Sunday, March 11, 2018

Taking Advocacy On The Road

This week, I will be taking the Harm Reduction show on the road. I am headed to Washington DC to meet with some policy makers and criminal justice folks. Then I have back to back presentations in Boston Mass. The first is to students in medical residency and the second is to students at a University. It will be a brutal couple of days for me travel wise but I have a few days of vacation on the backend. I am pretty burnt out, behind on care packages, the usual. A few days away will be good for me though I am going to really miss my kids. 

My presentations are really going to focus around YOU and what you need. Please feel free to send me comments etc. through my email or reddit. 

I realized the other day I have spent the past six years being the confidant for a group of people who use drugs. I know more about some of you than people I see in my daily life. I appreciate you and your level on honesty. 

Below is something I wrote recently about relapse which you may or may not have seen. I have been writing articles lately to earn some extra money. I am including it in case you didn't see it:

Recovery is a Marathon, Not a Sprint.
When I started my process of recovery, my life was focused around the absence of pain. If only I could stop feeling this way...but how? I knew I wanted to stop using drugs and alcohol, I had no idea how to make this happen. I tried ten other times until on time number eleven, things started to fall into place. That was nearly twenty years ago. There were many relapses that I turned into learning experiences. That accumulated knowledge of what worked and what did not work for me was eventually translated into a program of long lasting recovery. Recovery is a marathon not a sprint. While not welcomed, relapses shouldn’t be treated as a dead end. They are an opportunity for self examination and course correction.
Statistically, we are at highest risk for overdose death when we have had periods of abstinence. This includes periods of incarceration, trips to rehab, after an extended hospital stay, or voluntary attempts to curb use. When we have had a period where we have been “clean” or “sober”, the expectations around us reach new levels. Our loved ones embrace us tightly. The pressure slowly mounts to regain responsibilities. Suddenly, our fragile grasp seems to slip- we are ashamed to admit to cravings. It doesn’t matter if it is a good bad or a bad day. Our relationship to drugs has become so complicated, a simple memory can set our mental wheels turning. We are told we should be feeling “grateful” when,in fact, we may be feeling isolated. It is easy to fall back into that groove of self medication. Relapse can be a sole event or an extended incident. No matter what the circumstances of a relapse, the most important thing we can do is protect our health and safety by practicing harm reduction.
Leaving a relationship with drugs and alcohol is like leaving any abusive relationship- it may take multiple tries until we finally leave the. It is okay to admit that for awhile, these substances feel good. Until they don’t. When we finally decide to get into the process known as recovery, one of the most challenging hurdles may be rebounding after a relapse. If we have spent months, years, or even decades using drugs and alcohol to solve our problems, it is entirely rational that in times of emotional upheaval, we would return to our old solutions. We used when we were sad, happy, angry, lonely, and every place in between. Health behavior changes are hard. Like the diabetic who may have issues resisting sweets or the asthmatic who craves a cigarette, a person with addiction issues deals with significant temptation on a daily basis.
Your first thought after a relapse might be to think “I’ve thrown it all away!” Don’t get stuck in this trap. You still have retained all the accumulated knowledge, you just need to create a new situation in which to apply it.  Don’t let yourself get pulled into the cycle of guilt and shame. First of all, guilt and shame are useless emotions in this situation. Shame is fuel for the process of cutting off your support system. Guilt breeds the desire to keep drinking or using drugs. You had 98 days sober and relapsed? That means in 99 days, you used one day? You have 98 days worth of experience to draw on. You can start from today.Ask yourself- What can you do differently? What worked for you? What are my goals? What are the things that really make you want to change? Make a list. This is a time for action.Whatever your program of recovery, the tools are inside you. Tap into those.
A relapse does not have have to end the journey. This can be a new beginning. Learn from this experience and move forward.






2 comments:

  1. I appreciate you Tracey, more than you'll ever know.
    Keep up the amazing work you do, you are truly heaven sent.
    Thank you.

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  2. Thank you so much for saying this Tracey. I've been saying a slip is NOT a fall and that it doesn't have to be the end but the beginning of a new understanding for years. I'm happy to hear an expert say the same.

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