“What are you going to do different?”
That is the question I was asked after my last relapse. I received the typical encouraging remarks: “Glad you’re back,” “It takes guts to admit a mistake,” and “You know I want to help you.”
But one person took me aside to ask that important question. What was going to be different? Obviously, what I was doing wasn’t working. If it was, perhaps I would not have picked up the drink that temporarily derailed my recovery.
I was about three months sober. And the idea popped in to my head that I could drink again. It would just be one time. Okay, maybe a few times, but only on one night. Okay, maybe over a weekend, but still…that was going to be it.
I had two thoughts immediately in succession: 1. I need to tell my sponsor; 2. I can’t tell my sponsor, I am afraid of what he will think of me if I admit I want a drink.
Yes. I convinced myself that my sponsor, who had resisted giving in to any urges to drink and who volunteered to help me overcome my urges to drink, would think less of me if I admitted I had urges to drink. So I stayed silent. And I drank. And it was over a year before I finally quit again.
For me, the fear of speaking up mixed with my pride that did not want to admit weakness and concocted a brew more intoxicating than anything I ever drank.
When I finally decided to start working on sobriety got fired and had to start over, I was grateful for the encouragement I received at my 12 Step meetings. But I needed to face the question of what was going to change.
Admitting that something needs to change can be a daunting task. If someone has begun the journey of recovery, a lot has already changed. When someone stops using their drug of choice, there is a significant physiological change. Behaviors and habits change so that the recovering addict is no longer around the temptation to use. Often, the people one spends time with will change. The places the addict will go change. There is a lot of change in recovery.
However, there is sometimes that one thing that doesn’t. It is not always from lack of trying. If you are living a life with 15 behaviors that need to change and you change 14 of them, you have done a lot of work. But to avoid working on that last one can be detrimental.
So when faced with the reality of a relapse, the recovering addict must ask, “What am I going to do different?”
This question is difficult because you may feel like you have already done a lot. You may feel overwhelmed at the amount of change that has already taken place in your life. But something happened. Something (or some things) was there that contributed to you picking up again.
For me, the answer was easy. Well, easy in that the answer was plain. I needed to talk more about my weaknesses. I had stayed silent during my struggle because I did not want to admit that I struggled. I had convinced myself that I could do anything and everything I needed to do and to acknowledge that I couldn’t was to acknowledge that I was weak and needy.
So the answer was plain; it was not easy.
I had made a number of changes. I was doing a lot of things differently. But now I was faced with the reality that there was one thing I did not want to change.
I did not want to ask for help.
But I also did not want to drink again.
So what was I going to do different?
What do you need to change? What is still present in your life that is making sober living a challenge?
You must first acknowledge it; name it; own it. It’s there. It is present. Denial is not going to help. Admit out loud to yourself what that thing is.
Then find someone you can talk to. If you are in a 12 step group, talk to your sponsor. If you attend church, talk to your spiritual advisor. If you are in counseling, talk to your therapist. Whoever that person might be, talk with them.
As you talk, start listing out practical things you can do to address the issue. It may be establishing a new routine, creating new habits, or just simply spending a little more time talking with people. It may be something more drastic, like looking for a new job or new place to live. I cannot tell you what that might be.
But I can tell you that if something is impeding your progress in recovery, you need to remove it. I can guess that you will need help to do so. You must ask yourself this question: do you want to give in to your addiction again?
If the answer is no, then what are you going to do different?