Putting Drama in Recovery into Focus

In recovery there seems to be an inescapable need to stress about life. Like the temptation to drink, pop a pill, sniff a line, smoke, steal, obsess about money, whatever, the need to create drama is constant.

At first these are obvious stressors and triggers, like pending court cases or current friends and family members who may be bad influences. A lover still caught in the bottle can be a major trigger when you’re trying to leave it all behind. The possibility of getting sentenced to lengthy jail or prison sentences is an understandable stressor. But managing a Mercedes-Benz car payment or figuring out a way to finance a vacation?

Not so much.

Except it is, because in recovery whatever your circumstances, drama is a must. It is a zero-sum game of constantly managing the overblown life events that used to lead to substance abuse. No matter how lovely life is, there is an insatiable need for addicts to stir the pot, mix things up, basically just start stuff.

Like the urban poet (ok, rapper!) Lil’ Jon once sang:

“Don’t start no shit, won’t be no shit.”

Except nobody listens to these simple, prophetic words. So when life in recovery gets too good, when the problems reach a level that would make an addicted version of yourself hate the current version for being so superficial and meaningless, that’s when a drink sounds best. That’s when you start shit. And when your brain starts shit, there will most assuredly be shit.

Self-doubt and negative self-talk take countless addicts down a slippery slop that ultimately, based on every measurable analysis, leads most to relapse.

Led me to relapse, many times. Life is easier to manage when the goal is to stay warm during the Midwest winter, eat, find a job, and meet with a probation officer. Do this, do that, or else.

Let that law and order dwindle and what’s left is the same addicted person with a new set of life issues to handle. Attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and have a cigarette afterward, sit back and listen to the conversations.

Either life and death, or laughable.

Because satisfaction comes from a deeper place than simple sobriety affords, and taking a moment every day to recognize this is the only way to keep sex, drugs and alcohol from glowing with temptation. Find that place of peace, serenity, take a moment to relax and isolate the trigger, put it in perspective, think back to when stealing a bottle of mouthwash was the answer. Is that spat with a coworker really that important? Is it worth leaving a person because they let dishes pile up in the sink or forget to put the toilet seat down? Is it reasonable to allow negativity to boil to the surface and dictate your mental state over what is objectively not a big deal?

Managing this innate urge to create drama by putting recovery in perspective, by remembering rock-bottom, is one of the most helpful tools in preventing the ever-revolving dramatic door from smacking you in the ass when you step out for the day.

Find a place with a view. Chill. Listen to music. Text a friend. Call a sponsor. Read a daily meditation. Exercise.

Whatever is needed, taking that moment to put current life stressors in perspective with how it used to be, how it is for those still suffering, can help diminish the need to live with drama and turn each day into one focused on improvement and happiness, not petty anger and excuses to get wasted again.