Thursday, April 23, 2015


It’s often difficult to make friends in recovery, but it’s an important part of remaining sober long-term. Use these tips to help make long-lasting friendships in addiction recovery.
Humans are social beings. Instinctively, we strive to connect with other people and require this connection and support to function optimally in the world. But many of us struggle to form these connections and make close friends, especially as adults.

Add recently completing addiction treatment and being newly sober to the mix - and making new friends can seem impossibly overwhelming. However, addiction recovery lends itself well to forming healthy new friendships — it just takes time and effort.
The Importance of Friendship in Addiction Recovery :  Forming friendships, especially sober friends, is essential in addiction recovery. Without friends life becomes lonely, and loneliness can trigger relapse. Thus, those in recovery should proactively avoid becoming lonely. Old friends who are still using will be inappropriate, and although difficult, breaking ties with former friends is necessary for your lasting sobriety. This leaves many people in early addiction recovery with few friends and the need to make new ones. Friendships buffer against loneliness, but also provide different types of physical and emotional support as well as supportive feedback and advice — something we all need.
Making Friends in Addiction Recovery: To make new friends, first we must overcome the common roadblocks that keep us from reaching out.
Naturally, we fear rejection. People suffering from drug addiction often experience low self-esteem, which continues into addiction recovery. This lack of confidence can magnify fears of rejection. But the truth is, we all fear rejection. Remembering that the people around you fear rejection just as much as you do can help you overcome this fear.
Making new friends also requires vulnerability. In early addiction recovery people can feel particularly vulnerable as they enter a world that is different and strange to them as a newly sober person. The following tips on how to make friends can help reduce feelings of vulnerability and increase your confidence when it comes to making friends in recovery.

Where to Meet New People :

Meetings: Recovery fellowships are one of the first and most common places that recovering addicts meet new people who are like-minded. You may have to attend a few groups before you find one that feels right for you, but do not give up! Once you do find a “home group” the consistency is very valuable in forming friendships.
Classes/clubs: Early addiction recovery is all about discovering new interests. Taking a class or joining a club can help you discover and foster new interests, plus meet new people.
Community events: Attend events in your community, such as an art reception, community fair, or even the opening show of a new movie. Volunteering in your community is also a great place to meet new people.
Take a walk: If you have children or pets take them out too — meeting fellow dog lovers or other people with kids in your neighbourhood can be a great way to spark a new friendship.
Go online: The internet is a useful tool to meet people with similar interests and values as you. There are many websites, apps, and online communities designed to put you in touch with people near you, as well as recovery-specific online communities.
Work: Note what you have in common with a colleague and use this as a basis for getting to know each other better. Do you both read books? Like shopping? Want to work out more or already belong to the gym? Watch the same television shows? Suggest getting together sometime outside of work to share your interests.

Remember that not everyone you meet will understand your sober lifestyle. It is up to you whether or not to share your addiction recovery with new acquaintances — but as you meet new people be prepared to turn down offers to meet up for drinks, or attend parties that could put you at risk for relapse – even if they seem like a great place to spark up conversations with new people.
Tips for Starting Conversations : Putting yourself in situations where you can meet new people is only the first step to making new friends. If you go to meetings or community events, but never speak to anyone new, friendships won't come easily. Here are some tips to break the ice when you're trying to make new friends:
Comment on the surroundings or occasion: You always have the space you are sharing in common with others who are there. Make positive comments about the scenery, food, or entertainment to get a conversation started.
Ask open-ended questions: Open-ended questions are those that require more than a yes or no answer. Asking someone “What do you like to do?” can be a much more effective conversation starter than “Do you like reading?
Offer genuine compliments: Compliment people on what you like or admire about them. For example “You seem so confident when you speak, I'd really like to get better at that,” or “I really like your scarf, can I ask where you got it?” These comments offer the opportunity to engage in conversation, as well as make the other person more confident in themselves – and more likely to respond positively.
Note what you have in common: This requires paying attention to other people's interests, then asking follow up questions. “I heard you say you like hiking, where do you usually go?
Learn to listen: Part of being a good friend is being a good listener. Practice focusing your attention on what others are saying rather than thinking about what you will say next.
We are accustomed to fear silence in conversation, but silences are natural. Learn to use silences to your advantage and think about what you are saying before you speak — generally people will appreciate a thoughtful statement or question even after an awkward silence.
Moving from Acquaintance to Friendship:  Forming close, long-lasting friendships takes time. Perhaps you enjoy the company of your colleagues or recovery group, but haven't been able to form what you deem a true and close friendship.  Consistency is key when it comes to forming new friendships. Groups and classes are great because this consistency is built in. The next step is extending your relationships outside the “container” of meetings, work, or classes. Accept offers to meet up after group, and ask others to do the same.
Lastly, practice forgiveness and be aware of how your expectations affect your ability to form close friendships. No one is perfect; being able to forgive yourself and others is imperative to forming close friendships. This does not mean accepting disrespectful behaviour, but rather recognizing differences and keeping realistic expectations of others.  
Many find friendships in addiction recovery to be some of the most fulfilling and supportive they have had. With time, effort and a little courage, you can and will form new friendships.

(These articles are the sole property of “The Cabin Chiang Mai”, they are its original authors.)

Friday, April 10, 2015


Overspending and poor money management can lead to stress, and stress can lead to addiction relapse. Learn to manage your money wisely for a better chance at long-term recovery.

Addiction affects all aspects of life. Once you get sober and enter recovery, a lot of time is spent repairing the damage addiction has caused and learning how to live without drugs or alcohol, often for the first time. In recovery you learn how to change your thinking, improve your mood, engage in healthy habits, form healthy relationships, and take control of your life. Amidst all of this self-improvement it can be easy to overlook the importance of regaining practical life skills that contribute to a more balanced life — such as learning how to control your finances.
Addiction and Money : Drug addicts, alcoholics, compulsive gamblers, and those who suffer from any other addiction are notoriously bad with money. The addicted brain's motto is “I want what I want, and I want it now.” Often, addicts end up spending any cash that comes their way on feeding their addiction — sometimes to the point of serious financial distress, debt, and homelessness.
There is no reason to believe that once in recovery you will magically have money management skills that were seriously lacking at the peak of your drug addiction. No matter how good or bad you were at managing money before entering recovery, getting sober will change your financial situation – and you will need to change how you handle it.
Anyone recovering from addiction can benefit from learning about financial management, as well as the often-overlooked fact that money can be a relapse trigger.
Money as a Relapse Trigger:  One reason financial management skills are so important for recovering addicts is that money is one of the most common, but least talked about relapse triggers. When you manage money poorly it causes debt and stress - stress that can lead to relapse. Even if you are no longer spending money on your addiction, without proper skills to manage money, addicts often continue spending money recklessly. Having more money as a result of becoming sober can also be a trigger for relapse in itself. Having money can instill a false sense of security, create the urge to celebrate, and trigger thoughts of being able to afford your drug of choice.
For those in recovery, learning about financial management is just as much about relapse prevention as it is about reaping the benefits of being able to pay off debts, stress less, and save money.
How to Manage Money in Recovery : Taking responsibility for your financial situation is overwhelming. Shame and guilt about past irresponsibility can leave you feeling helpless as to where to start. First, you should have a plan for how you will deal with any emotions that come up as you start to look realistically at your finances. Ask someone you trust to help you as you begin to make a plan for managing money. Then, continue with the following:  Start a budget and track your spending. Learning the basics of budgeting, tracking, and saving is a good place to start - especially if managing money is something you have always struggled with. A budget is simply a record of the money you have coming in vs. your expenses. There are many online budgeting tools and resources available to help you get started.

Keeping a spending diary is a great way to see where your money goes and areas you can improve your spending habits. Write down every purchase and expense for at least a month. You may be surprised at how much money you actually spend on non-necessities such as coffee, gum or any impulse buys.

Separate needs and wants.The addicted brain is accustomed to instant gratification. Even when you stop spending money on your addiction, it will take more work for you to change your spending habits that are influenced by a desire for instant gratification.
In order to manage money well, you have to separate your wants from your needs. For example, you need to eat and you need the companionship of friends. You may want to go with a friend to a nice restaurant – but save some money and cook together at home instead.

Make a savings goal. Whether or not you lost a lot of money during the peak of your addiction, the fact is that addiction is expensive and now you will be able to save more. Paying off past debts and managing money so you live within your means is important, as is learning how to save.
Make a specific savings goal. If you know what you are saving for you will be less likely to spend extra money recklessly. Maybe you want to take a weekend vacation or make a larger purchase without going into debt. Write these goals down and remind yourself every day why you are trying to save money.
Avoid having and using an ATM or credit card. Even though debit and credit cards are common forms of payment, they are not for everyone! Especially in early recovery or if money is a strong trigger for you, it may be wise to limit your access to money. Having to physically withdraw money from the bank can be enough to make you think twice about it. You may even talk with your banker about setting up restrictions on your accounts, or consider storing money with a trusted parent or spouse.
Use available resources.There a many resources available to you to help with budgeting, banking, and saving. Just like anything in recovery, you do not have to manage your finances alone. Ask for support from people in your family, community, and support groups — you are not the only one who has struggled with or wanted to improve financial management skills.
Reap the Benefits of Good Financial Management   Getting a handle on your money is not just good for your bank account. When you have your budget under control, start to pay off debts and live within your means, it prevents stress from building up and is great for your journey to long-term recovery.
Always be aware of signs of relapse. Lingering shame and guilt, feeling overwhelmed, and spending money compulsively on shopping or gambling are all warning signs that you might be headed for relapse and should seek extra support.

(These articles are the sole property of “The Cabin Chiang Mai”, they are its original authors.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


After drug or alcohol rehab, those in recovery must build a new social support network, often from the ground up. This process is daunting and loneliness can creep in as you try to find the right support group, work on rebuilding relationships with family and friends, and weed out anyone who is detrimental to your hard earned addiction recovery.

But loneliness is more than a lack of companionship. Simply being alone does not always equal loneliness. Many people are seemingly alone, but do not feel lonely — just as many others will endure intense loneliness in a room full of people they know. Loneliness can be a pervasive and uncomfortable emotional state that persists despite being around others. While it is common to occasionally feel lonely in recovery, it should not be overlooked.
The Danger of Loneliness in Addiction Recovery: The root of loneliness is feeling a lack of connection to those around us. It is the strong feeling that you are separate or different from others that many people in addiction recovery experience. Loneliness is a complex experience, and if we look closely, buried under feelings of loneliness is often a sense of unworthiness. We struggle to connect because deep down we do not believe we deserve to. To truly overcome loneliness we have to look within ourselves as well as to outside companionship.
Loneliness is one of the most common addiction relapse triggers. It can lead to depression and anxiety, guilt and shame, social isolation, and ultimately relapse. In early addiction recovery, failure to make a new group of friends, combined with low self-esteem, can lead to intense loneliness which could make you question the value of life in recovery - a dangerous, slippery slope towards relapse.
Tips for Coping with Loneliness in Addiction Recovery:
Do not ignore feelings of loneliness! Ignoring loneliness can put you on the fast track to relapse. Instead, try these tips to overcome loneliness and strengthen your recovery:
Grieve the loss of addiction.

It may seem counterintuitive, but after achieving addiction recovery you lose your former best friend — your drug or addictive behaviour, plus everyone you associated with during your using days. Allowing yourself to grieve this loss will help you move forward and through the resulting loneliness.
Talk to someone about feeling lonely: The key here is not just talking to someone, but talking to someone about your feelings of loneliness. While calling a friend when you are lonely can be great, to really help alleviate the intensity of the feeling you need to talk to them about your loneliness.
See a therapist.
A therapist or counsellor can be someone you trust to talk to about uncomfortable feelings when they come up, such as loneliness. A counsellor will help you identify thoughts, feelings, and behaviours that are no longer serving you. They will support you and hold you accountable as you rebuild your life in recovery.

Volunteering will help you feel more connected to the world around you — combatting the sense of separateness – a main characteristic of loneliness. Whether it is at a local animal shelter or helping clean up the park, through volunteering you can meet new people and feel good about contributing to your community.
Join a support group.

Joining a recovery group after addiction treatment is always recommended. It may take time and regular attendance before you personally connect with someone, but attending a group will remind you that you are not alone in your addiction recovery.

Join a club or take a class.
Another great way to meet new people is through taking a class or joining a club. Fitness clubs offer a wide variety of classes from kickboxing to weight training. Whether it is yoga, cooking, art, or writing — many classes are available to help you re-discover your interests. You can even find special interest classes such as yoga specifically for people in addiction recovery!
Go online.
You can access many recovery networks online. While connections online should not replace real life social networks, they do offer an option for combating loneliness through recovery forums, reading about other people's stories, and pointing you in the right direction to find a support group in your area.
 Get a plant or pet.
Believe it or not, having house plants can help ward off loneliness. Keeping a plant alive puts you in touch with your greater connection to the world. Pets are also great companions, but only consider getting a pet if you know you can take on the responsibility. If you are up for the responsibility, pets can offer an unconditional love that will help immensely in warding off loneliness.
Practice mindfulness meditation.

An effective tool in addiction recovery, mindfulness meditation allows you to recognise your feelings as temporary thoughts, which in turn, reduces their power and effect over how they make you feel. Meditation takes repeated practice, but the positive benefits are worth the time for most people recovering from drug addiction.
Make amends.
Making amends can lead to rebuilding old relationships that are positive for your recovery. Even when it does not lead to that, making amends will help you gain confidence and feel connected to others. Be sure to learn the difference between an apology and making amends, and seek support from those who have made amends before you.
Learn to love yourself.
One important and effective way to combat loneliness is to learn to become your own best friend. Increasing your self-esteem and self-confidence will help you become more comfortable being alone, and will attract more positive people into your support network. And because often we feel separate from others because deep down we do not feel worthy of connection, this deep and underlying cause for loneliness can be overcome through working on building confidence and self-esteem.
Overcoming Loneliness with Patience
Regularly using drugs and alcohol acclimatises the user to experiencing instant gratification. Once in addiction recovery, former addicts often struggle to have patience with themselves and others. Social support is key to sustaining long term sobriety and overcoming loneliness, but also requires patience to develop. When you find yourself lonely, remember that forming close relationships in recovery takes time, but because loneliness is a strong trigger for relapse you should have a plan to cope with it. Take a deep breath and do something on the list above to take care of yourself.

(These articles are the sole property of “The Cabin Chiang Mai”, they are its original authors.)

Saturday, April 4, 2015


Some people believe that addiction relapse is inevitable – but that is absolutely not true. Being aware of these relapse triggers is your first step towards long-term addiction recovery. One of most effective techniques for preventing relapse is to identify your personal relapse triggers and make a detailed plan on how you will manage them. And while some common relapse triggers are obvious -- like being around other people who are using -- others are less straightforward.
Addiction is a sneaky disease, and will try to sneak up on you when you are least expecting it. We have compiled this list of the most common addiction relapse triggers to get you thinking more deeply about how you can avoid triggers and stay solid in your addiction recovery.

Common Relapse Triggers and How to Manage Them : Relapse triggers can be broken into a few groups: emotional, mental, environmental, and those that are easily overlooked. Here we have listed the 10 most common relapse triggers and what to do to avoid them.
1. HALT: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. The acronym HALT is used to describe high-risk situations for those in recovery. When you are aware of this you can be vigilant in preventing yourself from entering those states. If recovery is your priority, then making sure you avoid becoming too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired will also need to become priorities. This may mean planning meals, sticking to a strict sleep schedule, and attending support groups.
2. Emotions. Perceived negative emotions often lead people to use drugs or alcohol in the first place and can easily lead a person back to their drug of choice. It is, however, impossible to avoid feeling sad, angry, guilty, or lonely all the time. Experiencing these emotions is normal and an important aspect of recovery (and life) - but they are uncomfortable! Learning how to cope with your emotions as they arise without the use of drugs and alcohol will be essential in early recovery.
3. Stress. Stress could possibly be the number-one addiction relapse trigger because of its broad range of effects on the mind and body. HALT can lead to stress, as can a thousand other circumstances that will differ for each individual. Losing a job or loved one, increased responsibility at home or work, and health problems can all create increased stress. The key here is being proactive about stress prevention and being mindful (and honest) about what causes stress for you.
4. Over-confidence. Becoming over-confident in recovery puts you at risk for relapse. Having self-confidence is necessary, but becoming over-confident to the point of complacency crosses a line from healthy confidence to over-confidence and relapse risk. After some time in recovery, as life starts to even out, you may begin to feel like you no longer need to follow your relapse prevention plan. You might think you are strong in your recovery and put yourself in increasingly risky situations - while also no longer working a recovery programme. This is a definite recipe for disaster.
Stay humble by giving back to others if you can, and always remind yourself that addiction is a chronic disease; no matter how strong you feel you will never be able to have “just one.”
5. Mental or physical illness. Depression, anxiety, and other underlying mental illnesses can trigger drug or alcohol relapse. Physical illness and pain can also put you at risk for relapsing, as your body is stressed. Prescription drugs for mental and physical illnesses can be mind-altering and trigger addiction and addiction relapse. Sharing that you are in recovery with your doctor and being insistent about providing non-addictive prescription drug alternatives is important. Get treatment for any underlying mental illness and monitor your thinking and feeling with a journal to help notice when you are slipping into old patterns.
6. Social isolation. Reluctance to reach out to others, or form a sober support system through AA or another recovery group, can lead to social isolation and loneliness. The more you become socially isolated, the easier it is to rationalise drug or alcohol use to yourself. Social anxiety can also be a struggle for many recovering addicts, which is why having a counsellor or sponsor can help you avoid social isolation. Make forming a sober support network a priority in your recovery.
7. Sex and relationships. A common, but often ignored suggestion is to avoid dating in recovery for the first year. There are many reasons for this, one being that new romantic relationships can put you at risk for relapse. A break up with your new partner could lead you back to using due to emotional stress. A potential cross over from your initial addiction to a sex or love addiction; or using relationships to fill the void left by sobriety also create increased risk for relapse.  Remind yourself why it is important to avoid relationships in early recovery, and if you have more than a year of sobriety under your belt follow these tips for dating in recovery  to help make sure your transition to the dating world does not sabotage your sobriety.
8. Getting a promotion or new job. Positive life events are often overlooked as relapse triggers. Getting a promotion or new job can lead to an urge to celebrate. You may fall into the false idea that is celebrating with a drink or drug ‘just this once' will be ok. Increased income can also trigger thoughts of being able to afford your drug of choice. While a promotion or other positive event is exciting and can boost your confidence, it may also come with added responsibility, pressure, and stress. That's why it is important to make a plan for how you will celebrate without drugs or alcohol in advance of actually being in this situation.
9. Reminiscing about or glamorising past drug use. Relapse is a process. If you find yourself reminiscing about times when you used to drink or use in a way that overlooks the pain and suffering your addiction caused, this is a major red flag. Reminiscing can lead to your addictive brain taking over once again. Talking about past use can lead to thinking about future use, and quickly turn into action. If you find yourself in this pattern of reminiscing, do not ignore it! Talk to a sponsor, counsellor, or supportive friend about it — they will help remind you why you chose a life in recovery.
10. Social situations or places where drugs are available. Another one of the most common relapse triggers is putting yourself in situations where drugs and alcohol are available. It is not always so straightforward though — simply driving through an old neighbourhood or catching the smell of a pub as you walk by can be enough to trigger intense urges to use. One of the first relapse prevention plans you make should be a list of people, places, and things that are strong triggers for you personally. When doing this, think outside the obvious and ask your sponsor or counsellor for help so you're not later caught off guard by an emotion, sight or smell.

What Happens if I Relapse?

 Even with the best-laid plans to avoid relapse triggers and prevent relapse, the risk is always there. If you do get caught off guard and slip-up, it does not mean that you are a failure and doomed to drug addiction forever. Recovery is still possible, but the sooner you act after a relapse the better. Get some insight on what to do if you relapse, and remember that after a relapse you may need to attend additional drug or alcohol rehab to get back on your road to recovery.

(These articles are the sole property of “The Cabin Chiang Mai”, they are its original authors.)