Recovery is not a destination, it’s a journey. A hallmark of long journeys is the toolbox that helps propel you through life’s daily routines and its occasional crises. Playing the tape is one of the tools in your arsenal. Most recovery programs teach some variant of it as a way to prepare for sober living.

Playing the Tape

Playing the Tape: Track 1

Crank down the volume on your “addict” brain

We have a way of justifying bad decisions to ourselves with surprising wit and dexterity. Thanks to the way using/drinking temporarily tickles the pleasure centers of our brains, our mind chases that high. Meanwhile, it conveniently circumvents all of the problematic consequences that are not so pleasurable. To play the tape effectively, its story has to drown out the instinctual, robotic drug-seeking mind first. It’s easy to identify addict thoughts once you depersonalize them and recognize that they represent a normal part of recovery. You’re not weak for having these thoughts! That said, handling them appropriately is crucial to prevent relapse.

Playing the Tape: Track 2

Roll through memory lane

You’ve been down this road before. Don’t delude yourself into thinking this time will be different, because if we’re honest with ourselves… it never is different in the end. It might not be as bad the first time back. But you know yourself too well at this point, and taking this road only goes one way: downhill. Think about the other times you thought you manage it, and become your own narrator for how that turned out. This is how we make the tape.

Playing the Tape: Track 3

Don’t sugarcoat it

You hate it when other people lie to you. So why would you treat yourself that way? Do yourself a solid and be honest while you’re making and replaying this mix tape. You’ll thank yourself later.

By refusing to sugarcoat your recollections, you are breaking old destructive patterns of thought. Granted, it’s really tempting to give yourself a free pass for going back to the hustle. But the only person you fool is yourself–so don’t play the fool!

Playing the Tape: Track 4

Replay the failed attempts at control

Like it or not, intentions really don’t count for much when it comes to recovering addicts and alcoholics. All the good intentions in the world can’t fight against a disease.

When playing the tape, be honest in your anticipation of *how much* you’d use if you were to start up again. Because let’s be real… as much as we’d LIKE to stop at 1 or 2 beers, it never plays out that way.

Playing the Tape: Track 5

Mix It–Emphasize Consequences

Your tape doesn’t have to be linear (i.e., a straight story from start to finish). It’s recommended to emphasize certain parts, like the severity of consequences you faced.

Playing the Tape: Track 6

Play the tape all the way through to the end

Consequences rarely happen all at once. They have a way of unfolding successively. So when playing the tape, make sure you roll through all of the consequences that resulted from using, rather than just the ones that happened upfront. Following actions through to their logical conclusion has a way of weeding out bad decisions.

Playing the Tape: Track 7

Rewind and replay as many times as you need

Rewind and replay as many times as you need

Playing the tape once isn’t always enough to back away from relapsing. Sometimes it takes two, three, four, or seventy-five times to get to that point. Whatever that number may end up being, it’s okay. As long as the end result is you steering away from your drug of choice and back on track.