Tips to Quit Drug Abuse for Atheists and Agnostics

1) Steady does it. The program’s not a race. First get through the withdrawals without a relapse. It helps to build strong foundations by repeating the first three steps, round and round, in the beginning. The self-improvement steps come later.

2) Put beating drugs above all else. Issues like smoking and overeating on one hand or over-exercising on the other can be addressed later. Smoke more. Eat more. Swim a mile every day before breakfast. No user punched someone close to them under the influence of a cigarette, a biscuit, or the buzz from a mile a day in the pool. It’s important initially to treat your prime addiction. If there are multiple addictions, secondary ones can be dealt with as part of the main problem. This is the addiction that all the others flow from. If scoring drugs is top of mind and all the other (by this stage illusory) pleasures stem from that, then drugs are the prime problem. If other addictions are completely absent then you are lucky. It is common for addicts to have many other vices due to an addictive personality. A clinic joke is that you go in with one addiction and come out with 10. Bear in mind that a surprising number of drug users eventually discover that alcohol was their prime addiction. Addicts on a program should not substitute a “lesser” drug for the main one or something they argue they’re not addicted to, because it will weaken their resolve to stay off their prime substance. This is only a cycle of denial that delays the inevitable need to face up to the problem and quit totally. (The only exception to this is prescribed medication to help taper off in the first few days.)

3) Challenge cravings. In your head, tell them to eff off. Or a thought will be lodged that will turn into a real drug instead of the idea of one. Not immediately but maybe many days later you will find yourself relapsing.

4) Play the DVD all the way through. If the scene setter pops into your head uninvited – scoring, using, buying sex – don’t stop there. How many hits will you have? What trouble will occur? What harm will be inflicted on yourself and close ones? How few miserable months before you’re dead in a ditch?

5) Stay away from people, places and things that were part of your drug habit. Avoid unnecessary triggers initially until you’re sure you won’t react to them in the old way. If you belonged to a group or gang with a drugging culture it is best to stop associating with former fellows. There is no longer any reason to visit their favourite places. Mentioning mental sickness should cut short questioning by former acquaintances. If “I’ve changed” doesn’t stop the pestering, saying: “It was making me mad, I’m getting a cure” may work. Get away from people like this unless they want help themselves.

6) If you feel you must attend a stressful occasion, perhaps a party in your honor if you have just left prison for instance, where there will be using and/or you know you will feel uncomfortable, don’t stay any longer than you absolutely have to. Make a provisional escape plan in any case. You should have contact details for a taxi or a friend if needed. In a pub situation, my first sponsor advised me always to buy the first round including my Coca Cola Zero and slip away as soon as I liked. Usually no one remembers when we left, just that we bought a round, and if someone presses you to use it is a sign that they could have our disease, too.

7) Don’t get bored. NA meetings only take up a limited time. Try the cinema, evening classes, the gym or swimming, for example. Make a list of activities and see which you like. If you are shy, amateur dramatics is a possibility, for example.

8) Avoid major changes in the first two years, if possible, such as divorce, moving house, changing jobs, or a new partner. The stress involved can break one’s concentration on tackling the withdrawals.

9) No excuse justifies a relapse. Anything you could do with the aid of drugs, you can do without. Is someone offering you a hit? No excuse, walk away. Do you feel like celebrating? Have you had a disappointment? Do you want a lift? Are you too high? Do you want oblivion? There is no good reason for taking a hit. Resist buddying up with a pal where two of you stop together. If one relapses it increases the chances that the other one will too. You have to do it yourself, but you don’t have to do it alone because there are other NA members.

10) Quit drugs, attend NA meetings and, in between, stay in close contact with other NA members.