Psychology Magazine

Successful Recovery: Entering the Holiday Battlezone-Part3

By Garrickkreitzer @GarrickKreitzer

(continued from Part 2)

Operation Sober Holiday: Strategic Initiative #4 – The Contingency Plan

Even if you’ve adequately prepared for the battle, you may still find yourself in an unsafe situation. Since you have trained properly for the fight, then returning to safety is simply a matter of situational awareness. Recognizing that you are in the danger zone is 95 percent of the evacuation plan. The other five percent is calling upon an ally to transport you to safety. That ally may be yourself, in which case you must act immediately and leave the battlefront – if only for 10 minutes to “gather yourself.” Or it may be someone with whom you have made the pact (discussed in Initiative #1) to drive you home. Just give them the signal.

If, however, you are attacked before you can evacuate then you will need to use special weapons called “refusal skills.” Refusal skills are tactics employed when you are offered that drink, hit, shot, or line. Essentially, you will “just say no!” But it is a little more difficult than that, much to Ms. Reagan’s dismay.

As an addiction specialist, the question my clients ask most often, by far, is something that goes something like this, “So let’s say I’m hanging out with friends and they promised me they wouldn’t do any coke in front of me. Well, after Chuck has a few beers – out comes the powder. He offers me the first line. I say no, but he keeps at me. And then everyone else joins in. What do I say?”

First, I want to point out that if the client had adequately prepared, he wouldn’t have been in the situation in the first place. He probably didn’t have a qualified reason to be around people where the alcohol is flowing and the cocaine is abundant. But since he was and you could be, here is a specific tactic you can use to defuse a similar situation.

Be honest. Tell them you just got out of treatment and you are trying to give sobriety a whirl. If they know you just got out of treatment, ask them why they are pushing you so hard to relapse. Ask them why it is so important to them that you do drugs with them. That will usually go one of two ways…they will either drop it because they feel uncomfortable or they will try and shame you for “selling out.” Either way, you know where you stand.

I will let you in on a little secret that you will learn further down the road in your sobriety: they are testing you to see if you will falter. If you stick to your guns, they will eventually respect and ADMIRE you. Because you are doing what they either can’t or aren’t. You are getting clean and healthy. They want that for themselves. They might not admit it, but they know how difficult it is. They know the fight. You are showing great courage and strength for entering into this battle. Others will recognize that strength and will respect and admire you for it.

Here are some other refusal lines I’ve heard people use. Notice that in these emergency situations, especially this early in your sobriety, you do not need to tell the truth when refusing chemicals. If you need to – lie. Also notice you don’t have to be aggressive or disrespectful. And finally, a very effective tool is to deliver your refusal with a little self-deprecation:

“I’m crazy enough as it is!”

“I’m sick right now and don’t want to stay sick any longer than I have to.”

“I went to the doctor and found out I am allergic.”

“I’ve just have a wire crossed and can’t drink.”

“Thanks, but I have some important stuff to do in the morning.”

“I’m working out and don’t want to screw it up.”

“I promised ___ I wouldn’t. Thanks though. Looks like fun.”

And if all else fails, keep your phone in your pocket. If you are uncomfortable or at a loss for words in any refusal situation, act like your phone is vibrating or ringing in your pocket. Then just say, “Man! Sorry but I have to go call them back. I’ll be back in a second.” Then just leave. Works every time. Chances are that you won’t run into them ever again anyway.

Remember these guidelines and you will be better prepared for the upcoming battle.

And remember, the goal is to survive the holiday season without using any chemicals.

That’s it. Nothing more and nothing less. Just get through it.

Next year you will be much stronger. And the enemy will be much weaker.



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