Be Like a Fire Fighter
Like many people, I've been thinking
about fire fighters quite a lot lately. I realized that those of us
in recovery have something very important to learn from fire
fighters as we fight the fires of our addictions. Fire fighters do
an amazing thing. They run into burning buildings when everyone else
is running away. And how do they do that? They drill and drill and
drill. Fire fighters practice and rehearse until it becomes natural
to respond in a way that seems most unnatural.
As addicts, it is important that we drill - practice our intervention
behavior again and again - so that when the time and need arrive, we are
prepared to act in healthy, safe, and self-protective ways. Here's one way to
Take some time and sit quietly. Recall your personal list of high-risk
situations. Those, of course, are circumstances when you know you are likely to
act out. That may be time at home and alone, driving by a sex business or the
corner where sex-workers congregate, buying something from a store where you see
pornography for sale, receiving an email advertisement from a sex site, or
whatever triggers you. Close you eyes and imagine yourself in a risky situation.
Imagine that you are triggered. Imagine that the glow has begun and that your
thinking is becoming warped.
Then stop. Open your eyes and look at something real and important in your
environment - something you stand to lose if you resume your addiction. That may
be a photograph of your life partner or children, the brief case that holds your
work, a religious text important to you; it doesn't matter what you use to
remind yourself of your path of recovery so long as it works and is something
real and important. This is to orient you back to recovery.
Now decide what you really want to do for yourself in that situation. Think
it through step by step. Don't gloss over anything. Make notes if that helps.
Think about it in such detail that you could direct a scene in a movie from the
script you are writing for yourself. When you are sure you have enough detail
and can remember the intervention, close your eyes and return to imagining the
triggering situation. This time put your intervention in place. Imagine carrying
through the steps that keep you safely on the path of recovery. Really see the
scene unfold in your mind. When you have finished, pay particular attention to
how you feel emotionally and physically. Compare those feelings and sensations
to how you would have felt after acting out.
Based on your list of triggers, work up intervention scripts for each
situation until you have them clearly memorized - Practice until you know your
personal interventions as well as you know your telephone number or mother's
maiden name. When you have these well memorized, continue to practice them when
you drive, wait at the doctor's office, and else where.
Be mindful that your addict may try to interfere with this exercise. Your
addict may try to convince you that you already know how to avoid acting out or
that if you think about the intervention superficially, you are ready. Your
addict has a different agenda. Your addict lies to you about your own
psychology. You would not prepare for an exam or a presentation or any other
important life activity so lightly. Your sobriety deserves careful preparation
Be like a fire fighter - prepared to rescue yourself.
(With Thanks to Richard B.)