The secret to protecting your sobriety over the Christmas period is for you to be prepared and have the right tools. This is a time of year when you will benefit from some additional support, so it is recommended that you increase the number of fellowship meetings you attend over the next few weeks. You also need some strategies for dealing with cravings and high-pressure situations (for example, family arguments). One technique you will definitely want to check out is that which is known by the acronym S.O.B.E.R.
Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention and S.O.B.E.R
S.O.B.E.R. is a technique that is used as part of mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP). Many of the strategies promoted in the recovery community involve trying to avoid relapse triggers and stressful situations, but MBRP uses a different approach – the idea is to give you the ability to be able to manage any potential threats to your sobriety. Christmastime can be a time at which you are surrounded by stressors and triggers, so suggesting that you avoid these might not be practical. An alternative to this is S.O.B.E.R, which stands for stop, observe, breathe, expand, and respond mindfully.
The idea behind the S.O.B.E.R technique is that people tend to relapse because they act on impulse, and do so on auto mode. This is because when individuals are stressed, they are more likely to act out of habit. The goal of S.O.B.E.R is to stop this type of sleepwalking into a relapse by returning the person to a state in which they are able to act and think rationally. This can be achieved by using the steps outlined below.
The first step is to stop whatever it is that you happen to be doing – so if you are becoming stressed because of an argument with your spouse, you need to at least temporarily disengage from the conversation. The next step is to observe what is happening in your body and mind – you need to observe for signs that your body is entering the ‘fight or flight’ response or that your thoughts are starting to race (these are signs that you are now starting to act on impulse rather than rational thought). The next thing you need to do is to breathe because this is going to slow down your thinking and move your body out of the state of high alertness. You next need to expand your awareness so you can look at the situation in a more objective way (i.e. see the bigger picture). Now that you are in the right state of mind, you will be able to respond mindfully.
Most of the decisions you are likely to regret in life are the ones you made on impulse or out of habit. Relapse is just one example of this type of bad decision, but there are many more. Every time you make a mindful decision rather than an impulsive one, you are likely to be moving your life in a more positive direction, which is what recovery from addiction is all about.
How to Use the S.O.B.E.R Technique in Practice
Now that you have heard a bit about the S.O.B.E.R technique, you may be wondering about how it actually works in practice. The reality is that once things start to go wrong, it is easy to forget about all the clever coping tools you picked up in recovery. To prevent this from happening, you need to start practicing using S.O.B.E.R in situations that are only mildly stressful or challenging. Once you get into the habit of doing it, it means you should remember to apply this tool when you really need it – it would be unrealistic to expect it to be there for you if you never practice it.