The Top 10 Secrets of Preparing for TransitionMicah Robbins
Any life transition—getting married, moving, starting college and of course attaining sobriety—comes with inherent strain on the nerves. Even “regular” transitions such as a change of seasons can catch you off guard, and perhaps stress you into addiction relapse, if you aren’t careful.
Here are ten great ways to reduce stress by preparing for transition in advance.
1. START THINKING ABOUT IT TWO OR THREE MONTHS AHEAD
Some transitions can’t be predicted that far in advance, but most can. (Certain events, such as weddings, typically require even more months of planning time.) As soon as you know a major change is coming up and will require a lot of work on your part, make a list of what needs doing and write each task into your calendar, spacing them out to avoid frantic-rush syndrome.
2. AVOID TRYING TO CONTROL EVERYTHING
Make up your mind well in advance that you will not let it ruin your day if things don’t go exactly as planned. There is no way you can absolutely guarantee it won’t rain on an outdoor event, the caterer won’t get stuck in traffic and the electrical circuits won’t trip off at the worst possible moment. Make just-in-case alternative arrangements for the most likely “spoiler scenarios,” and don’t worry about anything else. Even if something totally unexpected messes up the whole “grand beginning” day, you’ll have the whole marriage/college period/career track to work on better days and laugh about that “disaster.”
3. LEAVE ALL THE MARGIN YOU CAN
To further minimize the risk of temporary disaster, don’t try to include eighteen menu courses or throw eighteen pre-event parties: more variety equals more enjoyment only to a point. Pick a handful of favorite options, and allow twice as much time for each as you think you’ll need.
4. SIMPLIFY THE REST OF YOUR SCHEDULE
Cut down on regular meetings, hobbies and duties. Don’t cut them out completely—keeping a few of your favorites will help immensely in getting you through this period—but don’t expect to have room for the transition activities and all your old “regulars.”
5. PRACTICE RELAXING
Set aside time each day to meditate or just sit back and rest. If you already do this regularly, consider scheduling an additional daily break or two. Start right now, so you’ll be in the habit and at maximum emotional strength when the life transition begins.
6. MAKE A HABIT OF GOOD HEALTH PRACTICES
Resolve that, no matter how hectic things get at transition time, you will not let yourself be diverted into constant late nights or a fast-food diet. You’ll need all your physical strength to keep up your resilience.
7. DON’T GET STUCK IN TRANSITION RUSH HOURS
If you’ll be moving or starting graduate school at the same time of year as “everyone else,” schedule what you can before all the movers/photographers/caterers are booked. Also, consider shopping for decorations/nonperishable foods/new clothes/boxes a month or two in advance, rather than right before the high-activity period. If you must do your main shopping during an “everyone else” month, try not to go on a weekday lunch hour, a weekday evening or any weekend day after 11 a.m.
8. DELEGATE AND COORDINATE
Think long and hard before you decide to do everything yourself— much money that is “saved” by not using professional services is lost again (with interest) remedying property damage, addiction relapse or reduced productivity in other areas of life. There’s a limit to how much any one person can do and do well.
Whoever does what, make sure everyone is kept fully informed on everyone else’s plans and schedules. It does happen that the movers fail to show up because someone gave them the wrong date— or forgot to book them at all.
9. ALERT YOUR SOBRIETY SUPPORT PARTNERS
Among the non-transition items you shouldn’t cut from your schedule (as per Point 4 above) is regular participation in sobriety support groups and contact with support partners. You need their encouragement and understanding now more than ever. And while you’re at it, review your relapse prevention plan with your family and figure out if anything involved in the transition is a potential trigger.
10. KEEP THE END IN MIND
One woman rated as her best wedding gift a letter that carried the perfect advice for anyone transitioning into a new and better stage of life: “Take it easy. The chaos will be over soon enough— and then, what b