dead drunkFor writers, recovery is harder than with other creative professionals, dancers, actors, rock musicians; and in another category… agents.

Why? Because, all those performers and cut-throat business people, they’re on view every day, doing their work. Writers, on the other hand, can write in the privacy of their own homes, stoned, drunk or both. Nobody will be the wiser.

Reaching the decision to quit drinking or using drugs is the most important step in the process of recovery. If you’ve reached this decision and have time, you might need to be treated in a residential rehab for anywhere from 28 to 90 days.

Success in treatment involves developing a new way of life, with sober friends and supporters. It also involves getting to the cause of the addiction, in psychological terms, and work towards removing that cause as a reason to self-medicate.

You’ll have to develop healthy ways of managing stress in this new way of life. If writing is a trigger, as it is for perfectionists, for example, getting sober will be a more difficult task.

With perfectionism, the writer can’t stand to see a rough first draft, even though it’s necessary, so he self-medicates, and suddenly, the writing is not so painful.

The more positive influences in your life, the easier it’ll be to quit. That means a supportive family, a supportive spouse, especially, and hopefully a 12 Step group with a sponsor you can call 24/7. You’re better off not being around old friends who still drink or use drugs, especially at first.

Conditions such as stress, isolation, frustration, anger, shame, anxiety and hopelessness will remain in your life even when you’re not using the drugs to cover them up. You’ll have to process these emotions without a crutch.

Having a 12 Step group and a therapist to guide you through the 12 Steps will be your best approach. Yoga, yoga-breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness, and meditation will also be essential in coping with stressful emotions, now that drinking or drugs is not an option.  You have to relax without a pill, or a drink.

When cravings occur, it will help to redirect thoughts and take part in distracting activities, such as hobbies, reading, movies, jogging or biking, and calling your sponsor.

You’ll have to stay with the craving until it goes away, sometimes called “urge-surfing.” You’ll have to put thought stopping and redirecting to the test. You’ll need structure, hopefully a job, or exercise, and meaningful goals, which will eventually replace substance abuse in your life.

Most difficult, if you were drinking or using to get through a first draft, you’ll have to learn other, safer rituals to replace drugs and alcohol.

Relaxation, thought-stopping and redirecting, and even urine testing,  are some of the tools a therapist will need to help you manage stress and maintain a lengthy and prosperous career, while remaining sober.

The “maintenance phase” of recovery is a time of practicing, how not to relapse, or what to do if you do relapse. Relapses are triggered by negative emotional states, physical discomfort, even positive emotions with a sense of “celebration,” strong cravings, conflict with others, social (peer) pressure (being at a party where others are drinking), and celebrations where others are drinking, but you can’t.

Obviously, between isolation, deadlines, rejection and addiction, some problems are much worse than others. However, coping with these problems will generally involve re-thinking your lifestyle, and finding ways to cope with stress in new and healthy ways.

If you’re struggling to stop using drugs or alcohol, and have hit a wall, feel free to call  310-850-4707  for a free phone consult from a therapist and a veteran screenwriter.  

Image credit: Creative Commons The Bottle (45th/52),  2008, by Alexandre Normand is licensed under CC By 2.0