There are all kinds of addictions, from drinking to drugging, gambling, sexual indiscretions, and many more. It’s not easy to break free from those, but it is possible. Getting rid of these is a challenging path, and throughout the recovery, you can have a moment of relapse, which could be dangerous. Join your host Tim Westbrook as he shares the five secrets to avoiding relapse. He is the CEO of Camelback Recovery, a structured, drug-free environment that assists those in early recovery to discover and normalize a new, sober lifestyle and pave the path for long-term sobriety.
Watch the episode here
Listen to the podcast here
5 Secrets To Avoid A Relapse
Welcome to the 71st episode of the show sponsored by Camelback Recovery, Arizona’s preferred sober living option to help AA newcomers stay sober during their first year in the program. If that is you or someone you know, then you are in the right place because here in the always sunny and always sober Scottsdale, Arizona, where my team and I over the course of many years have helped thousands of people on their path to recovery to stop their suffering and continue on their path.
Let’s get clear on one thing. We believe that a relapse or a slip is not a part of recovery. That is 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 the misinformation that is out there about recovery, addiction treatment, mental illness, and the strategies to stay sober in general. If you believe you are in the right place or if you know someone who is struggling with addiction, it is my privilege to share this show with you.
I have no idea if you and I have ever met but what I do know is that AA saved my life. I also know that to find long-term recovery and live happy, joyous, and free, it is not just about stopping your drinking, drugging, gambling, sexual indiscretions, or any other addiction you may have struggled with or suffered from because, at Camelback Recovery, we believe that sobriety can and should be fun. Any recovery process is not easy. It is challenging. It can be sometimes annoying and for most of us, it is often difficult to stay on the path but here is the good news.
The self-awareness you gained from reading this show, especially if you are in your first year of recovery, will help you make better choices, which will ultimately leave you living a kick-ass sober life. Visit CamelbackRecovery.com to learn more about treatment strategies for alcoholism, drug addiction, or mental illness. We even offer recovery coaching so you can enjoy the freedom and happiness you have always searched for.
Welcome to the 71st episode of the show devoted to people and their first year of sobriety. Although your first year in 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, to name a few. All of these things are your gateway to living a kick-ass sober life, which is our mantra at Camelback Recovery. In episode 71, you will learn five secrets, which I believe are critical to avoiding a relapse. You will discover what the five secrets to avoiding relapse are, along with why these five secrets to avoiding relapse are so important.
Lean in and read carefully because this episode could have a significant impact on how you can make it to a year and much closer to living a kick-ass sober life. There are five key secrets to avoiding a relapse that you must be aware of if you want to avoid a slip or stay on your path to recovery. First, there are three stages of relapse that I want to point out. A relapse is a gradual process that ends with the physical act of using drugs or drinking. The 1st two stages are also known as the relapse before the relapse. The third stage is when the actual relapse happens.
[bctt tweet=”Sobriety can and should be fun.” via=”no”]
Here are the 1st two stages. Stage number one is emotional relapse. You might not be thinking about using or drinking during this stage but you are remembering what it used to feel like when you did. You are also in denial about the possibility that you might relapse. Signs of emotional relapse include you are bottling up your feelings. You are not being open and honest and sharing how you are feeling. There are changes to your eating and sleeping habits.
You are not regularly attending meetings. Maybe you are going to meetings but you are not participating. You are showing up late, leaving early, looking at your phone, and not being present during the meeting. When I am all-in and people that are all-in, they show up early for a meeting so you can meet a couple of people. You are present and paying attention during the meeting, and then you are staying after the meeting to socialize.
If there are a few people that are going out to coffee, breakfast, dinner or something like that, you are sticking around and staying connected to the people that are at the meetings. There is the meeting before the meeting, the meeting, and then the meeting after the meeting. Also, it is being of service, helping set up the room, greeting people, and helping clean up the room. There are a lot of things that you can do to be of service, participate, and be part of the meeting. Poor hygiene is another sign of emotional relapse. Isolating yourself from family and friends is another sign of emotional relapse.
Mental relapse is the second stage. During a mental relapse, your thoughts are drifting towards using again, even if part of you does not want to go back to that part of your life. This can be a tough stage to come back from. If you get to this stage, you will have to open up to your sponsor, friends in recovery, therapist, a trusted family member or a friend. Typical signs of mental relapse include glorifying past alcohol and drug use. I was at a meeting and there was a fellow that was there. He said that he had not been to a meeting in ten days.
He was doing the 90 meetings in 90 days. Here he is. He has not gone to a meeting in ten days. He is starting to look at his social media. He is looking at Instagram. He has seen all these Instagram Stories and all of his friends having a great time drinking. What I thought about were my Instagram Stories. I have Instagram and Facebook. I do not spend a lot of time on social media but those types of Stories do not come up on my feed. What that speaks to is the people that I attract into my life. I do not attract people that are drinking and doing drugs.
That is not my lifestyle. My lifestyle has changed. In the beginning, if your lifestyle has revolved around drinking and drug use, you might even want to take a break from social media. Another sign is you are craving drugs or alcohol. Maybe you are thinking about people with whom you used to use drugs or drink with. You are planning for the next time you will use drugs. It is planned out. You have got it in your mind. You start to dream about drinking or using drugs, you are thinking about how you can better control your drinking and drug use or you are lying to your loved ones.
Avoid Relapse: Any recovery process is not easy. It is challenging. It can be sometimes annoying. It is often difficult to stay on the path.
We also talk about the drive-by or window shopping. When I say drive-by or window shopping, you are driving by the liquor store where you used to buy booze from, driving through the neighborhood you used to score drugs from or walking down the liquor aisle at the grocery store and just looking. You are not buying at this point but you are doing the drive-by. If you are feeling triggered, not in a good spot, and not feeling strong, that is when people relapse. Especially, if you are in your first year, you want to stay away from the drive-bys as much as you possibly can.
If acting out sexually was one of your vices, maybe you end up looking at porn or going to a website where you used to find prostitutes like SugarDaddy.com, SeekingArrangement, or one of those types of websites. I am always involved in some accountability group. I have a men’s group every Thursday. It is a small group of men and we share every single week. I am open and honest with these guys. I share what’s going on in my life. I have always been part of a men’s group or an accountability group like this. It keeps me honest and on the path because Tim needs to talk to somebody besides Tim.
If I am listening to myself, it is not good. I need somebody besides me. Many alcoholics and drug addicts are smart people. We can rationalize and sell anything. We think that we know the answers. I can rationalize anything and make anything sound good to myself inside of my head. This is why I need other people to hold me accountable, give me guidance, and many times, tell me what to do. I have been sober for many years and I need people to tell me what to do because I can convince myself that anything is good.
I know many people that get to the emotional and mental relapse stages and make it back without physically relapsing. If you get to those points, the emotional and the mental relapse, you’ve got to open up, share, and talk to some other people. This is why it is so important to stay connected to people in recovery or people that you can open up to so that you can keep your recovery on track. The physical relapse is the third stage of relapse. That is the official act of drinking and using. That is when you relapse. After the physical relapse is when the guilt and the shame come on full throttle.
Avoid Triggering Situations
If you do relapse, you have got to make sure that you tell somebody ASAP. The longer you wait, the harder it is going to be to tell somebody and get back on your path to recovery. Let’s get into the five secrets. Secret number one, avoid triggering situations. There are a few types of triggering situations that I am going to talk about, including the environment, stress, negative emotions, and celebrations. The environment, the people you hung out with, and the places you went are common triggers.
If you started hanging out with your old friends that you drank and drugged with, even if they are not drinking and drugging while they are around you, even if they are clean and sober, you are more likely to reminisce about the good times you had together, which could possibly be triggering. When I first got clean and sober, I fully immersed myself in AA. I did not hang out with my old drinking and drugging friends because that was representative of my old life and that would have been triggering.
[bctt tweet=”Willpower doesn’t work. Put yourself around people who are living the life that you want.” via=”no”]
I needed to get some time under my belt. I’ve got a sponsor. I started working the steps and hanging out with people that I met in the room of AA. That was what worked for me. Most of my activities revolved around recovery. I went to the meeting before the meeting, the meetings, and the meetings after the meetings. I did lots of service work. That was what I needed to do. In my first year, I was learning how to live a new life. I stayed away from my old friends. Here is the deal. I have been sober for years. Some of my old friends I am still great friends with.
I just stayed away from them for a little while but some of the old friends are not my friends anymore because the only reason they were my friends was that we drank and did drugs together. That was the only thing we had in common. You want to do everything you can to give yourself a chance to make it to a year. After a year, then you can start to make a decision. If there are people that you want to let back in, you can do that. Here I am, years later, some of my very best friends are people that I met while clean and sober.
My lifestyle is different than it was while I was drinking and using. Drinking and using go hand in hand with lying, cheating, and stealing. Those are the people that I attracted when I was in my addiction. Living an honest life and living according to the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous means that I attract different people, whether you are in AA, another 12-Step Program, you are a member of SMART Recovery, a church group or whatever it is, you are likely going to figure out what your values are. You just want to make sure that you are living according to your values.
For the most part, the people that I hang out with and the people that are attracted to me are aligned spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. Most of my friends are clean and sober but not all of them. Let’s move on to stress. Stress is another one of the main triggers of relapse. Troubles at work and home, financial stresses, an abusive relationship or anything else that causes stress could lead to a relapse. You want to do whatever you can to minimize the potential stress.
When I first got clean and sober, I had a recovery job. I drove for Uber. It was the best thing I did. I am not driving for Uber anymore but it was amazing. I’ve got to drive for Uber and have conversations with people. It was not super stressful. That is the whole point. I did not want to create or introduce more stress into my life. I also went back to school and got my Master’s in Addiction Counseling. I was also a House Manager. These are the things that helped me build my foundation for recovery. It is not to say that is what you need to do but that is what I did and what worked for me.
Doing whatever you can to focus your life around recovery, living your life, and doing the things that are not going to create a bunch of stress and triggering situations is going to help you and give you a better chance of staying on your path to recovery. The other thing with regards to your career is you are not looking for your next major career move. I have seen people go out and think. Many times, when people are in recovery, they are at their bottom. People do not get here because they are on a winning streak.
Avoid Relapse: If your lifestyle revolves around drinking and drug use, you might even want to take a break from social media.
You are not here because you are on a winning streak. You may be a professional. You may have had a great job making great money but if you have lost everything as a result of your addiction, recovery should be your focus. If you are able to keep your job and hold it together, that is great. Stick with it. What I am saying is do not go out and think that you need to hit a home run and get the best job you have ever had at this very moment. Give yourself some time if possible.
The last thing you want to do is you want to make a list of the people, places, and things that stress you out. Being aware of what causes you stress can be one of the best things you can do for your recovery. Being aware can help prevent a relapse. I am going to talk more about healthy ways to handle stress when I talk about secret number five. It is making self-care a priority. Negative emotions are the other things that can trigger a relapse. Feeling sad, angry, lonely or ashamed are precursors to a relapse. Learning how to handle these emotions in a healthy way is key to avoiding a slip.
Drugs and alcohol are the solutions that provide temporary relief. Once the effects wear off, the negative emotions typically come back even worse, along with the guilt and the shame because you relapsed. Learning how to walk through these negative emotions is part of life. We all get to experience negative emotions and also positive emotions. Celebrations like unhappy events or negative emotions can cause a trigger or a relapse. Celebrations, as easily as negative emotions, are reasons for people to celebrate, drink, and do drugs.
That is weddings, birthdays, and holidays like New Year’s Eve, July 4th, and Saint Patrick’s Day. Those are all drinking holidays. During these events, when everyone else is having a good time, you might become overconfident and think you can have one drink. You have to remember that you are not like most people. You are here for a reason. You are an alcoholic and a drug addict. If you have admitted that you are powerless over drugs and alcohol, you have to remember that you can’t take that first drink.
You are programmed to live life, react, and respond to situations a certain way. The environment and the situations you were in prior to getting clean and sober led to your drinking and drug use. Knowing and being aware of the situations that are triggering for you and could potentially lead to drugs and alcohol can prevent a relapse from ever happening. Recovery can be extremely difficult and knowing what your triggers are in advance can help you stay on your path to recovery without slipping.
Science estimates that 95% of your brain’s activity is subconscious. That means that the majority of the decisions we make, the actions we take, our emotions, and our behaviors depend on 95% of the brain’s activity that lies beyond conscious awareness. That means that 5% of your thinking is conscious. What that means is no matter how badly you consciously think that you want to stay clean and sober, you are going to stay clean and sober. No matter how dead set you are on that, your subconscious mind is running the show. Ninety-five percent of your thinking is subconscious.
[bctt tweet=”Learning how to walk through negative emotions is just part of life.” via=”no”]
It is going to take some time before your subconscious thinking changes. That is why this show is dedicated to getting you to a year because you’ve got to give your subconscious mind some time to change. If you spend your time around your old friends and at the places you drink and drugged, your subconscious mind will likely be triggered, which sends you down the wrong path. It makes sense. If you put yourself in triggering situations before you have learned how to deal with them, it is too easy to respond the way you are programmed to respond.
The path of least resistance is to do what you have always done. A 2005 study by the National Science Foundation found that we have up to 60,000 thoughts per day and 95% of those thoughts were the same thoughts we had the previous day. If 95% of your thoughts are subconscious and your thoughts today are the same thoughts you had yesterday, it makes sense why we are so delicate during our first year of recovery. There is a lot of work that needs to be done to change your thinking and the way you respond when you are triggered.
Get Rid Of Toxic Friends
During your first year of recovery, do everything you can to stay away from triggering situations. Secret number two, get rid of your toxic friends. Your old friends promoted your old way of living. It is impossible to start living a new life in sobriety if you are still hanging out with people that are in the disease. The New York Times bestselling author Ben Hardy says, “Willpower does not work.” Put yourself around people that are living the life that you want.
Develop A Positive Support Network
It might not be today, tomorrow, in 1 or 2 weeks, or even 6 months but if you continue spending your time with people that are in the disease and if you continue spending your time around toxic friends, eventually, you are going to slip. Secret number three, develop a positive support network. You must surround yourself with people you want to be like, people that have what you want, and people that have been down the same path. You have never ever in your life gotten clean and sober, which is why you are reading this.
I would enlist family members, friends, addiction professionals, and people that you met in support groups, SMART Recovery, and 12-Step rooms. These are the people that will guide you, support you, love you, give you direction, give you good suggestions, be honest with you, and help provide the accountability, community, and support that is necessary to achieve long-term sobriety. What I did when I first got clean and sober was I started going to AA meetings. I’ve got a sponsor. I started working on the steps. I had a therapist that I continued seeing regularly. I stuck with people and the winners as they say.
I also started doing other healthy activities. Bringing healthy hobbies and interests into your life is important to do. Your whole life can’t be revolved around going to AA meetings. There have got to be other things. For me, I started doing yoga. My experience is that the principles of yoga are aligned with the principles of AA. I saw lots of people in yoga rooms that I would also see at 12-Step meetings, which is a comforting feeling. I also started doing CrossFit. I’ve got into health and fitness, taking care of myself, and working out. That was what I did.
Avoid Relapse: If you actually do relapse, you need to tell somebody ASAP. The longer you wait, the harder it’s going to be to tell somebody, the harder it’s going to be to get back on your path to recovery.
I was not drinking and drugging if I was working out. I also stopped smoking. I had a nicotine habit from nineteen years old all the way up until I’ve got clean and sober. The nicotine habit is gone partially because I am so into health and fitness. I also started hiking because I live in Arizona. I would hike Camelback Mountain and Squaw Peak. Those are the two that were pretty close to the house that I loved. I also started doing triathlons. For me, triathlons were amazing. I did Ironman two times and joined Tri Scottsdale, which was another community.
Happiness is associated with multiple communities. For me, I had the Ironman and the Tri Scottsdale community. In all of these different communities, because I am clean and sober, I have attracted other people that were clean and sober. It is how it works. There are always people. If you are doing healthy activities, hobbies, and interests, you are going to connect with people that are also in recovery, which is a comforting feeling. In business, I am a member of Genius Network.
Stay In Therapy
It is a mastermind group or a connection network focused on business and very successful business owners and entrepreneurs. That is another healthy group for me to be part of. Secret number four, stay in therapy and continue with your recommended treatment plan. You are going to come up with a treatment plan with your therapist, case manager, parents, and loved ones. Whatever that treatment plan is, stick with it. Let’s say the recommended treatment plan is to go to inpatient treatment for 30 to 60 days or 45 days and then go to sober living for 6 months.
They are in sober living for 1 or 2 months. Life starts to get better. They start to feel better and they are like, “I am feeling pretty good. I do not think I need sober living anymore.” Remember, it takes time to change. More than 90% of people relapse within a year of getting clean and sober. Sixty-seven percent of people that make it to a year make it to five years. Eighty-five percent of people that make it to five years make it for life. If you are in your 1st year, your 1st target is one year.
Do whatever you need to do to make it to a year. Go to treatment, stick with treatment, and do not leave AA. Stick with your sober living for 3 to 6 months or whatever the recommended amount of time is. Also, if you have the resources to get yourself a recovery coach, that is a great way to provide more accountability and support in your first year. Continue seeing your therapist on a regular basis, whatever you can do to continue. It is like if you break your arm and you put a cast on. The cast is supposed to be on for 8 weeks and you start to feel good after 6 weeks.
You do not take the cast off after six weeks. You keep it on for eight weeks because if you take your cast off, you are still vulnerable and you might rebreak your arm. You then are back to square one. That is the same thing with recovery. If you relapse before you hit a year or are truly ready, you are back to square one. We are aimed at getting you to a year. That is what this show is about. Doctors, dentists, and airline pilots are required to be monitored for five years if they get in trouble for drug or alcohol-related issues. This is if they want to keep their license.
Avoid Relapse: Doing whatever you can to just focus your life around recovery and living your life and doing the things that are not going to create a bunch of stress and create triggering situations is going to help you and give you a better chance of staying on your path to recovery.
The success rate for people that continue with that program and make it to five years is over 85%. That is a great success rate, accountability, and support. They are forced to stick with the program and it costs quite a bit of money to be monitored for five years. The goal is, “Let’s get to 1 year and then 5 years.” You must seek professional guidance to confront the world of emotional issues that you used to avoid by drinking and doing drugs. You must learn how to deal with these issues and relationships in a healthy way.
Make Self-Care A Priority
You need a professional to help you with this step and the issues that are causing you to drink, drug, act out, overeat, and gamble. Secret number five, make self-care a priority. Taking care of yourself is crucial to the recovery process because getting clean and sober is so much more than just stopping the drinking and drugging. You must learn how to take care of yourself mentally, spiritually, physically, and emotionally. Being in a good place in all of these areas is the best way to ensure that you will not slip when you are triggered because you will be triggered.
You must give yourself oxygen before you can give oxygen to somebody else. What that means is you’ve got to take care of yourself. Self-care is such a big part of my life. I know I have to take care of myself. For me, I make sure that I get 7 to 8 hours of sleep every single night. It does not always happen but I do my best to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep. I wake up an hour before I have any other commitments. I am not hitting the snooze button multiple times, and then rushing out the door to get to work, my meeting or wherever I need to go. For my morning routine, I wake up an hour so that I can do my morning routine.
I do breathwork, pray, meditate, exercise, and do a gratitude list every single day since I’ve first got clean and sober. That is one of the things that my first sponsor taught me to do. I journal, read, study, do red light therapy, do an ice bath, and stay connected to other people in recovery. Some of those things are not part of my morning routine but they make it into every single one of my days. That is how I stay grounded and on my path to recovery.
Here is a quick review of the insights you and I both rediscovered in the 71st episode of the show. We talked about the five secrets to avoiding relapse and why these five secrets to avoiding relapse are so important. If you want to learn how to implement these five secrets, come back for the next episode. Remember, these insights will only work for you if you work them. Please make sure that you apply what you have learned in this episode of the show because if you do, you will be on your way to living a kick-ass sober life. You will agree that that is exciting to think about.
Speaking of reviews, before we end this episode, I want you to go and type in your biggest takeaway or a-ha moment you experienced during this episode. You can do this in the review section. When you do it, iTunes will ask you to rate the episode. I hope I have earned five stars from you. Go ahead and declare your one big takeaway in the iTunes review section by visiting ILoveBeingSober.com. It will take you three minutes and what you declare could provide you with a lifetime of happiness and freedom.
That does it for this episode. I hope that our paths cross again in the next episode of the show dedicated to living a kick-ass sober life. I hope that sounds like a plan. Do whatever it takes to join me for episode number 72 because we are going to dig into secret number one, avoiding triggering situations. I encourage you to invite a friend, a loved one or a sponsee to read this. I can’t wait to connect with you then. It will be an insightful episode, so I want you to join us with your loved ones.