The sad fact about recovery from alcohol and drug use is that almost everyone fails in the beginning, even when they have the support of loved ones, friends, and recovery groups, like AA.
That’s because unconscious emotions intensify the motivation to use substances and activate a network of entrenched habits that lead almost inevitably to relapse.
To lead a healthy life, free of alcohol and drug abuse, it’s necessary to change habits and regulate unconscious emotions that both drive and support abuse, in short, to develop the capacity within us to create value, meaning, and purpose. A program for maintaining sobriety should include the following.
A practice regimen to change habits that support abuse. Habits are comprised of a sequence of conditioned responses:
“A” can be:
Once vulnerable emotional states are associated with substance use, the mere occurrence of those states activates a series of automatic habits that lead to use.
Recondition the emotional system to make it stronger and more flexible. Abuse of substances impairs the ability to regulate emotions, as the substance takes on the protective, soothing, or exhilarating function of the emotional system. At the same time, the emotional response patterns grow rigid in the dogged pursuit and justification of substance use.
Develop skill to regulate urges automatically. Because the network of conditioned responses that motivate the use of substances is processed in the brain thousands of times faster than conscious will, sobriety requires skills to regulate emotions that can function rapidly, i.e., unconsciously.
Raise core value to reduce the susceptibility to triggers of guilt, shame, anxiety, anger, and resentment, which lead to abuse. The use of substances is self-reinforcing in that it lowers self-value and the ability to create value and meaning. The trajectory in self-value during substance use is entirely downward, making the substance seem ever more necessary.
Supplement support groups with self-regulation skill – supply the missing elements in support group intervention.
The program includes seven recorded Webinars and one text file with exercises: