It’s easy to get lost on your way to recovery. It only takes a single step in the wrong direction to relapse. In this episode of I Love Being Sober, Tim Westbrook breaks down five mistakes you don’t want to make, along with how and why avoiding these mistakes can save you from relapse and help you continue on to the kick-ass sober life you want to live. Don’t miss out and navigate your way towards recovery and sobriety.
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5 Mistakes That Lead To A Relapse
(And How To Avoid Them)
Over many years, my team and I have helped thousands of people stop their suffering and continue on their path to recovery. Let’s get clear on one thing. We believe that a relapse or a slip is not a part of recovery, and that’s exactly why this show is dedicated to you or any loved one you know in their first year of striving to live a clean and sober life. The purpose of this show is to come clean with all of the misinformation that’s out there about recovery, addiction treatment, mental illness, and the strategies to stay sober in general.
If you believe you’re in the right place, or if you know someone struggling with addiction, it’s my privilege to share this episode with you. I have no idea if you or I have ever met, but I know that AA saved my life. I also know that defining long-term recovery and live happy, joyous, and free is not about stopping your drinking, drugging, gambling, sexual indiscretions, or any other addiction you may have struggled with or suffered from.
At Camelback Recovery, we believe that sobriety can and should be fun. Any recovery process is not easy. It is challenging. It can sometimes be annoying. For most of us, it is often difficult to stay on the path, but here’s the good news. The self-awareness you gain from this show, especially in your first year of recovery, will help you make better choices, ultimately leading you to live a kick-ass sober life. Visit CamelbackRecovery.com to learn more about our treatment strategies for alcoholism, drug addiction, or mental illness. We even offer recovery coaching so you can enjoy the freedom and happiness you’ve always searched for.
Welcome to the 77th episode, the show is devoted to people in their first year of sobriety. Although your first-year sobriety is central to our discussions, you and I will also explore other fascinating and important topics such as health and fitness, self-care, food and nutrition, breathwork, and biohacking just to name a few. All these things are your gateway to living a kick-ass sober life, which is our mantra at Camelback Recovery.
In this episode, you’ll learn the five mistakes that lead to a relapse. Learning these five mistakes along with how to avoid them is critical to avoiding a relapse. You’ll discover the five mistakes people make that lead to a relapse, along with why it is so important to avoid these mistakes if you want to avoid a slip. This episode could significantly impact how you can make it to a year and much closer to live in a kick-ass sober life. This show is like an AA meeting in that everyone here is either clean and sober, struggling, thinking about getting clean and sober, or whatever it may be.
If you learn anything that resonates with you throughout this episode, please let us know in the comments section of YouTube, Apple, or wherever else. What you share might resonate with someone else and save them from a relapse or maybe even their life. Every review and comment get us that much closer to helping one more person or one more family. Don’t be shy and share what resonates with you.
You are setting yourself up for failure if you expect your life to change too quickly and dramatically.
You Cannot Do This On Your Own
You must be aware of five key mistakes that lead to a relapse if you want to avoid a slip and stay on your path to recovery. Mistake number one, trying to stay clean and sober on your own. Your best thinking got you where you are now. You cannot do this on your own. You must seek help. The opposite of addiction is human connection. Isolating and figuring out how to stay clean and sober on your own won’t work. White knuckling won’t work.
I’ve seen many people try to get clean and sober on their own. I was one of them. I remember the first time I attempted to get clean and sober and I wasn’t even trying to get clean and sober. I went to see a therapist. Her name was Jean Collins. I remember my now ex-wife, Jennifer. We went to see this therapist. I thought we were going for marriage counseling. The next thing you know, we’re sitting there with Jean Collins, the therapist, and my then-wife, Jennifer. We start talking about my drinking, and I’m like, “I don’t understand why we’re talking about my drinking. I’m not an alcoholic. I like to drink.”
I remember Jean said, “If you don’t think you have a problem, why don’t you stop for 90 days?” I said, “Okay, no problem.” I stopped for 90 days, and she said, “You might even want to check out an AA meeting.” I was like, “I don’t need an AA meeting. I’m not that bad. It’s no problem. I can stop for 90 days.” During those 90 days, I didn’t go to meetings, connect with anybody, and talk to anybody about my drinking and drug use. I white-knuckled it. I was able to do it for 90 days. The restless, irritable, discontent feeling is a real thing. I remember that feeling and ended up taking pills during that period.
I didn’t even realize it until after the fact. I realized I somehow got ahold of pills during that period because I said I wouldn’t drink, and I didn’t drink, but I could only white knuckle it for so long. I’ve seen people white knuckle it for years, and it’s not fun. It’s no way to live. Trying to stay clean and sober on your own, white-knuckling, is hard to do. It’s not fun. Getting clean and sober is fun. It has to be fun.
If you want to achieve long-term recovery, it’s got to be fun. You must go out there, talk to people, connect with people and build relationships with people in recovery. That’s the only way to achieve long-term recovery. Short-term, you can do it on your own. You can white-knuckle it in the short-term. Long-term, it’s not going to work.
It Will Take Some Time
Mistake number two, expecting instantaneous results. You are setting yourself up for failure if you expect your life to dramatically change too quickly. You drank and used for a long time. Most likely, you drank and used for years, 5, 10, 20 years, maybe half or more than half of your life. During that period, I would venture to say that you were lying, cheating, and stealing. That’s what we do, alcoholics and drug addicts. We lie, cheat, and steal because chasing fulfillment is what we’re doing.
During that period while lying, cheating, and stealing, we’re causing wreckage. You were causing wreckage for a long time. It’s going to take you some time before your life turns around. I’m referring to your relationships, family, money, and job. You caused a lot of wreckage. I’ve seen people. They think that “I’m clean and sober now. I should get everything back. My parents should love and forgive me. My loved ones should forgive me. My friends should forgive me. I know I owe this money, but don’t they see I’m sober now?”
Yes, you’re sober now, but it’s the beginning. It’s going to take you some time to clean up the wreckage, for people to see that you’re living your life and doing things differently. You’re a different person. It’s going to take some time before you become a different person. Remember, you’re programmed to live a certain way and react a certain way. Ninety-five percent of your thoughts today were the same thoughts you had yesterday, and 95% of your thinking is subconscious.
The way you live your life is a certain way. It will take you some time to live life differently and clean up the wreckage. People are going to need to see the new you for a while before they start to trust you. Some people are quicker than others, but it’s going to take you some time. That’s the main thing. Don’t accept instantaneous results.
Don’t Miss A Step And Go All The Way Through
Mistake number three is not finishing the steps. Completing the steps is the foundation for your recovery. Not finishing the steps means that the foundation to which your recovery is built is not complete. The twelve steps are what worked for me. Whatever recovery program it is, do it from start to finish. Finish the entire thing. Going in and starting a recovery program, whether it’s Smart Recovery, Celebrate Recovery, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Sex Addiction Anonymous, whatever it is, you got to do the deal all the way through.
You’ve got to do some digging. You’ve got to figure out what’s underneath it. You’ve got to figure out the truth. You got to find the trauma that’s underneath the pain. Dr. Gabor Maté says, “The question is not why the addiction. The question is why the pain.” The pain is the cause of the addiction. Addiction is the solution. Addiction is what makes you feel better. Finishing the steps, finishing your recovery program, following through, you’ve got to make sure you do that.
I’ve seen many people. I’ve sponsored many men. They do the first three steps, and then they’re out. The first three steps are easy, and anybody can do the first three steps. People do the first three steps. They start to feel better. They admit they’re powerless over alcohol, drugs, people, places, Facebook, sex, whatever it may be. They come to believe that power is greater than themselves. Whether it’s God or the universe or whatever it is can restore them to sanity.
Whatever your program is, you’ve got to follow through with it. One of the main reasons people relapse is because they don’t finish the steps.
They decided to turn their will in their life over to the care of God or a higher power or somebody else. Those first three steps are powerful. I used to think that Tim was in control. If it’s going to happen, I’m going to make it happen. I’m going to work and play hard. It was up to me. Believing that I’m in control of everything that happens in the world and my life is crazy.
What that caused was stress, anxiety, and overwhelm. Things never worked out exactly the way that I thought they were going to work out. Turning things over to a power greater than myself, which I call God, I don’t need to be stressed out because everything is happening the way it’s supposed to work out. God’s in control, and Tim’s not in control.
Whatever your program is, you’ve got to follow through with it. The first three steps are powerful, but the real work begins at step four if you’re doing the twelve steps. People often get some relief after doing the first three steps, and then they don’t want to do the real work. They think, “My life is better. I’m going to continue.” That never works out.
In Alcoholics Anonymous or any other twelve-step program, one of the main reasons people relapse is because they don’t finish the steps. I’ve seen it so many times, which as a sponsor sponsoring men, I see it. I’m the owner of Camelback Recovery, so I see clients who start working on a twelve-step program. We’re twelve-step based. They don’t finish the steps and they go back to their life and get a few things back. They get a relationship and their parents back. They get their wife and husband back. They get their job back. The recovery program is out the door that never works. They always relapse.
I see people pick and choose which steps they want to complete. I see people that want to skip straight to step nine. They do the first couple of steps, and then they want to start making amends. They want to start making amends to people, apologizing, and admitting they were wrong. “It was wrong of me to do this. Will you please forgive me?” People aren’t necessarily ready to forgive because you were such an asshole for so long. You stole, lied, and cheated.
One of my clients was a sex addict, and I was his sober companion. His whole situation was a big deal. It was in the news. It was all over the place. This guy had cheated on his wife hundreds of times. This was a week after the whole blow-up, and she left him and so forth. He didn’t understand why she couldn’t love him like, “I want her to love me. I want her to forgive me. I’m doing everything right now.” It’s like, “Dude, you barely admitted what you did was wrong a week ago. You’ve been doing it for many years, decades. It’s going to take some time.”
Skipping straight to step nine is you’ve got to go through the steps one step at a time. Take the advice of your sponsor and the living amends is part of step nine. Before making your step nine amends, you’ve got to start living a different life. People, whether it’s your friends, employer, loved ones, or significant other, need to see that you’re living your life differently. They see a different you, a different person.
When you make your ninth step amends, you’ve already started taking action. You make your ninth step amends, and it hits home. It then means something. After making your ninth step amends, steps 10, 11, and 12, and the living amends are part of step nine. When you reach step nine, your sponsor can take you through that. The living amends, meaning you’re living according to your values, and you’d never, ever revert to that old behavior.
Don’t self-sponsor. You must have a sponsor, somebody else that is taking you through the steps. A sponsor’s also known as an interpreter. This interpreter takes you through the steps, leads you through the steps, and tells you what to do. I know, for example, “Tim, I need somebody else to tell me what to do because many times I think I’m smart. I think I know it all.” Alcoholics and drug addicts are smart. We’re smart and driven. We can rationalize anything. If Tim’s talking to Tim, if I’m talking to myself, I can rationalize anything. I know that I need somebody outside of me that’s leading, guiding, giving me direction and instructions, and telling me what to do.
Focus On Your Recovery And Not On A New Relationship
Mistake number four, getting into a relationship. This is a big one. This is the most challenging thing you’ve likely ever done in your life. Your focus must be on your recovery. Learning how to live life differently must be your focus. That means you’re developing a new lifestyle, eating, sleeping, and exercise habits. You pray and meditate. You get some people that you look up to. You surround yourself with people that are conducive to your recovery. You’re surrounding yourself with people that are living the life that you want.
Your focus shouldn’t be on a new relationship. If your focus is on a new relationship, then your focus shifts from working on your recovery to that relationship. The next thing you know, that new relationship is the solution. When you’re feeling triggered, down, depressed, or whatever, you have this relationship, and the relationship is going to bring you back up and make you feel good. That’s fake. It’s not even real. You must learn how to process your feelings. It’s an inside job. You must work on your insides so that you can become the person that you want to be so that you start attracting the person that you want to attract in your life.
You attract who you are and what you are. The person you are now is not going to be the person you want to be with a year from now, for example. Once you’ve been sober and worked on yourself for a while, you’re going to transform. Once you transform and become a different person, you’re going to attract a different person. I can speak to myself. I remember I didn’t date for my very first year in the program. I worked through the steps and focused on myself. I learned how to have relationships with men and with women that were not romantic relationships.
Spending time with people still drinking and using is not conducive to recovery.
I used to think that anytime a girl gave me a little bit of attention or a woman gave me a little bit of attention, I would think she totally liked me, which is not the truth. I learned that people could be friendly, but it doesn’t mean they necessarily want to be with me romantically. I am learning how to have intimate relationships, intimacy, not sexual intimacy. Intimacy means below the surface. Having real connections with people, men and with women, that’s part of the recovery program. That’s part of early recovery. Learning how to do that is super important if you want to be happy, joyous, and free.
As opposed to relying on a relationship or sex to feel better because that is another form of a high, so you’re replacing your drugs and alcohol with the high of a relationship. If and when you have relationship struggles, if you’re focused on a relationship in your first year before you’re ready, that could easily lead to relapse, which is one of the triggers I mentioned in Episode 72.
The recommendation is not to date for a year. That’s what I did. I’ve seen many people do it. I didn’t date for my first year. It’s the best thing I ever did. It’s something that I recommend to everybody that’s getting clean and sober for the first time and focused on their recovery. The other thing leads me to the thirteenth stepping. The thirteenth step means that you date somebody that’s within their first year. If you’re in your first year and somebody that has more than a year is attempting to date you or get with you or whatever you want to call it, that’s called Thirteenth Stepping. It is something that is not advised.
Avoid People You Used To Party With
Mistake number five, hanging out with friends you drank and used with. As they say, if you hang out at the barbershop long enough, you’ll get a haircut. Your old friends who are still drinking and using are not going to support your new lifestyle. Even if they say they are in support, they live life a certain way, and their behaviors do not support sobriety. No matter how dead set you are on staying clean and sober, if you are hanging out with people that are still using, drinking, or living that old lifestyle, there will eventually be a time when your self-will is not strong enough to keep you away from a drink or a drug. You’re going to slip.
I remember I visited some friends that were in San Francisco. My friend, Mike, Sef, and Cameron. I was about a year sober, maybe a little less than a year sober. I was solid in my recovery. I hung out with my friends. These are my old friends. They were in their 30s. They were still partying a little bit. They weren’t alcoholics and drug addicts, but they definitely drank and used more than a normal person would. My definition of a normal person is different than it used to be because these guys were drinking, doing cocaine, and up all night. They wanted to go to strip clubs. Their behavior was so not in line with my behavior now. I look back at it. I’m like, “I can’t even believe those are the things I thought were acceptable.”
I was hanging out with them. I was in San Francisco, and they were doing what they do. They were totally in support of my abstinence. They knew that I had a problem. I was always the one that was the most wasted and blocked out. It was a disaster when I was drinking and using with these guys. I went out there with them. They were doing what they do. Even though they supported my abstinence, they were still drinking and doing drugs. Luckily, I was solid and not tempted.
I didn’t drink. I ended up being the designated driver. The point is, if I was with them at a time when I was not solid, maybe when I was feeling stressed out, anxious, depressed, or whatever, I could have easily slipped. Luckily, I did not surround myself with them or people that were still drinking and using in early sobriety. I don’t surround myself with people like that now either because that’s not the type of lifestyle that I live. My life looks much different, but spending time with people still drinking and using is not conducive to recovery.
If you end up with some old friends still drinking and using, you have to make sure that you’re talking to your sponsor and friends in recovery. You’re doing everything you can do to prepare yourself. If you can observe and notice, and after, you can reflect, I know that was a big eye-opener for me. It was a way for me to reflect. It’s like, “That’s not what I want my life to look like.” If I had spent too much time with those guys, the story might have ended differently.
Here’s a quick review of the insights you and I rediscovered in this episode. I gave an overview of the five mistakes newcomers make that lead to relapse and why avoiding these mistakes is imperative if you want to avoid a relapse. If you want to learn how to avoid these five mistakes so that you can supercharge your sobriety and give yourself the best chance of making it to a year, come back for the next episode. Remember, these insights will only work for you if you work them.
Please be sure you apply what you’ve learned in this episode. If you do, you will be on your way to living a kick-ass sober life. I think you’ll agree that’s exciting to think about. Speaking of reviews, before we end this episode, I want you to go to the review section on iTunes or leave a comment on YouTube and type in one thing that resonated with you. Every comment counts and what you share could resonate with someone else struggling and potentially saving their life. You will also are asked to rate this episode. I hope I’ve earned five stars from you. Go ahead and share the one thing that resonated with you in the review section of iTunes. It’ll take three minutes out of your day, but what you share could not only save you but could also save someone’s life.
That does it for this episode. I hope that our paths cross next episode again. This show is devoted to people in their first year of sobriety. Does that sound like a plan? Do whatever it takes to join me for the next episode because we’ll dig into mistake number one, trying to stay clean and sober on your own. I will share my experience with this mistake and how to avoid it. I encourage you to invite a friend, a loved one, or a sponsee. I can’t wait to connect with you then. It will be an insightful episode. I want you to join us with your loved ones.
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