Recovery Maintenance: Checklist for Keeping on Track

What do you want to hear first:  the good news or the bad news?

If you’re like me, you want to get the bad news out of the way, so here it is:  addiction is a chronic, progressive, incurable disease.  Once diagnosed, you are never healed.

Alright, bad news dispensed, here’s the good, no, scratch that, the great news:  the methods employed for managing the disease of addiction are ridiculously inexpensive (read: free), easily accessible, and can be utilized by anyone suffering from it.  If used properly and consistently, not only will the addict keep his or her disease in remission permanently, the rest of his or her life will improve dramatically.  How many other diseases can make that claim?

So the question for people like myself, with more than a year of recovery, how do you keep on keepin’ on?  How can you ensure that you are maintaining your recovery?

As a regular participant in 12-step recovery, nothing scares me more than to hear stories of people with significant sober time come back after a relapse.  Sadly, it happens more than one would like to think.  I have seen people with 20 years of sobriety “go out,” and come back and report what we all know to be true:  it never gets better.  Twenty minutes, twenty days, twenty years; pick up a drink or drug, and you have fallen back down the rabbit hole.

Every time I hear that tale, the person says the same thing:  “I picked up (meaning either drank again or used a drug again), but the relapse happened well before that.”

And that’s the part that terrifies this addict.  Because I can say, with certainty, for today, that I am not tempted to ingest a mind-altering substance.  But what worries me is am I heading towards it?  Because, as we say in AA, everything you do either takes you toward a drink, or away from it, and the steps towards relapse are small and inconsequential at first…. so have I taken them without realizing it?

Here’s how I’ve solved that problem, for myself anyway, and I figured I could write it out in case it would help anyone else.  I’ve developed a checklist to make sure I am staying on track when it comes to my recovery.  The list is in reverse order for a reason, for each question that I can respond in the affirmative, I feel that much better.

  1. Have I maintained my sobriety date?
  2. Do I wish to pick up a drink or a drug?
  3. Am I confident that I can refrain from ingesting mind-altering substances just for today?
  4. Have I prayed today?
  5. Am I regularly participating in 12-step meetings?
  6. How is my mental state?  If bad, has it been consistently bad?  Has there been a pattern of negative thinking?
  7. When life becomes stressful, do I react in healthy, sober ways, or do I revert to old patterns of behavior?
  8. Am I maintaining my new, sober healthy behaviors and daily structure, or am I letting things slip?
  9. Have I been talking about what’s going on with me, or have I been keeping things bottled up?
  10. Have I been sharing with other people in recovery?
  11. Have I been giving back (12th step work)?
  12. Gut check:  do I believe that I could pick up, just once, and it would be okay?

I would love to hear what people would add to this list, or how they would modify it!

Today’s Miracle:

That I can read this list, and feel pride that I am a grateful, recovering alcoholic/addict!

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Posted on August 7, 2013, in Recovery and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Great list of questions to ask myself! It came at the best time for me. I’ve got my one year coming up this saturday and I was clickin’ along all fine and dandy, feeling so proud and content and at peace with my sobriety and last night my brother hit me with shocking news that they are moving two states away for a job transfer. I am close with him and his family and so my first reaction was sheer sadness…I sobbed like a baby in front of the whole family. Felt that “omg make this stop feeling” and thought about having a drink…but then made hot tea instead. It was very comforting…haven’t needed that since early sobriety. Later last night I was up all alone, still crying, and actually felt scared that I might drink to make the sadness go away. I was feeling the “screw it” angry feeling too. So I made myself go to bed and tossed and turned til 3am…but I did NOT drink! I talked myself out of it. I prayed to God to help me. I refused to abuse myself over shit I can’t control. So it’s so true that just because I’m nearly at ONE YEAR…I learned I can still get pushed off my stance. Thanks for being here…hugs

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    • Thank you so much for sharing that story, it is EXACTLY why I wrote this post. There seems to be a misconception that, after a certain amount of time, a recovering alcoholic is “safe,” and it’s just not so.

      I don’t know about you, but it’s after moments like the one you just described so perfectly that, looking back, I thought, “I can really do this!”

      Katherine, I am really, really proud of you for handling that situation the way you did, and I look forward to congratulating you on Saturday!!

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  2. This is a great list! I have to say I still continue to do the same things I have done all along. Pray, go to meetings, call my sponsor, and don’t drink no matter what! My sponsor has 30 years sober, and when I asked hor how she does it she said the same thing! – haha, wonder where I got that from?! Also, I think the biggest for me is reaching out and not isolating, because honestly, my mind can be the worst place to hang out at! LOL! Thanks for sharing your list! – Maggie

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    • Hi Maggie! I LOVE getting comments from you! Thanks for the validation… it feels good to hear from a “senior recovery partner” (years sober, not chronological years!) that my checklist is a decent one.

      And I couldn’t agree with you more, the top of the list for me is isolating… when I start thinking, “I’m good, I don’t need to share this” is exactly when I am starting to backslide.

      Thanks again for stopping by!

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  3. What a poignant and meaningful post. It really is true, there isn’t this time when all of a sudden, everything is just fine and dandy. There is always work to do and always things to work on and towards, but that doesn’t have to be an upsetting thing. I love your list and think it’s a great way to keep yourself in check, because, it’s like you said, it happens slowly, imperceptibly, unless you are constantly monitoring what’s happening.

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  4. HI Josie – I really enjoyed that list too. I think I tend to keep that stuff up mentally, and I start to feel when I haven’t been keeping up on some of that stuff. For me, recently, that has been not sharing enough. I know I haven’t because I keep starting at my phone and thinking I should be calling my sponsor, an old timer friend, one of my sponsees, etc. And I haven’t been. So it’s funny I re-read this today and see that one highlighted almost and know now that after I put the older one to bed I will be making some calls. I have a few things that need airing out, and I know for a fact that I will feel better. So this list is a wonderful thing because I can sense when I am not in balance with the things that keep me on the beam.

    Great service here, Josie – you’re a dynamo superstar 🙂

    Paul

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  5. Thank you so much for this post! I have been wondering lately if I was heading for a relapse, and after reading your list, I was able to confirm that yes, I am picking up speed on that slippery slope, and I am now doing things to correct it.
    I was able to answer affirmatively on Q1-5, but once I hit #6 and beyond it became pretty clear. I need to get back into my routine. Proper diet (get rid of all that nasty Christmas sugar!), regular exercise (especially on days when I really don’t feel like it), regular weekly meetings with my sponsor (thank goodness the holidays are over), and doing whatever I can to give back to my fellow AA members and others outside of AA. I know that if I do all of the above, I will KNOW that I cannot pick up just once and that everything would be OK.
    This checklist is my miracle for today.
    With gratitude,
    Thank you

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    • Oh my, I need to thank you, not vice versa! As you can assume, I’m not going back very often and reading my own blog, so I have not looked at this list in quite some time. So thank you, it’s such a great reminder, I need to bookmark this page for myself 🙂

      You described exactly where I am at today as well. It is evening where I live, and I am happy to report that all on your list has been checked off for me (I have some small concerns that I will find myself into the Christmas sugar this evening, but the day as a whole is leaps and bounds better than anything I’ve done in the past THREE WEEKS!).

      I am so glad you found this post, that it helped you, and I am so grateful for this comment!

      Like

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