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Connecting Intention & Action in Addiction Recovery

One of the most difficult parts of addiction recovery is handling the disconnect between intentions and actions. You may have no intention whatsoever of using or drinking because you know the consequences, but you find yourself spending your paycheck on drugs or alcohol and relapsing. How did you get here when you so much did not want this to happen?

Relapsing does not mean that working a program is ineffective and that you have failed; it means that you need to be aware of how your intentions and actions relate and how to better inform the decisions you make and actions that you ultimately take. You may need to modify your relapse prevention plan going forward and/or make other lifestyle changes, but when you fear that relapse is truly imminent and that your intentions have become misguided, there are several things that you can do.

Don’t panic. Thinking about relapsing does not mean that you are going to take action. There is a lot that can take place between point A and point B, so don’t let yourself be consumed by fear and all the “what if”s. Understand the difference between a thought and an intention; an intention is something that you plan (intend) to carry out. For example, thinking about getting high is not the same as intending to get high by mapping out where and when you are going to buy drugs.

Tell someone. Cravings are a part of addiction recovery, so don’t feel guilt or shame over the idea of telling someone about what you’re going through. Let your sponsor, or someone you trust and who can help you, know the thoughts that you are having as soon as you can to keep them from snowballing into action. Be honest, too; don’t downplay the situation or leave out important details for fear of judgment.

Write it down. If you have thoughts of relapse and are not comfortable telling someone right away, write them down. What were you thinking of doing? When? Why? Seeing your ideas on paper, in front of you, can help you to see distorted thoughts and make sense of what you’re feeling. It can also discourage you from relapsing because you are able to better map out how doing so would harm you.

Once you’ve identified and moved past negative intentions, acting on positive ones is your next step.

Revisit your goals. Are the goals you made when you began addiction recovery still reasonable and attainable right now? Do they still fit your lifestyle and objectives? If so, how can you meet them? Determine what action(s) you can take right now. If your goals no longer align with your vision, modify them or set new ones.

Tend to the positive relationships in your life. Distance yourself from toxic people who are not benefiting your recovery and mental health, and instead focus on healthy, positive relationships. The people you want in your life are people who care about you and who will support your addiction recovery and encourage you along your path to sobriety. Don’t put time into a relationship that is harmful to you and does not support the life you envision for yourself.

Spending time with people you love and who love you will help you put your intentions into perspective.

Bridging the gap between intentions and action may appear daunting, but it is possible. You are stronger than you think you are.

If you or a loved one has a substance use disorder and is looking for a Puget Sound recovery center, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. Royal Life Centers at Puget Sound is a detox and inpatient treatment facility treating dependence on alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine, benzodiazepines, and opioids. Our admissions team is available 24/7 at (877)-RECOVER to provide support and answer any questions about our programs.

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