Let’s say, for instance, one thing you did this summer was get treatment for an alcohol or substance use disorder.
It may have been a live-in, residential program, a day treatment program, a half-day program, or something else.
Whatever type of treatment you received, we’re sure it wasn’t the easiest thing you’ve ever done.
You probably spent hours – if not days or weeks – exploring the issues that led your alcohol or substance use disorder. Then you spent time learning a brand-new set of coping mechanisms to help manage your triggers and stay sober. And before you left treatment, we’re sure you spent time with the clinical team – i.e. your counselors and therapists – to come up with long-term recovery program to help you live life on your terms.
Meaning a life without alcohol or drugs.
In other words, you worked hard all summer – or part of it at least – creating the new you. By now you know the new you is really the old you, minus the alcohol or substance use disorder. And now you get to take that new you into a new school year.
As you get ready for what’s next, we have some advice about how to manage your sobriety this year.
Commit to Your Plan
Two things trip people up during recovery: complacence and overconfidence.
Well, there are a lot of things that trip people up during recovery, but these two are particularly relevant to teenagers.
That’s why you can’t afford to be complacent or overconfident.
So there’s no confusion, here’s what we mean by complacent:
“Smug or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one’s achievements.”
Your long-term sobriety hinges on daily attention to the details of the sobriety plan you formulated with your therapists and counselors. You can’t really skip a day. As time goes by, your fundamentals will get stronger, because they’re skills that get better and more efficient with practice. It’s important to remember that recovery requires daily self-examination, assessment, and checking. You need to make sure you’re sticking with the path you chose when you went into treatment.
And if you think you can skip a day and stop looking at yourself with the critical analytic skills you learned during recovery, that means you’re overconfident.
So there’s no confusion, here’s a what we mean by overconfident:
“Having excessively strong self-belief or self-assurance; having an over-abundance of certainty about one’s own abilities or correctness.”
Yes: you need self-confidence to stay sober. You need robust coping skills. You need to be sure of yourself, and you need to believe in what you’re doing. You need certainty and conviction. But when certainty and conviction become overconfidence and complacency, you’re going to have problems.
Complacence + Overconfidence = Warning Signs
If you’re worried a combination of complacency and overconfidence might be leading you to relapse, check in with these three indicators that you might be right:
1. You quit attending support groups.
If meetings like AA or NA are part of your program, don’t stop just because you’re busy with school or you think you’ve got everything under control. Keep going to meetings until you have a serious talk with your counselor or therapist about whether they should still be part of your recovery plan.
2. You drop elements of your program.
During rehab, chances are you learned techniques that became daily practices. Right now, in the early phases of your recovery, they’re in the process of becoming habits. Exercise, journaling, meditation, or talking to recovery peers may seem small to you now, but don’t make the mistake of minimizing them: they’re the building blocks of long-term sobriety. If you find yourself thinking, “I don’t need this anymore,” it’s time to talk to a recovery partner, counselor, or therapist. Get a second opinion, and make sure you’re not sabotaging your recovery.
3. You start bargaining.
You may tell yourself it’s okay to have one drink, take one pill, or smoke weed one time. Just one time. You tell yourself it’s okay. You promise yourself you won’t do it every day. Just this once. You think recovery skills are powerful enough to overcome a slip – you’re even planning a slip. That’s the very definition of overconfidence. Call it playing with fire, making a devil’s bargain, call it anything you like. We call it a mistake. Take it from anyone with extensive recovery experience: thinking you can have just one drink or take just one pill or have just one smoke is a slippery control slope that can lead you right back to the alcohol or substance use disorder you worked so hard to get under control.
If It Works, Keep Doing It
You need to stick with your program.
Remember: no one got sober for you. No one went through the emotions you went through and found a way out the other side.
That was all you.
You’re the one who quit using alcohol or drugs, went to treatment, and made it to this far because you like the new you – you 2.0 – better than the version of you that went into treatment.
Sure, in treatment you had professional help and guidance. Your therapists and counselors taught you about how addiction works and helped you form your new coping skills, but they didn’t do the work for you.
Again – that was all you.
And that new you is based on the work you put in during the early phases of treatment – remember that
One the thing about recovery we’re sure you heard during treatment is this: it’s a lifelong process.
You also learned that in the end, recovery is your job. It’s your responsibility, and no one else’s. And in order to sustain your recovery and achieve long-term sobriety, you need to cover the basics every day. No one can take care of the fundamentals of recovery but you. Stay dedicated, and you increase your chances of sustainable recovery. Let them slip – even incrementally – due to complacence and overconfidence, and you have a good chance of slipping right back into the patterns more suited to the old you. Stick with them, and day by day, month by month, your recovery fundamental become part of your daily life.
The new you will prevail, and the old you?
Well, you can look back at the old you as a reminder of how far you’ve come.
Angus is a writer from Atlanta, GA who writes about behavioral health, adolescent development, education, and mindfulness practices like yoga, tai chi, and meditation.