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.
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
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
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: "
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
I saw the bottom line: anxiety and addiction go hand in
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
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
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
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
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
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
The better shape you are in, the better
your recovery program will work for you.
Bad Idea: What you feel is what is real.
Thoughts are as important as feelings to
Bad Idea: Pain can kill you.
Pain cannot kill you. What you do about
Bad Idea: The high road to recovery is something outside
yourself, a program, a person, a book or what others think
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.