Your relationship with your drugs or alcohol is a strong attachment relationship and likely to be stronger than any human attachment relationship that you have. Think about it, if you have a relationship that your substance abuse is putting in jeopardy, but you keep returning to active use,your attachment to the substance is stronger. This isn’t right or wrong, it just is. Recent research is now coming to realize that addiction is actually likely to be an attachment disorder.
So how can you try to sever the attachment? There are four things that you can do to help you stay motivated and move towards healthier attachments.
1. Create a vision of what you want for yourself.
The purpose of this is to create an attachment to recovery and to remind you why you want to stop. Think about the life you might have if you successfully give up substances. Visualise it and write it down in as much vivid detail as you can. Think about the person you want to be, the relationships that you want to have, the way you want to feel, the things you want to accomplish. You can write this as if you are eighty years old looking back on your life without substances or you could write a letter to your present self from your future self, thanking your present self for sticking with recovery and explaining how good your life is in the future. You might want to warn your present self of what difficulties they will encounter and why it is worth pushing through them.
2. Write an account of what you think will happen if you continue to use or drink.
Write in as much graphic detail as possible. Think about the effect on the people closest to you and try to imagine how they will feel. Think also about yourself and your wasted chances, missed opportunities and difficulty constantly finding yourself in the dark places that your substance abuse might take you.
3. Identify the thoughts / feelings that might lead you to relapse.
It is very likely that emotional responses will lead you back to using, such as anger, loneliness, anxiety or just a general feeling of unease or discomfort. This can then lead to thoughts such as “I’ll just have one or two, no one will know” or “I can control it now” “life is meaningless without drugs/alcohol” “Everyone else is doing it so why shouldn’t I ?” Look back over every time you have tried to stop and caved in and write down what you think might have triggered it. If this is your first attempt, anticipate what you might say to yourself that would lead you back to using or drinking. Then write down a rational logical response to the thought or write down healthier ways to cope with the feeling.
4. Say goodbye
Write a letter to your drug of choice as if it were a person. This might seem strange at first and if you are not used to writing, it might take some time. Often when I ask clients to do this, they just focus on all the negatives but don’t fall into this trap. Your substance will have been a friend in your times of need, an emotional crutch that you relied on time and time again. It’s important to acknowledge the good and the bad. Your substance will have made sense to you for a long time – think about all it helped you with and thank it. Just like any love affair it started out well! Also include what you will miss about the relationship, but then emphasize why you need to move on. Try to write as much as possible and note the feelings you have about writing it. Does it make you feel anxious? Sad? Hopeless? Enthusiastic? You may have a range of conflicting feelings and that is totally normal. Its important to acknowledge the positive role that substances have played in your life as when you try to stop, your thoughts will focus primarily on the benefits and good times – acknowledging and accepting that substance abuse had a positive role, and then looking at the negative alongside it, will give you a more balanced perspective.
When you write, first use a pen and paper as writing by hand is an excellent way to release emotions. You can type it later when you have finished. It’s important to read what you wrote regularly, and if possible keep it in your bag or wallet.
Recovery from addiction is a process that takes time, and it takes time to get used to life without the substances. At times it will feel like you are on a roller-coaster of emotions but remembering why you want to change, who you want to be and what you want your life to become can help you through the inevitable lows of recovery. It really is worth it.