I was recently asked about my recovery program, particularly my method of managing stress and worry. It is a little unorthodox so I decided to make it a little easier to understand by drawing a diagram.
Seriously though, stress and worry are often the precursors to relapse so it is unfortunate that these are also two things in which alcoholics and addicts excel. There’s an old country saying that may be true for some, “Worry is like a rocking chair–it gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” But for those of us in recovery, worry and stress actually do take us somewhere… a very bad place.
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It took me years to figure out why I could easily handle high stress work environments and difficult people, yet would become almost paralyzed with worry over some of the most insignificant and trivial matters. During my first years of sobriety I became a crossword wizard and voracious reader not because of my desire to learn, but to help sidetrack my brooding brain long enough to get some sleep. It wasn’t the external events in my life that were keeping me up at night, the culprit was instead the stress of knowing I could do something about it- but hadn’t because of fear and procrastination.
If you can’t sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there and worrying. It’s the worry that gets you, not the loss of sleep. ~ Dale Carnegie
My own program for dealing with stress became a hybrid of the serenity prayer and the 4th step. I made a list, not a moral inventory, but instead a stress inventory of all the things that bothered me. Not being one of the most spiritual people at the time, I left out the prayer part and just systematically tackled them. Those that were left over suddenly became a lot easier to accept when I knew truthfully in my heart that I had done everything in my power to mitigate the situation. In response I began sleeping without 42 across and 16 down; in fact I rarely got past a page or two of pulp fiction before I was out like a light.
I discovered another trick that has helped me to better deal with the worry of potential problems and that is to plan for the worst case scenario. I envision what is bothering me at its most traumatic conclusion, and then make a plan for handling this. In a sense, it takes the unknown fear out of the equation and replaces it with a known entity- and solution.
In summary, the best way I have found to combat stress and worry is by taking ACTION.