Becoming sober is no easy task. It would take a crazy amount of time, dedication and discipline. Often times, people who wish to stay sober up and stay clean on their own would tend to relapse after a significant amount of period of improvement. And a relapse is in no way, a part of recovery. On this episode of I Love Being Sober, host Tim Westbrook talks about how to avoid a relapse and its common mistakes. The first mistake is trying to stay and sober up on your own. Tune in on this episode to find out more!
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How To Avoid A Relapse: Mistake #1 Trying To Stay Clean And Sober On Your Own
Let’s get clear on one thing. We believe that a relapse or a slip is not a part of recovery. 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 is 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 who is struggling with addiction, it’s 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 is not just 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 could and should be fun.
Any recovery process is not easy. It is challenging. It can sometimes be annoying and for most of us, it is often difficult to stay on the path but here’s 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 lead 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 that you can enjoy the freedom and happiness you’ve always searched for.
Welcome to the 78th episode of this show. This show is devoted to people in 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 these things are your gateway to living a kick-ass sober life which is our mantra at Camelback Recovery.
In episode number 78, you’ll learn about the first mistake that newcomers make that leads to relapse, along with how to avoid it. This is mistake number one. You’ll discover that trying to stay clean and sober on your own is one of the mistakes people make that leads to a slip, along with why it is so important to avoid this mistake if you want to avoid a relapse.
I will share my experience with this and how I was able to avoid this mistake. I’m also going to share another story with another guy I’m sponsoring. Based on what you read, you’ll be able to figure out how it works for you. 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 live in a kick-ass sober life.
This show is like an AA meeting. Everyone here is either clean and sober, struggling to stay clean and sober, thinking about getting clean and sober or whatever it may be. If you learned anything that resonates with you throughout this episode, please let us know in the comments section of YouTube or Apple Podcasts. What you share might resonate with someone else and possibly save them from a relapse or maybe even save their life. Don’t be shy and be sure to share what resonates with you in the comment section. Every review and every comment gets us that much closer to helping one more person or one more family.
The first mistake you must be aware of if you want to avoid a slip is trying to stay clean and sober on your own. Your best thinking got you where you are. You cannot do this on your own. You must seek help and put yourself in the middle of the herd. First, I want to tell you the story of a guy named John. John is a guy that I sponsor. He’s smart, charismatic and successful in business. He’s a professional speaker who speaks all around the world. He’s a great salesman and a high bottom drunk.
Some people say there’s no such thing as a high bottom drunk. I believe, for all intents and purposes, he was a high bottom drunk. He got sober years ago for the first time. He had over ten years of sobriety at one point and thought he had graduated. He started back to the drinking, which led to the drug use and to the incomprehensible demoralization that happens when an addict or an alcoholic goes back down that path.
He came to me a few years ago. I started working with him and sponsoring him. He didn’t live in Scottsdale, Arizona. He moved to Scottsdale, Arizona. I knew him from a different mastermind group I’m a part of. He came to me when he moved to Scottsdale and said, “You don’t know this about me but I’m in the program. I just got clean and sober.” He told me his whole story about how he was sober. He got sober in New York and went back to drinking. His life spun out of control. Optically, he had his life together but on the inside, he was not doing very well, to say the least.
The real way to get fulfillment is to give it away. When you’re helping another person, there’s a higher level of accountability because you have someone else who’s relying on you.
When he moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, I connected with him and he asked me to be a sponsor. I started working with him and we worked on the steps. He got in shape spiritually, emotionally, physically and mentally in all of those areas. We worked together in all those areas. Sponsoring someone else is the best thing that you can do to stay on the path yourself. I got to work with him. We went to lots of meetings and a couple of AA retreats together.
He stayed connected to the rooms of AA. He had a solid morning routine that included prayer, meditation and gratitude lists. There are about a dozen of us that stay connected. We have a text string in 2022. We texted our gratitude list but we spoke on the phone daily. We met in person every single week and did step work. There were a lot of things that we did together which helped us stay sober.
It helped him stay in the middle. He wasn’t trying to do it on his own. His life started getting better and his focus shifted. He slowly drifted away. The daily calls turned into sporadic text messages or voice text messages. Seeing him in person at meetings and getting together for coffee stopped. He stopped seeing his therapist. He went from being connected to being isolated. He worked virtually. In 2022, working virtually is something that happens. The opposite of human connection is addiction.
He became disconnected, not only from AA, the Twelve-Step community, from me, his sponsor and his therapist but also from the world. He went from getting feedback and listening to others to listening to himself. He wasn’t around other people. He was by himself. John was listening to John. John had his thoughts between his two ears. That’s what he was listening to.
As an alcoholic and an addict, I can relate. I can convince myself of anything. John was convincing himself of whatever he wanted to convince himself. That’s a dangerous place to live between your two ears. We need someone else to give us feedback. John needed somebody outside John to give him feedback, direction and guidance. I know for myself that Tim needs somebody else besides Tim.
Trying to do it on your own doesn’t work. In the case of John, I saw it happening, which is one of the gifts of being a sponsor. Granted, I want everybody to stay clean and sober. I don’t see it as a failure as a sponsor watching someone else go out but I get to learn from it. I got to watch what happened with John and how he went from being connected to being disconnected, how I saw him go from being in the middle of the herd to being on the fringes. The next thing you know, he took a trip to Vancouver to visit his girlfriend.
His focus shifted from AA and recovery. It doesn’t have to be AA either. It can be a smart recovery or anything, whatever it is that you do. AA and the Twelve-Step program are what works for me. Regardless, recovery needs to be the focus and his focus went from recovery to he’s in a relationship. One of the things that are recommended is that you don’t date for a year when you first get clean and sober.
He started dating almost a year, though. Regardless, his focus shifted. He took a trip to Vancouver to visit his girlfriend for six weeks. This is a six-week trip. He’s already disconnected from the rooms of AA. He’s not staying connected to people in recovery. After two weeks of being in Vancouver, I get a text from his girlfriend. She says, “John’s been drinking.” She sent me a text about a bunch of bottles of booze she found in the bottom of his trashcan.
Luckily, she caught him pretty quickly. He didn’t get so bad that he needed to go back to detox. The point of this story, though, is that he was disconnected. He was trying to do it on his own. Doing it on your own doesn’t work. He thought he had graduated. He’s in another country. Nobody will know. Who knows what was going on? I didn’t hear from him. He didn’t call me during the two weeks he was in Vancouver. Next thing you know, he relapses.
He’s back in the rooms, clean and sober. His relapse lasted less than a week. He’s back to doing the deal and in the middle of the herd. He’s not just staying on the fringe. He calls me daily and hits meetings on a regular basis. We meet weekly, every Wednesday morning. We met for step work before we had a meeting. We had a 6:45 meeting. We’ve gone through the steps again. He’s on step nine. He went back to see his therapist on a regular basis. He’s sponsoring guys. He has two sponsees that he’s taken through the steps. Sponsoring another person is the absolute best way to create another layer of accountability and help you stay in the middle of the herd.
There are four levels of learning. Level one, read and listen; level two, speak it back; level three, write it down. And the most important, level four, is to teach it.
I’m going to talk about myself and my story. I didn’t try to do this deal on my own. I got clean and sober. My sobriety date is March 8th, 2011. I went to meetings and got a sponsor in the 2nd meeting that I went to my 2nd day. During my 1st year, I went to 1 or 2 meetings a day. I had a sponsor. I called my sponsor every single day. When I got sober, texting wasn’t even a thing yet. If he didn’t answer, I left him a message. He didn’t always answer. As a sponsee, your job is to call your sponsor. He doesn’t need to call you back. What I did was I called him every single day. I started doing yoga and hiking Piestewa Peak and Camelback Mountain. I was doing these things mostly with people in recovery because that was my focus.
I went to lots of meetings. I had a sponsor and worked the steps. I started sponsoring guys towards the end of that first year. I went to the meeting before the meeting. I went to the meeting after the meeting, which means I went to coffee, breakfast and dinner. I did lots of service work. Whenever I had the opportunity to do service work, I did. I was on the Board of Directors of Crossroads for four years. That didn’t happen until probably year two. Regardless, it’s another way for me to stay in the middle of the herd. I knew that I couldn’t do it on my own. I stayed connected to people in recovery. I did not go out and try to do it on my own.
Why is it important to have sponsees? Being of service and the Twelve-Step carrying the message is one of the main pillars of AA. It’s giving it away and being of service, carrying the message of Alcoholics Anonymous. You must give it away if you want to keep it. As addicts and alcoholics, we like cheatsheets because we want fulfillment. What we’re after is fulfillment. The real way to get fulfillment is to give it away. When you’re helping another person, there’s a higher level of accountability because you have someone else that’s relying on you.
Before I take the guys through steps 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, I’m studying and watching YouTube videos on steps 1, 2, 5 and 6. There are workbooks available online. Those workbooks I utilize when I take someone through the steps. When I bring someone else through the steps, I’m also going through the steps again. It creates a higher level of accountability. The next thing you know, I’m more in the middle because I got guys that are looking up to me. I don’t want other people to fail. Therefore, I’m the example. This makes me think of the four levels of learning, Level one, read and listen. Level two, speak it back. Level three, write it down. Most important, level four is to teach it.
Sponsoring essentially is level four learning. If I want to learn and build my foundation, I got to take someone else through the steps. If it’s not AA, it could be NA, SLAA, SAA, whatever fellowship or program you are part of or it could be smart recovery, refuge recovery or whatever it is. You’ve got to give it away if you want to keep it. This disease is deadly. You cannot do it on your own. You must surround yourself with people that you want to be like. People that have what you want. People that have been down the same path. You likely have not been able to stay clean and sober for a significant length of time, which is why you’re reading this.
Enlist your friends, family members, addiction professionals and people in support groups. These are the people that will guide, support, love, give you direction and good suggestions, be honest with you, not enable you and help provide the accountability, community and support that is necessary to achieve long-term sobriety.
Be open and honest. Tell people what you’re doing. Whatever that fellowship looks like, you’ve got to get integrated into a fellowship or a group of people who know what you’re doing, know you’re clean and sober and know that you want to stay clean and sober. Those are the people who support that lifestyle and also live that lifestyle.
Here’s a quick review of the insights you and I rediscovered in this 78th episode of the show. The first mistake people make that lead to relapse is trying to stay clean and sober on their own. We also talked about why it’s so important and why you need to avoid this mistake if you want to avoid a relapse. I also shared with you the story of John and how attempting to do it on his own resulted in a relapse. I shared my story of how I stayed connected in the middle of the herd. I also talked about being a sponsor, which is the best way in my experience to create another layer of accountability.
Based on what you’ve read in this episode, you can figure out how it works for you. Remember, these insights will only work for you if you work them. Please make sure you apply what you’ve learned in this episode of this show because if you do, you will be on your way to live in a kick-ass sober life. You’ll agree that that’s exciting to think about.
Speaking of reviews, before we end this episode, I want you to go to the review section of iTunes or YouTube or leave a comment on YouTube and type in the one thing that resonated with you that you’ve read in this episode. Every comment counts and what you share could resonate with someone else that is struggling and potentially save their life. You will also be asked to rate this episode. I hope that I’ve earned five stars from you.
Go ahead and share the one thing that resonated with you in the reviews section of iTunes or comment on YouTube. It’ll take just three minutes out of your day but what you share could not only save you but also someone’s life. That does it for this episode. I hope that our paths cross again next time. This show is devoted to people in their first year of sobriety.
Do whatever it takes to join me for episode number 79 because we’re going to dig into mistake number two, Expecting Instantaneous Results. I will share my experience with this mistake along with how to avoid it. I encourage you to invite a friend, a loved one or a sponsee to read this. I can’t wait to connect with you. It will be an insightful episode. I want you to join us with your loved ones.
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