Always plan and make your exit strategy when you are free from stress, and of course clean and sober. It is strongly ill advised to plan ahead instead of when you are already in a crisis as this can be the worst time to be reasonable and rational.
Maybe by this time you have already detoxed and are in treatment; or perhaps you have started your solo journey into sobriety and are brushing up on strategies to maintain it. Whatever the case may be, chances are you have peers, therapists, and psychologists who can help support your journey and plan out your exit plan. Utilizing these resources your exit strategy can be thoroughly thought out and well formed.
What is an Exit Plan?
Exit Plans are often a 3-step approach for escaping a potential relapse. This situation are often triggered by a person, environment, or circumstance. These triggers often make you feel uneasy and therefore move you to want to use.
Exit plans help you overcome these obstacles through preparation. By knowing the quick and decisive steps to take, you can effectively remove yourself from the situation that compromises your sobriety. Chances are, your sponsor or sober friend have made escape plans too. Ask them how they approached theirs. Here’s an effective but basic format for a three-step exit plan.
- Step Away!
The first step is always removing yourself from the person or situation. You don’t have to announce this or tell anyone why you are leaving, you can just leave quietly. If someone asks why you are leaving, just say something like, “I just need a moment.”
When going to events where alcohol is served, it is always advised to have an exit strategy. One thing to make this easier is having a confidant who you trust that can help cover for you once you’re gone. Having a trusted friend in these situations also helps maintain your accountability during these events.
- Ask For Help
The next step is calling someone who understands you and your recovery. This is often a sponsor, but can also be anyone who you know will put your sobriety first. Stay on the phone with this individual until you are out of harm’s way much like calling 9-1-1 and having the operator walk you through the necessary steps to safety.
- Go Somewhere Safe
Going somewhere safe is always a good option. This can be right after you leave the situation or while you are on the phone with your sponsor. Many people in recovery will often try to find a support group to lean on during these times. Group members, whether you know them or not, will offer genuine support and safety.
You can also go home if that is your safe space. However, try to maintain socialisation with someone like your sponsor or a friend; or even better, have someone come over. Being alone during these times of stress can be just as dangerous. But, as a last resort, immerse yourself in a movie so as not to fester mentally on the event.
Do Not Attach Emotions to Your Plan
Ending up in an uncomfortable scenario is inevitable. Waiting for these moments to plan an exit strategy is not smart. You will be emotional and therefore slightly irrational. You do not need emotions clouding your judgment during an emergency.
For this reason, have specific steps planned out. For example, have your sponsor on speed dial. Have your safe space mapped out. If you are on vacation, plan ahead of time to pinpoint where this might be. We often have a false sense of security when going on vacation, believing they will be 100% carefree, but as we all know, this isn’t always the case. For this reason, always plan your exit strategy prior to leaving.
What Can I Control?
Thankfully, when you are sober you can control much more than when you are intoxicated. You are able to drive, you are able to speak and communicate your thoughts and feelings better. Creating your exit strategy after a relapse is almost impossible, however if you are able to do so then do it. Minimizing the effects of a relapse is important as this can determine how long this relapse lasts.
It is important to note that this exit strategy does not necessarily mean being happy while doing it. It can and will be stressful. Prepare for these emotions. However, always keep in mind your sobriety. No matter the repercussions of leaving of upsetting someone, it does not compare to restarting all your hard work you’ve made to find your recovery.