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Basic Tools To Help You Stay Sober

90 in 90. People who "keep coming back" have a much better chance of recovering. We recommend 90 meetings in 90 days; try out lots of different meetings and fellowships.
"A drug is only an arm's-length away." Slipping is really easy: a moment's inattention; wrong time, wrong place.
"A slip is the end of a process." (Also: "On the road to a slip, the first step is to get rid of your sponsor"; "A slip occurs before you pick up.")
Abstinence. We can't get high if we don't pick up that first drug or drink. We've learned that using other drugs-- alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, poppers--can lead us back to crystal meth ("tina") or into other addictions. We believe in total abstinence: Using alcohol or drugs invariably triggers our addiction.
Acceptance. "...Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change..." We can't fix everything--certainly not our addiction; we just had to calm down and accept that. And remind ourselves with the Serenity Prayer as needed.
Act as if. Also: "Fake it till you make it." Life is totally different when we're first getting sober-full of crazy feelings and fears, excitement and gratitude. When we don't know what to do in a certain situation or state of mind, we ask for a suggestion from our sponsor or another person in the program (see Suggestions). We can't "think" our way to right actions , but we can "act" our way to right thoughts. For example: Most of us had to act as if there was a Higher Power for a long time when we first entered the program.
Action. "...The courage to change the things I can." Life is a program of action; most of us started small with things like going to meetings or making our beds.
Big Book. The Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, is the basic text of recovery. Most of us read it from time to time, some of us are in study groups where we use it to work the steps.
Bookending. If we need to do something or go somewhere that may make us want to use-meet an ex, the office holiday party, a first date-many of us check in with a program friend before we go and after we're done.
Burning desires. If a meeting is ending and we have not been called on, but think we might use if we don't get a chance to share, we take the "burning desire" when it is announced. If we are still not called on, we grab someone right away after the meeting to talk.
Chips. When we were counting days, most of us raised our hands and shared our progress with the groups. Those plastic key chains we receive from various meetings as we reach new sober anniversaries are among our most valued possessions.
Choices. A recovery bookstore, Choices carries basic recovery literature: Alcoholics Anonymous (The Big Book), The 12 and 12, Living Sober, Came to Believe, Just for Today, plus Step workbooks, a full library of recovery-related literature, and chips (coins), cards and gifts. 220 West 78th Street (between 2nd and 3rd ); 212-794-3858; open Tues-Fri 11-7, Sat 11-6, Sun 12-4. Barnes & Noble (all over town) also carries a lot of program literature in its Recovery section.
Coffee. Between fellowship, meetings with friends and sponsors, and just generally showing up for life on time now that we're sober, a lot of us drink more coffee than we used to. This can make us very anxious; if we have trouble sleeping, researchers suggest avoiding caffeine within five hours of bed.
Compare and despair. We try not to compare our insides to someone else's outsides.
"Easy does it." We tried not to take on too much in early sobriety.
Feelings are not facts. Just because we feel that everyone hates us doesn't mean they do.
Fellowship. The meeting after the meeting. We go for hamburgers and coffee, discuss topics and feelings brought up by the meeting, and chit chat.
"First things first." We learned to prioritize.
"Give time time." Getting sober takes time, and we addicts tend to be impatient people.
"Go to any lengths." We did some sick stuff in our pursuit of drugs; we try to work just as hard to stay sober. If we drank or used every day, we can go meetings every day.
Good Orderly Direction. One popular conception of a Higher Power: doing the next right thing.
Group Of Drunks. Another useful concept of a Higher Power (from AA): people helping each other get and stay sober.
"Half measures availed us nothing." We have to give sobriety our all or we won't succeed.
HALT. Don't get to Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. An afternoon spent struggling with cravings can be explained with these four words. We check in on our physical and emotional condition throughout the day. Hungry? Eat regular meals at regular mealtimes. Angry? Talk about it a lot with your sponsor and others. Lonely? Go to a meeting, call someone. Tired? Take a nap, go to sleep early, schedule less. (gay version: HALTF don't get too hungry, angry, lonely, tired, or fabulous.)
HOW. Honesty, Open-mindedness and Willingness, the basic tenets behind Steps One, Two and Three. This is HOW it works: we get honest, we open our minds, and we become willing to surrender and work a program.
Just for today. We stay sober one day at a time.
"Keep it simple." Also: "Keep it simple, stupid." We tried not to do anything too drastic while we were learning how to live sober, on the proven principle that anything we put in front of our sobriety would take us back out. (See No major changes.)
Keep right size. When we are feeling really lousy--or really super--we try to keep our objectivity. Our low self-esteem and grandiosity led us into addiction in the first place.
"Keep the memory green." We must never forget that we are powerless over crystal and other drugs.
Literature. CMA is still writing its own "Big Book." But many of us found Alcoholics Anonymous, The 12 and 12, Came to Believe, Living Sober, As Bill Sees It and other AA, NA or CA literature valuable in helping us understand the program. Make your bed. This is just one example of how we take care of ourselves in small ways we couldn't when we used--we deserve a nice clean bed at night.
Meditation. We found this is not as mystical as it sounds: We just sit quietly somewhere for a few minutes and listen to our breath-- in, out, in, out, in, out... Anxiety melts away, and our Higher Power comes in.
Meetings. At meetings we share our successes and struggles, learn about the steps, explore our spirituality, make friends. We have seen how "meeting makers make it."
Naps. Coming off crystal (methylenedioxymethamphetamine) we were very, very sleepy. We weren't too hard on ourselves when we needed to lie down. Everything in moderation of course: Sleeping all the time can be a sign of depression. See Outside issues.
No major changes ... in the first year. This probably sounds impossible and even backwards-why did we get sober, after all, if it wasn't to change our lives? But the reasoning behind it is sound. During the first year, we tried not to plunge into new romances, change jobs or homes, or confront long-standing problems in our families. People said to us: Who you are will change. Who knows what you'll want in a year?
"Nonalcoholic beer is for nonalcoholics." "Near-beer" actually contains a tiny amount of alcohol. We believe we're better off finding beverages that don't remind us of alcohol.
One day at a time. It's too overwhelming to think we'll never use again; we focus on doing whatever it takes to stay clean today. We worry about tomorrow when it comes.
Outside issues. If we are depressed, we get help--therapy, group counseling, antidepressants, economic assistance.
People, places and things. We stay away from anything we identify that reminds us of using. Dealers, party/fuck buddies, friends we ran with, or others in our lives who throw off our equilibrium; bars, clubs, baths, certain streets or corners, or other places we associate with copping or using; stems, vials, lighters, cocktail glasses... There's an AA saying: "If you hang out in the barbershop, eventually you'll get a haircut."
Phone numbers. Telephone numbers are our lifeline. Members who have been around for a while are happy to share their experience, strength, hope--and time. If we want to call our dealer, we call someone from the program instead. For this reason, we always carry the numbers of friends in the program. Many of us make a habit of calling someone, our sponsor or a friend, in the program daily. As for our own phone numbers, many of us changed them to avoid getting tempting calls from dealers and using friends. (See People, places and things, Go to any lengths.) Play the tape through to the end. When a using craving starts to overwhelm us, we remember one of our last runs all the way through to the end: from the first drink to the bumps in the bathroom and crazy sex, to desperation, paranoia, STDs, hospitals, lost jobs, evictions, busted relationships-whatever brought us into the rooms. After a while, by playing the tape the whole way through whenever we get a craving, we associate using less with the thrill of escape and more with the reality of our addiction and its consequences.
Prayer. Reaching out to a higher power--whether we believe in one or not--has an incredibly calming effect on us. Many of us pray in the morning, asking for help to stay sober another day, and at night, saying a simple thank-you when we make it to bed sober.
"Principles not personalities." This means a couple of things. First, people in the fellowship may sometimes let us down; but the principles of the 12 steps never will. We never let someone else who is working our nerves keep us from seeking the recovery we deserve.
"Progress, not perfection." We try not to be so hard on ourselves. Even Bill W., the founder of AA, had problems. Shelf. As in "just put that on the shelf." We may feel we have other problems (cigarettes, debt, sexual compulsion, job problems, family issues) in addition to our addiction to crystal meth (methamphetamine), but we postpone dealing with those other problems directly for a while, until we've begun to lead a life free from crystal meth addiction. The stress of dealing with these other problems can make our recovery from addiction more difficult. Just staying sober helps most of our problems start resolving themselves; in time, when we have some recovery under our belts, we take problems off the shelf to be addressed.
Smart feet. Knowing when and where meetings are; having a usual routine; attending meetings even though we are busy, bored or don't want to be bothered, because we know its good for us. "Smart feet" is the impulse to get to a meeting whenever something happens that makes us want to use.
Spirituality. Not to be confused with religion. CMA is a spiritual program of recovery, but the spiritual path in CMA is very personal and individual. In CMA, everyone finds his own higher power and his own way of communicating with it. A lot of us find literature on this topic--from program literature to the Bible or Koran to the writings of Carl Jung or William James--helpful. (See Meditation, Prayer.)
Sponsors. A sponsor is another recovering addict, with a year or more of clean time, who helps mentor us in our recovery.
Steps. There are 12 of them, and they work. The process of self-discovery they describe unfolds organically the longer you stay sober, but it's best to really work on them--with a sponsor. Everyone works the steps in his own way, at his own pace. The only step we have to work perfectly is Step One.
"Stick with the winners." We try to hang out with people who have good attitudes and some clean and sober time in the program.
Suggestions. Most of us needed a lot of humility to come to our first CMA meeting. Admitting that we don't have the answers to our difficulties, as hard as it is, is the source of our serenity. (See Surrender.) People in CMA and other fellowships often offer us feedback. Whatever we may think of them and their "advice," however much we might not want feedback, we have to remember that they wouldn't be telling us something that didn't work for them.
Surrender. Also, "Surrender to win." This is the core of the program; it's really explored in Step Three. Surrender is not defeat, it's joining the winning side. Basically, we are willing to try some other way-ours wasn't getting us anywhere.
"Take what you can use and leave the rest." If a suggestion or concept is confusing or seems contradictory, we set it aside until we are ready. We try not to complicate our programs unnecessarily. (See Shelf.
Traditions. There are 12 of these, too. The code of conduct for the organization, they are the principles that guide CMA meetings and the group as a whole. (See Principles not personalities.)
Triggers. People, places and things that remind us of using, and anything else--a fight, depression, being hungry, angry, lonely and/or tired--that upsets our equilibrium enough to make us want to use.
We are not professionals. We are not doctors. Therefore, we seek professional help for physical or mental problems such as depression or mania; financial counseling; or job training. (See Outside issues.)
"We are only as sick as our secrets." Openness takes the toxic strength out of shame. If something is eating away at us, we share about it at meetings and with our sponsor.
Yets. These are things we have yet to do but that, knowing the way our minds work, we might encounter on our next relapse-smoking, shooting up, heroin, crack, prostitution, jail, homelessness. Addiction is a progressive disease; if we go out, it will most likely be worse next time.


Many of us found these little nuggets irritating, smug or worse. But over time, we learned they work. Why? They are simple truths.
Acceptance is the key...But for the grace of God...Dating is pouring Miracle Gro on my character defects... Don't drink and go to meetings...Don't quit before the miracle happens...Everything in God's time...Expectation is premeditated resentment...Unrealistic expectations inevitably lead to disappointments...Happiness is appreciating what you have, not getting what you want...Help yourself by helping others...I may not be where I want to be, but I certainly am not where I was…..I shall pray as if everything depends on God; I shall work as if everything depends on me….. If I keep doing what I always did I'll keep getting what I always got…..If nothing changes, nothing changes….. If we keep one foot in yesterday and one foot on tomorrow, we're pissing on today…..In order to keep it, you have to give it away…..Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results…..It's the first bump that gets you high…..Keep an open mind…..Keep the focus on yourself…..Let go, let God…..Live and let live…..Live for today, tomorrow never comes…..Live in the now……May you be blessed with a slow recovery…..Meetings are not enough….. My best thinking got me high…..Nothing is so bad that a drug won't make it worse…..Pass it on…..Pick up the telephone before you pick up a drink...Plan, don't project (In the words of Bill W., "The worst things I every lived through never happened.")...Relapse is not a requirement...Stopping drinking is easy, it's staying stopped that's hard... Take an action, then let go of the results...The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off...Think think think... Think the drug through (to the unpleasant end)...This, too, shall pass...Time heals all things...We'll lose anything we put in front of our sobriety...Willingness is the key...You can't save your face and your ass at the same time.