Alison's Insights

Making Sense of Addiction Recovery in Midlife One Slow Deep Breath at a Time

Play the Tape All the Way Through

You know those times when someone does something that leaves you feeling inconvenienced or insulted in some way?  You know how much you want to launch a verbal missile at the person in retaliation?  I’ll bet you know exactly what those words (and body language) would be.  I sure know mine!

Oh yes, there is gratification in going through the actual execution and then seeing the “hit” when the words (and body language) are received by the offender.  No doubt our intense need to put someone in their place would be fulfilled.  However, it’s usually not a bad idea to think about what happens after that.

Most times, here’s what probably WON’T happen.  The offender won’t fall to their knees begging for your forgiveness.  What probably will  happen is the offender will react defensively and the minor situation will escalate into something beyond recognition of sanity.

So, what might help in this type of situation is to take a few seconds and play the tape all the way through.  Meaning, take a few seconds to think through what you really want to do, how it will probably be received and then ask yourself, it is worth it?  Most times you’ll think it isn’t, you’ll brush it off and move along with your day.

This is exactly the same sage advice I was given and I, in turn give, when it comes to preventing a relapse in recovery.

In those early days when I got home from treatment, the desire to drink and/or to step on the scale was extraordinarily strong.  I was still mentally and physically addicted.  You see a treatment center doesn’t “cure” anyone.  A residential treatment center allows us to get ourselves physically healthy and to secure a relatively firm foundation into what recovery is all about.  Ultimately, we leave with a lot of recommendations for what our next right step needs to be.

For me, I found that return home was when the real work began.  Nothing changed in my house, in our neighborhood or for anyone else other than me.  Therefore, every single solitary possible opportunity to relapse was right at my fingertips.  What was also there was my willingness to do whatever it took to change and move forward in recovery.

Thank God I have a very wise sponsor who stood in my shoes at one point.  Her clear, yet firm, advice to me from the first day I got home was, “Alison, if you feel the need to act on a desire, call me first.  If you find you can’t do that, do me a favor, play the tape all the way through.”

I had no idea what she meant.

So she explained in very specific detail how to literally think through what it would look like if I took a drink or stepped back onto the scale.  She reminded me of those good friends, guilt, shame and remorse.  She suggested I recall in my mind what my husband’s face would look like if he found out.  She asked me to think through what the “morning after” mental beat down I’d give myself would sound like.  She was essentially planting the idea in my head that I reconsider the living hell I was working so hard to NEVER return to.

After a few opportunities to put this advice into action, I can tell you, without any hesitancy, chosing that short-term “fix” by way of a drink or checking the number on a scale is not worth it.

So, here’s my advice, before you launch a verbal missile, pick up the phone to call that old boyfriend who broke your heart or return to using a drug of choice, think through what it will feel like after you do.

That replay button doesn’t erase anything.  It’s there to remind you what you’re sure to experience all over again.

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2 thoughts on “Play the Tape All the Way Through

  1. Thank you for this Alison. As someone who perpetually believes that she needs to overanalyze everything, when someone presents a simple concept to me like: Play the tape through- I balk in amazement at how four little words can hit me with so much more insight then the complexity I always believe a-ha moments will arrive in. I think using these words – this tool of playing the tape through is really going to be a major asset to my recovery. Thank you so much for sharing this here!

  2. Here’s what you DO know: You’re in an extremely powerful self-journey, and liberating time of life right now! Wow!

    Here’s what you don’t know: That I am silently finding meaning and stability in your words…all the way up here in MN. Wow.

    Thank you for sharing so much of yourself.

    love you..

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