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Paul W. Anderson, Ph.D.
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If you're in recovery from addiction, you know that relapse can hit you randomly, and unexpectedly, seemingly for no apparent reason. Relapse can attack and ruin your recovery like the bullets from a drive-by shooting.  
For twenty years I have worked with people in their struggles to deal with alcoholism and other addictions. The biggest problem has not been getting them sober. The toughest goal to achieve is relapse prevention. Fifty percent of all people who attempt recovery from addictive behavior relapse. How do you sustain sobriety?

Here's what often happens: one day you make a break for recovery. you stop your addictive behavior of choice and make progress with sobriety. Life begins to gain some sanity. Recovery seems possible. Day by day, whatever it takes, you do it, meetings, getting a sponsor, counseling, self-help books, and even treatment.

Even though you keep plugging away at your recovery plan, you notice things around you are shifting. People you care about resist relating to the new, sober you. They don't take you seriously about this recovery stuff and begin to innocently offer you your addiction of choice. Your kid says you lost the right to have authority over him when you were using. Your spouse says he or she like you better the way you used to be, drinking or using. You've lost the old people and places and have not yet replaced them. Loneliness, self-doubt, confusion, craving and stress repossess you.

Then it happens. When you least expect it, relapse bullets come straight at you and you have no protection. You relapse or change to another addiction. Perhaps you stop the addictive behavior once again, buy your recovery is hollow, white-knuckle sobriety. You worry when you will lose sobriety; you wonder where is the joy and serenity you had been promised? Dodging relapse bullets can be exhausting and self-destructive. You need a bulletproof way to stay with recovery and prevent relapse.

Addiction Lives In the Lives of People Who Take Poor Care of Themselves
"How do you sustain sobriety?" To find the answer, I went back to basic questions about addiction. "What do people get out of addiction? What are they trying to do for themselves when they drink or use or addict in whatever way?" Answer: " They feel better, if only for a short time. And "What makes them feel bad in the first place?" The stress of living. "What happens to people under stress?" Answer: People become anxious.

I saw the bottom line: anxiety and addiction go hand in hand. Addictive behaviors come into your life when you do things that make you feel better, but do not reduce your anxiety. There is nothing wrong with trying to feel better. People always drink or addict for good reasons, in that they are trying to feel better and deal with stress. Addiction comes from trying to deal with anxiety in ineffectual ways. Most of us have not realized that anxiety is the real culprit. Neither have we been taught how to take care of anxiety head on.

I found two kinds of anxiety: acute and chronic. Acute anxiety is occasional. It's what happens when you see a lion in the road. A problem presents itself. You deal with it and our anxiety goes back down. Chronic anxiety is always present. Its high and stays high, giving rise to a life-style of chaos and perpetual intensity. You are born into it and you swim in it. Because you are already in a state of high anxiety, when you see a lion in the road, the anxiety spikes off your already high chronic level.

"What does anxiety do to people?" At first, it increases certain physiological conditions such as heart rate, adrenaline level, blood pressure and blood flow. If the anxiety level goes higher, eventually it shuts down problem solving ability. The thinking side of the brain under-functions. Poor decisions are made. Later, when the anxiety subsides, you ask, "What was I thinking when I did that?" You weren't thinking, you couldn't. That's the problem with high anxiety. It compounds and complicates already complicated, difficult life situations. Now, you really want relief, quick!"

Neediness and depletion feed high levels of chronic anxiety. If you are chronically anxious, you do not take good care of yourself. As a result, survival is constantly threatened. When survival is threatened, you get anxious. Chronic, high anxiety is created and maintained by a lifestyle of poor self-care.

Feeling bad is a daily fact if you are stuck in chronic anxiety. The bad feeling may not register consciously. It is embedded in your lifestyle and you are accustomed to feeling this way. To be able to cope and function, you will likely form addictive patterns in your life around substances and activities that give you relief from the anxiety and bad feelings.

I came to this conclusion: poor levels of self-care result in chronic, high levels of need and in turn, chronic, high anxiety. Ultimately, the anxiety feeds addiction. The person whose needs are met and is well cared for is going to be in better shape than the person who is not taking good care of self.

If you are having trouble maintaining solid, lasting sobriety, you are not in good shape. You have high levels of unmet needs and, as a result, you are not managing your anxiety. You are feeding an addition and giving it strength with your anxiety, the very thing you use the addiction to try to take care of.

I began working with clients with this premise in mind: if you focus on self and put daily self-care foremost, the addiction(s) will automatically dissolve and stay dormant. This is the path of least resistance to solid recovery. With regular self-care, your life will not produce enough consistent anxiety to feed a full-grown addiction. The addiction gets starved into a weakened condition and can no longer run your life. This is effective and efficient relapse prevention. This is whole living. This is abundant recovery. This is the healthy and successful lifestyle you crave and deserve.

Despite such a simple and effective idea, the old, bad ideas in the minds of my clients did not simply move over and give way to self-care. To deal with this, I developed a system of therapy and training that shielded them from relapse bullets. This program exterminated bad ideas and gave Bulletproof Recovery ideas space to grow.

This book gives you that system of thought and practice. It is simple and straightforward. "Bulletproof Recovery" presents the sequence of ideas and actions you need to quickly and efficiently achieve relapse-free recovery.

Bulletproof Ideas Save Lives
Eventually, I realized that bad ideas were killing good people. Not because ideas kill, but because bad ideas die hard and these ides form the hot beds for addictions to thrive. Most people do not realize they have killer ideas floating around in the sea of their emotional and conceptual functioning. However, if you attempt recovery from addiction and achieve sobriety, you will eventually deal with these bad ideas.

Before you start on the path of least resistance to lasting Bulletproof Recovery, let me give you some examples of Bulletproof thinking that can counteract "bad ideas."

Bad Idea:
Staying sober has little to do with the shape you or your life is in. Just use your program and you will be okay.

Bulletproof Idea: The better shape you are in, the better your recovery program will work for  you.

Bad Idea: What you feel is what is real.

Bulletproof Idea: Thoughts are as important as feelings to sustain recovery.

Bad Idea: Pain can kill you.

Bulletproof Idea: Pain cannot kill you. What you do about pain can.

Bad Idea: The high road to recovery is something outside yourself, a program, a person, a book or what others think of you.

Bulletproof Idea: Your thoughts and actions feed you, not what you get from others.

There are many bad ideas that need to die so sobriety can live. Stay awake as you read. Be willing to let your thinking change. Use the pages that follow to bring lasting, addiction free recovery into your life.


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