Practicality Can Help in the Recovery of Addiction

As a licensed clinical social worker trained in psychology and addictions, I have treated many clients over the past 17 years using various techniques. I have found that hard, dedicated work yields good results. While relapse is often a reality in recovery of any addiction, keeping oneself engaged in continued practice of skills can help create hopeful outcomes. The 1997 version of the movie Titanic cost over 200 million dollars to produce, however, the movie eventually grossed over 1.8 billion dollars! Recovery takes a lot of time and energy, but in the long run, it is well worth it. Like making the movie Titanic, when much is put in, much greater is gained. (Just don’t sink!).

Here are a few practical exercises you (or someone you know) can use in the recovery process that may be helpful. Keep in mind, however that while these may be helpful, they are not exclusive, nor intended to replace formal counseling. Sponsorship or mentorship is also an integral aspect to the recovery process:

1. Join in: When geese fly in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds at least 71% flying range than if each bird flew on its own. Whenever a goose falls out of the formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go at it alone. People who share common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier, because they are traveling on the thrust of one another. In this exercise you are asked to get involved with an organized group or club with emphasis on being with others. The group can be either religious or secular. Start off with listing the prospective organization or club that you wish to connect with, and then list their contact information. Contact them and get the specifics. Then visit them. Once you find your niche, then highlight it and attend regularly.

2. Clean out the house: In this practical behavioral exercise, you will clean out those things around the house, office, car, or any other area that has fed into your addiction. Address and telephone logs (written or electronic) are examples. You may be holding onto phone numbers of past users or enablers. Or, you may tell yourself, “I’ll hold on to these contacts so I can reach out and help them when I’m better.” The bottom line is that you have to clean the slate. In this exercise you will clean out your old phone numbers, contacts, and any other items that are associated with your addiction. This creates a safer environment for you in your recovery.

3. Identifying and fixing your triggers: What specifically makes you tick? In this exercise you will think about what triggers there are to your addiction. Triggers can be things like free time on certain nights or driving past a particular bar or store. Whatever your triggers are, come up with strategies to fix them. For example, if a particular place is a trigger then the “fix it” strategy would be to not drive past that place. You will have to drive another route. Much of this involves a behavioral change, but fixing triggers lessens the gateway to relapse and promotes a better recovery environment.

4. Pick their brain: List three or more people who have had a problem with the same addiction and have been helped. If you don’t know of anyone personally, ask someone for referrals. Go to at least three of these people and ask them for their advice or assistance. Pay attention to any skills they have used to help in their recovery. Record their responses. Use this feedback as inspiration for yourself.

5. Say good-bye: Whether you like to think of it this way of not, you have had an close relationship with your addiction. It has been an arena full of excitements, although followed by let downs. It has occupied a lot of your time, whether it was in your head or in acting-out activities. At some point you have to put an end to your relationship with it. It is much like a divorce. While it is best to leave it, there will be some pain involved. It is a voluntary decision. If you are ready to say goodbye to it, then write a good-bye letter. Tell it what it did to you, what you won’t miss, and the new joy you’ll have. Share your grief, what you’ll miss about it, what adaptations it served for you. Tell it how it has been replaced. Finally, tell it how it needs to go way and how you will live your life without it.

Beating addiction is hard work and people need lots of help and lots of ways to get through it. But keep in mind, others have beat it, so can you, and there’s help and support available!

To learn more about these exercises and others, refer to the author’s workbook: The Addictions Recovery Workbook: 101 Practical Exercise for Individuals and Groups available at:

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