Will power, as most of us have learned, can drive us crazy and into really crazy and desperate situations, but it cannot cure addiction. The best it can do is that form of serenity-shattering white-knuckling abstinence those in AA call being a "dry drunk." In all my years I've never heard an equivalent expression for the white-knuckle abstinent addict. "Abstinent suffering bastard?" "White-knuckle straightitude?" One miserable existence whatever we call it, miserable for the addict and anyone close to or in the vicinity of the addict.
So, don't use, but within a program that makes not picking up your opening to recovery rather than your ticket to hell. That means doing whatever you have to do not to pick up. The two biggest items of what to do not to pick up are: (1) Go to meetings, and (2) ask for help.
In meetings and from sponsors and others in the program, and from program literature, are where we find out about the tools of recovery: Meetings, literature, sponsorship, service work in NA, writing, working the Twelve Steps with a sponsor, and for some, work with therapists to resolve traumas from the past that serve as ready excuses to use.
Here are some other practical things to do to keep from picking up: In the program it's called "Changing playthings, playgrounds, and playmates."
Get the stuff (booze, drugs) out of your house or apartment. Make your new playthings hobbies (I took up wood carving), exercise (I took up downhill skiing), rebuilding your relationships, keeping promises, getting a job or doing the job you have better (I had to relearn how to write as well as why to write), paying off debts, going back to school, becoming a valuable functioning member of the human race.
Get and stay away from those who use. Usually using friends and acquaintances will shy away from you and eventually leave you alone. There is a believe out there that sobriety and being clean are contagious conditions, and they may be. Develop friendships with those who don't use. You can find them in meetings, classrooms, workplaces, churches, mosques, synagogues, AA and NA service gatherings, and program retreats and conventions. You might begin with the person you ask to be your sponsor.
Stay away from places where drugs are used. For many, this is the hardest one. Students in high school have the toughest course to follow. Other users at the school, students and some teachers, really don't want someone trying to get clean in their midst. Getting the newly recovering addict back to using often becomes an important objective.
Most schools, particularly public and state schools, have yet to understand this situation or do anything about it. Another tough situation is the workplace. On-the-job drug use is commonplace in many if not most industries and occupations. Sometimes the choice is either put up with it or do without an education, job, or place to live.
The answer? Find people in recovery. At most schools and workplaces there are others trying to stay clean. Make them your friends. They will help thin out the crowd of users. Use your telephone numbers and call others in the program when things start closing in on you. Use your sponsor. In any event, do what you have to do not to pick up. I know physicians who gave up writing prescriptions and nurses who changed occupations to stay away from drugs.
So, do what you have to do to not pick up, to attend meetings, and to ask for help. It is doable and millions have done and are doing it. Tool boxes are not much use if you leave them closed.
Different playthings, playmates, and playgrounds
One of the tools I use is to find and show up at a meeting every night of the week. They need to be different groups. I don't need to go every week but if the shit starts heading towards the fan I don't want to walk into a strange meeting. This helps because it is a sure as shit I'll get a resentment toward some meeting sometime. I love having such a big recovery family. Instead of just twenty or so I get hundreds of people's stories. I can walk into any of these meeting ten years later and still find people I know. Still feel comfortable there.
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