“Do I really have to do this?” he asked, pitifully. “I’m not sure that I can.”
“Then, I guarantee you’ll use again,” I said. “Not probably, but definitely. Period.” We were talking about deleting all his former using contacts from his phone and computer.
The rule is simple: when trying to quit, put as many obstacles between you and using again as possible. Don’t make it easy to pick up. Make it hard work, and that begins with deleting every last one of your old using contacts.
I often work with addicts who are just getting clean and one of the first things I insist upon is that you absolutely must delete all your old using contacts from all phones and computers. In my experience in working with addicts who are trying to quit, this is often one of the most difficult things to do. It’s like giving up old friends. It’s tangibly ending that former world/life in a definitive manner.
And I mean deleting everyone involved in your using in any way. Using buddies. Dealers, obviously. Anyone who can connect you back into the using world with a single phone call, text, or email. Bottom line: if you no longer have instant, easy access to using friends, you have a big jump ahead on getting and staying clean.
But it’s amazing how resistant people are to this simple, obvious path of action.
A complication to consider: I have Apple computers and phones and was six months into my sobriety when I discovered that my iBook’s automatic, built-in backup program, “Time Machine,” had all my old contact data saved, even though I’d deleted it from today’s list. I finally had to have my entire hard disc wiped clean to truly get rid of all that info. Also, in our world of “clouds,” make sure you don’t keep the contact data stored there either. Don’t play with fire. Put as many obstacles between you and using as you can.
And here’s another suggestion I highly recommend: change your phone number and only give it to your non-using friends. And, if for some reason you can’t change your phone number—and it better be a damn good reason that you can’t—here’s some things you can do after you’ve deleted all your using contacts, of course:
— Don’t answer any unrecognized number. Once you’ve deleted all your using contacts from your phone and computer, don’t answer any calls that come through with only a number identification—it’s probably an old using buddy. Let all unknown callers go to voice mail. Screen your calls.
— Respond by texting only. So a using friend calls and leaves a message. Don’t call back and speak to them. Respond with a text. Something like: “I no longer party. It was affecting my health. I wish you well. Peace.” Keep it short, sweet, and do not invite a response.
— Immediately delete incoming and outgoing phone and text histories. Don’t forget to delete any record of that call/text from your using friend. Be vigilant about this. You don’t want their number to be stored anywhere that you can find later. Remember to delete both incoming and outgoing histories. Thinking that you don’t have to delete this history is actually setting the stage for relapse.
So we return to “delete, delete, delete.” There’s no better way to help insure your sobriety, especially during those tough first few months, than to be free of any contact info into your old using life. Do it.
Delete, delete, delete.