Recovery red flags

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Once you got sober, do the steps, take part in some therapy, go to rehab you may have thought you were ‘done’ and could just go about your life now you were ‘fixed.’
I hate to be the one to tell you…but it’s not quiet like that. From time to time you are going to get what I like to call a ‘red flag.’ And whenever you see someone waving a red flag, it means ‘danger.’

When red flags present themselves in our recovery they are indicating that we need to pay attention to something or, do something or, usually talk to someone else about how we are feeling.

All through my recovery I’ve had red flags go up from time to time. Being the recovery guru that I am, my first reaction to a recovery red flag is to always ignore them. However, they are persistent buggers, so if you ignore the first one, don’t fret, they will continue waving at the corner of your eye with increasing persistence. I may then stop and acknowledge the red flag. ‘Right, something’s up in my recovery/wellbeing,’ I’ll think to myself. Once acknowledged their urgency will diminish somewhat. Relieved, I carry on as before, and wouldn’t you know it, they come back with increased urgency. As I may have acknowledged them, but what I didn’t do, was do anything, about the danger.
On we go like this and I have discovered they will continue to wave away until I do one of two things; I can either drink to take away the increasing discomfort or do something about their cause.

The discomfort usually presents itself in my behavior and attitude. As soon as you (yes, you) start pissing me off, and I start planning how I’m going to take you down, I realize there is something wrong with me (and not you). My discomfort within myself increases, my husband can do nothing right, nothing is going to work out for me, the world continues to create new and ingenious ways to ruin my day.
I’ve been here several times in my recovery. As someone in my life always says (without fail) ‘if I’m ok with me, I don’t have to make you wrong.’
And that is the truth of it. When I am in a fit spiritual state, then what the world and its inhabitants do or say, does not affect my internal well-being. Instead I have appropriate reactions to the events that occur in my day.

Here’s what you need to know about recovery red flags:

• Don’t ignore them, your pain and discomfort is entirely in your own hands. Pay attention to their message.
• Go back to doing what has been working for you up until the red flag. What ever your method of recovery is, there would have been some basic tenets that were working for you. Do those.
• Ask for help. Once we get in that cloud of negativity and discontent we usually need a hand getting out of it.
• Be honest. The reason we ignore red flags, is we don’t want to make the changes, they are alerting us to. Usually, because we are trying to shape an outcome to what we want (or think we want).
• The reality of change is much easier than the thought of it. The outcome you were trying to create is much better if we just let go of the control and let events unfold, as they should. All our effort, instead, can go into managing our internal emotional life, as this is the only thing we do have control over.
• Once you have addressed the danger the red flags will disappear and harmony will be restored. File the lesson away, as trust me, you’ll need it again somewhere down the road.

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