Before going to residential drug rehab, I lived in Santa Monica, I had made several half-hearted attempts at getting clean. I tried going to AA and NA meetings and working with a therapist. I’d even been enrolled in a juvenile outpatient program. After each potentially successful attempt, I would inevitably return to using, to everyone’s dismay and frustration. I felt that I was destined to be an addict and alcoholic. Every time I went back to school, the drugs were still there, and I didn’t have enough of a foundation in recovery to face it without using. As a last-ditch effort, my parents sent me to an adolescent rehab, where I was removed from my entire life at home in order to focus fully on my recovery. As my time in the treatment center went on, I began to doubt my ability to stay clean after leaving the safety of inpatient treatment. My counselors and I began to focus on relapse prevention. I had put in so much hard work in treatment that I couldn’t bear to see my sobriety slip away.
I continued to build my support group. With the treatment center’s encouragement, I got a sponsor that I check in with daily. Frequent meeting attendance led me to start seeing familiar faces in the rooms. I identified some of my triggers- the things that make me want to use, and began to do work to take some of the power out of them. I began to recognize my own power of choice. Nothing could make me use; I made the decision whether or not I used. As one counselor put it, “You can choose to go there in your head, or you can choose not to.” Even today, when my head starts spinning over a particular issue, I remind myself that I choose whether or not I run with the thought or not. I can make a deliberate shift in what I’m thinking about. For example, if I am spinning over an issue, I’ll stop and think about what it’s like to ride a horse, or what my favorite birthday present was. It works for me. I also imagine that I am playing air hockey- just knocking the disturbing thoughts right out of my brain. I have begun the long process of replacing the old negative information in my brain with new useful information. As I have stayed clean, I have held onto the basic tools I learned in residential treatment. I am so glad that I was given the chance to learn some good tools that help me to make the right choices today.