Relapse In the Face of Major Life Change: Prevention Strategies

We live in rapidly changing times. The beginning of this decade and century has brought many sudden, sometimes devastating crises to which we’ve had to respond instantly. Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, the earthquake in Haiti and Wall Street quaking all came, seemingly without warning. And it is predicted that we will continue to see devastating collective happenings, such as climate catastrophes and economic contractions (economists predict until 2011).

On a more personal level, there are also massive LifeQuakes that many of us are experiencing. Given this, it is no wonder that addiction, in all its manifestations, continues to skyrocket. But these seemingly catastrophic events can be a guise for something better. Through the eyes of evolution-oriented psychotherapy, it can be seen as part of a vast evolutionary shift.

Fear has always been an adaptive, evolutionary mechanism for getting our adrenaline pumping. But survival of the fittest no longer indicates who can outrun nature’s predators. Today’s survivors are those who can maintain grace under fire. For the addict, who often comes with a rigid personality structure, learning to adapt to these times of personal and global upheaval without relapsing is the true challenge.

Part of responding to crisis without hysteria is preparation. It is actually possible to intuit the signs that radical change is coming—if people in aboriginal tribes can have this instinctual nature, so can we. In fact, there are documented instances of people who intuited not to get on United flight 93 on 9/11, who sold their home before the 1994 Northridge earthquake, and who got out of the stock market shortly before September 2008.

The key to preparing for change depends on a new belief that change is gain, as opposed to loss. When you choose to change the negative association with change, you are more apt to listen for the signs that a cycle is completing and change is coming, even if you don’t know what that specific change needs to be.

In your childhood, if change always brought crisis or pain, you may have a deep subconscious resistance to major transitions and turn to addiction to cope. The irony is that if you hold onto the belief that change will be negative, it can become a self-fulfilling prophesy. If your coping strategy for adapting to change is to avoid the warning signs by numbing yourself through substances or other distractions, you actually create crisis-driven transition. Even for those who are going to meetings and are not actively using, there are other subtle ways of avoiding dealing with the fear of change. A slew of parking tickets may be a wake-up call that you are over-parked in your life. If ignored, a major accident could be around the corner.

One technique to begin to transform the fear of change is to spend a few minutes every day with your eyes closed. Ask yourself, “Is there some area of my life that has become defunct, no longer functioning for my greater good?” It could be your job responsibilities, the form of exercise you do or even your sex life.

Now focus inward toward your body.

When you think about changing that routine, what feelings surface? Where are those feelings located in your body? Now, take five minutes to simply breathe into it by placing your left hand (this is governed by the side of the brain that elicits our intuitive, creative self) directly over this area. Allow your hand to get warmer. Now send an intention of unconditional love into your hand. Think about all the times you have used your hands to express love toward family members or a pet, and then transfer that same feeling of complete acceptance you have toward others you love to the place in your body where you hold the fear of change. Love the fear as it is by directing energy through your hand as you would if you were reassuring a wounded pet. End this practice by repeating to yourself, “I am safe and secure. Change now brings me gain.”

Allow yourself to either visualize or feel into your body a future life in which this change has brought peace and in which you are thriving. The key is to practice experiencing feeling the inner security of moving through change completely supported emotionally, physically, and financially, so that you can thrive after the change comes. To reprogram your body to do this, repeat this exercise as often as you feel the fear arise—for as long as several weeks—until there is no more negative charge associated with making a life change.

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