Have you heard of cheat day?
Have you heard of cheat day? When you hear mention of cheat day, it usually refers to the food plans of serious athletes. To the overweight dieter, the words are immediately appealing. What about recovering drug users? Is there ever a situation where a cheat day for drugs might work? We will come back to this question in a few moments.
What is cheat day?
If you are a serious athlete, you likely manage your food intake carefully. In fact, you probably manage it with scientific rigor. You log every calorie, every gram of carbs and protein. Proper food choices are essential to maintain peak performance. Hence food can be though of as fuel. You wouldn’t put the wrong fuel in a performance race car. The problem is that humans are not machines. We are living beings who sometimes feel the need to relax the rules and enjoy some good food. Cheat day is the day when this can happen.
So, does cheat day mean eating as much as I want?
If you are an overweight dieter, cheat day sounds like a great idea. Imagine, you get to eat as much as you can eat one day out of the week. Pizza, snacks, cake, ice cream. Anything goes on cheat day. Yet, this is not exactly how it works. A serious athlete does not throw away all food considerations on their cheat day. Portions and choices are still managed. The difference between cheat day and any other day is that the tight control exerted of diet is relaxed a bit. More carbs and fats are allowed. Calories can be increased a bit. So, cheat day does not mean to completely let go. You can’t go crazy on cheat day. It will just make you sick.
Can drug addicts have a cheat day?
Just like with the overweight dieter, cheat day has an immediate appeal to the newly recovering drug addict. If you are addicted to drugs and you are celebrating your first days or months clean, you have likely thought about this on your own. You think about the drugs that you never had a problem with. Possibly, you wonder about a sip of wine with dinner. What about a sip of wine on holidays?
There is no cheat day if you are recovering from drug addiction.
I am sorry to say that cheat day does not work with addiction. In fact, this applies to food addicts, nicotine addicts, gambling addicts and any other kind of addiction. In fact, not only is there no cheat day for addiction, there is not even a cheat event. That is because we have another name for it. We call it relapse.
Relapse on drugs is tragic.
If you are struggling with drug addiction, you may have relapsed and come back to recovery. You may hold reservations for relapse in the future by thinking that it was not so bad. Relapse is tragic to some extent in all cases. Even if you make it back without personal, legal or health issues, at best, you have lost time. The most valuable thing we all have in life is our time. We never get time back. It is always spent.
Relapse sets back your clean time to zero.
Clean time is more than just a number. There is magic that happens in your life as your clean time accumulates. Celebrating the milestones is important to help you to value your clean time. The real value is in changes that happen in your brain, your body and in your life. Your perspective changes. Hence, you can see more clearly what is important in life and you can make the best use of your time.
Relapse can motivate you or kill you.
There is a chapter in the recovery literature about the value of relapse in that it can be so horrible, it gives you the motivation you need to stay clean no matter what. The mind of an addict can twist these words and use them as an excuse. “I need to be more motivated.” The problem is that all bets are off when you take that first drug or that first sip of alcohol. You probably already know how things end up. You wake up days or weeks later and you see the wreckage and path of destruction behind you. Then, you ask again, “how did this possibly happen again?”
Buried by relapse.
What is it like to die from a relapse? It is happening more today than ever before. Heroin is being mixed with fentanyl and carfentanyl to create a potent, deadly mix. You may say that you don’t use heroin. You would never put a needle in a vein. But, heroin is also sniffed. How did you get to your drug of choice? Was it one night when you couldn’t find what you wanted and you tried what was available? Where you high already and someone offered you something different and stronger.
When you get high, you lose your ability to make good decisions.
Also, you can never tell what has been added to street drugs. Maybe your mollies, your cocaine, your meth has fentanyl added. Who knows? Drug dealers do not have to answer to the FDA. For all you know, you could be buying rat poison. I know you think you can trust your dealer and you can handle your drugs. This is also what everyone who ever accidentally overdosed and died thought. The reason you think you will always pull through is that, if you are reading this, you have been lucky so far. So, with relapse on drugs, death is always a possible outcome.
So, cheat day is out of the question.
Don’t let this worry you. Don’t think about and plan for your future cheat day. In the world of recovery, this is called a reservation. If you are just getting started, you can’t trust your own thinking. This is why it is so important to find a network of recovering people with a strong program. This is the power of 12-step programs such as AA and NA. Your thinking is broken at first. You need guidance you can trust. You just need to take things a day at a time and start listening to messages of recovery.
Hearing the message.
If you talk to much, you might not hear the solution. Listening to the messages of recovery around you is important. If you are in a treatment program with many hours a day of therapy and group discussions, you will discover tools that will work for you. You will find motivation and also practical advice to stay clean for just one more day. If you are not in a treatment program, fill your day with 12-step meetings or a similar program of drug addiction recovery. Surround yourself with recovery. Read the literature. Listen to speakers in meetings. Listen to them online as well. In this new world of being connected online and with YouTube, we can find endless supplies of positive messages. Still, this does not replace real life personal guidance. Listen to your counselor. Follow the advice of your sponsor.
I have heard this boring stuff before. I thought you were going to talk about cheat day.
If you are thinking that I just wasted your time, tempting you with the idea of cheat day, that is your addiction speaking. You can’t trust thoughts that lead back to drugs. These thoughts are not always easy to identify. They may create quite a convoluted path to drugs. The addicted mind has all of the power of your own thinking and creativity. This is why creative and intelligent people find it difficult to stay clean. Yet, getting clean and staying clean is possible. So, it just means that you must stay at the center of your program of recovery. Don’t take the easy way out and don’t play games with it. And, definitely, there is NO CHEAT DAY.