Maintaining positive changes
Maintaining positive changes in recovery involves looking out for yourself and getting help early when triggers come up. This can involve having a coping plan ready to respond to these triggers and being prepared to carry out the plan to protect you from a lapse back into alcohol or drug use.
If you would like some one-on-one support with preparing to manage your addiction you can chat to one of our counsellors at anytime. Our service is free, confidential and available 24/7. You can also chat with others with similar experiences on our forum.
Here are some strategies that you can use to help keep you motivated and on track.
Remind yourself why you've made a change
To help you do this you might want to:
- Write down a list of the reasons why you want to manage your addiction and check it regularly (e.g. by setting a daily reminder in your phone).
- Fill in one of our pocket guides for recovery and keep it with you in your wallet or purse.
- Get out that photo of yourself at your worst and compare the new you with the old you.
- Ask your friends to remind you of what it was like when addiction was controlling your life.
- Make a list of all of the ways that cutting down or stopping using alcohol or drugs has improved your life.
- Make a commitment to your new lifestyle every day.
Be alert for your 'early warning signs'
What kind of places, times, people, feelings, situations, or things will make it hard for you to stay on top of things or feel good about yourself? Would any of these things cause you to use alcohol or other drugs again or go back to your old patterns?
Write a list of your possible early warning signs and stay alert for them in your life. See preparing to manage your addiction for examples of risky situations that can push you backwards on the road to recovery.
Being active is very important. If your mind is focused on other enjoyable activities, it has less time to think about using alcohol or other drugs. It is also an opportunity to form new constructive habits so you can give up old destructive ones.
Call on your support people
Make a list of helpful people who will support you to live a life without drugs or gambling. You might have spent less time with them recently — send them a text or phone them to catch up.
Although cravings are most intense in the early stages of cutting down or stopping, a craving can still hit even if you haven't used alcohol or other drugs for a while. Cravings do pass with time, and it is possible to ride them out. Use the healthy strategies you have to distract yourself when you experience these, and protect yourself from succumbing to them by keeping drugs and gambling activities out of reach.
Be kind to yourself and don't give up
If you do experience a lapse, don't beat yourself up about it. The voice of addiction will probably try to sabotage you with messages like "I might as well keep using since I can't stay off". Tame this voice by thinking to yourself, "Okay, I've had some, but it's just been this once and I don't have to have any more. I'm doing well and this is just a minor blip on the radar". Remind yourself of how far you have come and what you have been able to change — because you can...you have...and you can stay in recovery.
Mistakes, lapses and relapses are all opportunities to learn
You can't learn from mistakes if you never make them so go easy on yourself, add the trigger that led you to use alcohol or other drugs to your 'risky situations' list and come up with a good coping plan for if you're faced with it again.
These suggestions might seem simple but having a plan and preparing is very important. Doing these things when you are feeling strong will also help you to better manage when you are feeling vulnerable.
If you feel that your alcohol or drug use is having a negative impact on your life, why not speak to one of our counsellors for more support? It’s free, confidential and available 24/7.
If you would like to know a bit more about the service before getting in contact — take a look through Find support.
What can I do next?
Find some additional tools to help yourself while making a change, this could include:
- Reading about managing cravings.
- Or, you may want to chat with others on our peer support forum.