1. Work the steps.
Step 1: Understand loss of control. Step 2: Take reality as authority. Step 3: Accept reality. Step 4: Take a look at yourself. Step 5: Tell someone else about yourself. Step 6: Get ready to straighten out your act. Step 7: Straighten out your act. Step 8: Get ready to make amends. Step 9: Make amends. Step 10: Continue to look at yourself. Step 11: Continue to straighten out your act. Step 12: Help others straighten out their acts
2. Learn and practice the ABC Method. Use it every day—all day.
The Theory: It is not what happens to you (A) that causes your feelings and behavior (C). It is your beliefs, attitudes, and thoughts (B) about A that cause how you feel and act (C). You can change your thinking (B). These changes will alter how you feel and behave (C). The Practice: • Accept reality on reality’s terms. • Use the Serenity Motto. "I shall strive for the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the determination to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference • Complete a Rational Problem Analysis from start to finish. • Force yourself (if you have to, and you probably will have to) to act on your new beliefs, rather than on your feelings.
3. Go to meetings and/or group therapy several times per week.
It is recommended that you attend one self-help meeting or therapy group a day for the first three months of your recovery. The support and reinforcement you receive from these groups early in recovery can be invaluable! If, after three months, you feel more secure, you can begin to decrease the frequency of meetings. The most successfully recovering people we have met have, after two or three years of abstinence, tapered off to only one or two meetings per month as their "maintenance" level. They also sponsor at least one other person.
4. Get one or more temporary sponsors as soon as possible and a therapist or counselor.
We recommend that you immediately get yourself at least one temporary sponsor in each type of self-help meeting that you attend. Then, over a period of months, settle upon the one or two persons who have been the most helpful to you, and ask that they become your permanent sponsors. If you continue, after three months or so of abstinence, to experience serious emotional problems, then by all means get yourself a therapist or a counselor.
5. Meditate and/or practice relaxation at least once daily, and whenever you have an urge to indulge your habit.
This practice could ultimately become a valuable tool. During these periods of meditation/relaxation you learn that you can control your body in very important ways. The following two methods can be used to reduce, temporarily, the negative emotions that often lead to addictive behaviors. They also can be very effective in reducing urges to engage in your addiction of choice. These are by no means curative, which is why they are not emphasized in the first twelve chapters, but they can be of great value in recovery.
Meditation: Pick one word or phrase that seems comforting to you. Many people will pick words like peace, love, harmony, or serenity. Others will choose short phrases like "God loves me," "I accept myself," "Nothing is terrible," or "I’m okay." In order to meditate, simply repeat your chosen word or phrase over and over again. Try not to let any other thoughts enter into your mind during your meditation time. If other thoughts intrude, redirect your thoughts back to your selected word or phrase. In general, it is better to sit with your eyes closed (or half-closed, so that you don’t fall asleep).
However, since such conditions are not always possible or convenient to you, much can still be accomplished by meditating while doing some other routine tasks, such as walking the dog, doing your laundry, or washing your dishes. We recommend five to twenty minutes of meditation, once or twice per day, depending upon your current level of stress. Meditation is not the core of this recovery program, but if you choose to meditate much more heavily than we have suggested, for any reason, it would be best to consult a meditation expert or master. Another caution is that people with seizure disorders should not meditate. Relaxation: An alternative to meditation is one of several physical relaxation techniques. The one we have found most effective and easily learned in our clinical practice is simply slow, deep breathing. Take a moderately deep breath in (don’t strain). Then exhale very slowly. Repeat this as often as you need to until you feel sufficiently relaxed,
6. Have fun. Reward yourself for recovery by seeking natural highs or ways of enjoying yourself.
As we have pointed out before, all conditioning of behavior takes place by rewarding that behavior. Therefore, in order to build in new patterns of behavior, you will want to reward yourself for acting differently. Simply not drinking, gambling, overeating, or smoking, for example, is not a lot of fun! In order to give up those habits, it is far better that you replace them with other enjoyable activities. For example, you could plan to take your spouse to the movies for each week of abstinence, or to take a vacation in some exotic land in return for your own good behavior for set periods of time. Another example would be to buy yourself a gift that you could not have afforded had you been squandering your money on your habit of choice.
7. Change people, places, and things as necessary in order to avoid excessive temptations.
If you reliably get upset every time you see your mother-in-law, avoid seeing your mother-in-law. This makes sense, doesn’t it? It also makes good sense to avoid the people who remind you of your addictive habit(s) or have the ability to trigger you into your older thought patterns. What if, every time you got high on cocaine, you did it in a yellow room? Is it not likely, then, that the color yellow might trigger you into craving cocaine? So avoid yellow rooms! If your habit of choice is horse racing, doesn’t it make good sense to stay away from the track or your bookies’ place of business? This is the kind of thinking we are talking about here. If you suspect or know for sure that some person, place, or thing reminds you of your addictive behavior of choice or of the positive feeling you used to obtain from it, then these are dangers to your abstinence and to your happiness. Avoid, avoid, avoid.
8. Use medications as prescribed by a psychiatrist or addictionologist.
Medications might be prescribed to alleviate withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings or urges, and reduce anxiety and depression upon making such tremendous changes in one’s lifestyle. Sometimes, antidepressants and other psychiatric medications might be necessary to reduce the psychological problems that underlie a person’s addictive behavior. This is too technical an area for this book to go into great detail about. In any case, sophisticated medical consultation is necessary to determine whether or not some medication or combination of medications are called for in your case.
9. Don’t use any addictive substances or engage in the addictive behaviors of your choice.
For any addictive chemical substances, we recommend total abstinence. For some behavioral disorders such as compulsive sexuality or compulsive overeating, some compromises must be made. Remember, recovery involves the learning and reinforcement (rewarding) of new attitudes and behaviors. However, the old, established, addictive attitudes and behaviors still have permanent memory traces in your brain. Too often, exercising the very behavior that you are trying to recover from can reward the old learning and make it burst forth with equal or greater strength than your newly acquired behaviors. For example, it is usually a bad idea for the alcoholic to hang out at his favorite bar, drinking only orange juice, in order to socialize. It is usually a bad idea for the compulsive gambler to continue to hang out at the race track just to watch the horses without betting. This is because indulging in one link of the addictive chain of conditioned reactions stimulates the other links. This is what relapse is about.
- Peiser, K., & Martin, S. (2000). In The Universal 12-Step Program: How to Overcome Any Addiction and Win! Massachusetts: Adams Media Corporation.
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