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An addiction recovery metaphor

Recovery FIRST! My sister is really getting on my last nerve! Do I really have to to go to this party?! My Mother-in-law is visiting for a week!? Really?!

Ever hear of the Oxygen Mask Rule?

Every time we fly, we hear flight attendants sharing some variation of the Oxygen Mask Rule:


          • “Should the cabin lose pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area. Please place the mask over your own mouth and nose
            before assisting others.

    Why put on our mask first? What could possibly be wrong with helping others first?

    In the case of the airplane, oxygen masks are deployed in situations where the oxygen level has dropped dangerously low. Without our oxygen mask, we will quickly lose consciousness. Each of us is responsible for our own oxygen. If we don’t make putting on our mask our first priority, we are at serious risk of not being able to breathe at all.

    So what does this have to do with addiction recovery? During the holidays family gatherings, cooking, baking, holiday parties, shopping, wrapping, decorating, and other challenges often act as oxygen thieves in our lives. They drain our energy. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with all the demands on our time and let our focus shift away from our recovery plan. Add to that all of our hospitable friends, co-workers and relatives who are urging us to join them in drinking, and our focus on recovery is likely to get even blurrier.

    SMART Recovery teaches SELF-management and one aspect of self-management is learning when to manage or avoid potentially risky situations, especially in early recovery. It may feel awkward to give priority to our own needs for a drink free environment over the requests of well-meaning friends but it may just be the most important thing we can do for our recovery. It may feel wrong to decide to limit the time we spend with family and friends who have a knack for pressing all our buttons, but making that choice can mean the difference between recovery and relapse.

    Airplanes have sensors to protect passengers and crew against oxygen deprivation. Fortunately, so do you: your friends, relatives, and support group members. If you hear people in your support network reminding you to “take care of you first” or reminding you of the Oxygen Mask Rule it could be that they are seeing signs of oxygen deprivation, signs that you may not have noticed yourself. Grab your mask!