Out with my puppy early this morning, I was thinking about how the expression, “One day at a time,” applies to the process of housebreaking a dog. Today I slept half an hour later than usual (until the lazy hour of 5:30 a.m.!) and woke to find that, like an addict in recovery, Eddie had slipped, breaking a streak of four days and nights clean and sober – that is, without an accident in the house. Disappointed in my dog, I was also angry at myself for letting him down by oversleeping. And he had been doing so well!
With Eddie sleeping it off under the kitchen table, I sought the support of my resident expert in recovery, my husband Peter. Peter is a substance abuse counselor who works with addicts at all stages along the recovery spectrum at a wonderful nonprofit clinic called Right Turn. He ran through a checklist that he uses in his weekly relapse prevention group. As Eddie’s sponsor, I will be discussing the following points with him to ensure that this morning’s slip does not turn into a full-blown relapse:
- Eddie needs to admit there’s a discrepancy between where he is now and where he’d like to be.
- Eddie needs to learn to recognize the uncomfortable urges that trigger bad behavior and find other, acceptable ways to cope with them.
- Eddie needs to practice impulse control.
- Eddie needs to seek peer-to-peer support to help him stay clean and to avoid dangerous influences and places where he might be tempted to slip.
- Eddie needs to stop engaging in “euphoric recall” where he romanticizes those carefree days when he gave into his impulses freely and without negative consequences.
- Eddie cannot be complacent about the progress he has made.
I’m pleased to report that, after a productive post-breakfast walk, Eddie is back on track. Now, if I could just nip him of the bad habit of chewing on his harness….One day at a time.