Summer, the star of a hit TV series (think Glee meets Hannah Montana), was 2004’s It Girl. Her will-they-or-won’t-they romance with a dreamy co-star played out both onscreen and offscreen, to the delight of hordes of adoring fans. Behind the scenes, things were bleak. She was barely hanging on after suddenly losing her father, and network executives who could have supported Summer - the young woman making them millions - exploited her. When the show was abruptly canceled, Summer’s life went into a tailspin. The media grew obsessed with Summer and documented her every drunken escapade, jilted fiancé, and rehab stint.
By 2018 Summer is sober and returning to The Daydreams for a reunion episode. Emotions were running high. After a particularly stressful day, Summer almost relapsed. Summer deserves credit for avoiding substance use in highly triggering situations. But, she really white-knuckled it at times, provoking concern about the long-term viability of her recovery.
Summer needed a stronger relapse prevention plan. Research tells us that five factors significantly increase the likelihood of long-term recovery:
Change your life so it is easier not to use. In particular, change people (say goodbye to using buddies) and places (don’t go where you used to get use).
Be consistently and completely honest. Lying is necessary for many addicts to maintain their negative behaviors. When people are honest about what they think, feel, and do, addiction is less likely to take hold.
Ask for help. Things are always more manageable with a team of supports. Once you’ve told someone you need help, they can stay with you when you are experiencing urges to use or talk with you when emotions that were once avoided by using come up.
Practice Self-Care. If recovery is boring or terrible, you will not stay in recovery. Make it fun and find new ways to relax, hang out with friends, and be yourself.
Don’t bend the rules. Many people in recovery think they can find a loophole, make an exception, or otherwise deviate from what research has shown most effectively treats addiction. But, modifying the rules generally doesn’t work, so resist any urges to cut corners.
Let's say Summer tried to use the skills, here's what that could look like:
She could move into a new apartment and block contact information for anyone who she used to party with.
Summer could tell her fellow Daydreams how much their misattributions had hurt her feelings, and explain her true mindset.
When urges arise, Summer could call a friend and say that she needs someone to help her stay sober.
Fulfilling activities could help fill Summer's time; she could go for walks, find a new hobby, or try to make new friends.
When Summer considered a seemingly small deviation from her healthy structure, she could prioritize her recovery and encourage herself to live by the five factors above.
Using these skills would help Summer transition into a long-term, stable recovery. I think her fans would be there for her when she was ready to return to the screen. Everyone loves a comeback story.