I needed to remember that I was vulnerable in my early recovery, and when I had scary encounters, call my sponsor and process my feelings or head to a meeting.
Threats Neutralized Means I Have Resources
“Fighting demons isn’t for the faint of heart, but neither is surviving the ones that got us here in the first place; it is how we became warriors, you and I.”― Amie Gabriel, KINTSUKUROI HEART: More Beautiful for Having Been Broken
Each time I didn’t give in to my addiction and go back out, I gave myself credit for it. I was not bragging, just acknowledging that I’d done the next right thing. Then I built on those positive feelings and knew I’d get them again if I didn’t relapse.
Fighting those demons wasn’t easy. They called me a garbage head in treatment because of the various types and amounts of drugs I’d use. It wasn’t a becoming label, but it fit, so not giving in was a big deal for me.
Becoming a warrior and fighting those demons gets easier with time. We’ve got history, built up a recovery support network, and are enjoying the benefits of all our hard work, making our recovery worthwhile.
Do Your Threat Assessment Today
“Recovery is real. It’s not a luck-of-the-draw deal where you put your name in a hat and hope to be chosen. It’s a grueling, relentless, personal process that will push you beyond your limits over and over.”― Brittany Burgunder
Wondering how vulnerable you are in your recovery? Then assess it today, looking at people, places, and things that might threaten your recovery. You’ll be glad – and safer once you do.
Bio: Marilyn L. Davis
She is the Editor-in-chief at Two Drops of Ink and From Addict 2 Advocate, and the author of two books; her memoir: Finding North: A Journey from Addict to Advocate and Memories into Memoir: The Mindsets and Mechanics Workbook. This is an excellent book to help you write your story and help others understand that recovery works.
Both are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books a Million, and other retailers.
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