Avoiding relapse, made easy

Why Do People Relapse?

Relapse often happens when we let down our guard.  Things are going well.  We’re feeling better than we have for a long time.  Our problems seem fewer – or more manageable.  And we begin to think we don’t need to go to another Twelve Step meeting or to call our sponsor. and hear talk about things like avoiding relapse, made easy, for us to grasp.  We’re doing just fine, thank you. BUT, it’s a little white lie. Nothing in the universe will make a person relapse faster than not being honest with themselves. Who would have thought? You see, addiction is not about the substances as  much as it is about the thinking. The mind and the neural pathways that have been created are said to be incurable.  When ‘the’ relapse thinking starts, even on a subconscious level, patterns begin to be created by the mind. And the mind must create what it is tasked with.

There are many other relapse keys, triggers or warning signs. The subject is super complicated and treatment development is still in its absolute infancy with regards to relapse and addiction. But relapse is a part of almost all change cycles. We are doing well. Thriving. Then it happens and we can’t believe it:

  • “Why, drinking never even entered my mind!”
  • “Things were going great. How could smoking one joint have hurt so much?”

avoiding relapse, made easy

Relapse can also happen when we begin to feel the emotions that had been numbed with alcohol or other drugs.  Alcoholics and other addicts aren’t comfortable with feelings.  When emotions arise – whether positive or negative – our first reaction is fear.  We think: “Something’s wrong!  I must not be working this programme right if I’m having such strong feelings.”  Or we think:  “If this is the way I’m going to feel, to hell with it.  I’ll use again.  It was a lot easier before I quit”. From Alcoholics Anonymous [The Big Book], 3rd ed.

The Consequences of Relapse

A relapse can devastate the recovering person emotionally.  We feel like complete failures.  The good feelings of self-esteem and self-confidence leave us.  The bad feelings of remorse, guilt and shame suffocate us.  Sometimes we feel so bad we consider giving up on recovery altogether.  Remember, though, that relapse is not the end of the world – it’s a part of our illness. Relapse does not happen on the spur of the moment.  It often happens after our overwhelming urge to drink or use is gone.  A relapse usually follows a period of irrational thinking that may last days, weeks, months, or even years before the actual fall.  The old advice ‘Call a member before you take that drink’, usually doesn’t work.  Why?  Because it’s often already too late. In all our collective years in AA, no one ever called and said:  “Stop me.  I’m about to take a drink.”  Seldom anyone calls for help at the threshold of relapse.  At that point you probably don’t want to be stopped!  The time to prevent a relapse is long, long before the irrational thinking has reached the final insanity of taking that first drink or pill or getting that fix.

 A Checklist of the top 3 Danger Signs on the Path to Relapse:

Many danger signs warn us of a possible relapse.  If we do a weekly inventory of the danger signs listed in this section, we may be able to prevent some relapses.

 Resentment:     The Big Book refers to resentment as the ‘number one offender’ because ‘it destroys more alcoholics than anything else’. Holding on to the past hurts or slights (real and imagined) can trigger a relapse.  It may be that we need to do another Fourth or Fifth Step with a sponsor, a clergy person or someone in our recovery programme whom we respect and trust.

 Exhaustion:        When we are well rested and in good health, our thinking is clearer.  When we are overtired and in poor health, our thinking is more muddled.  If we feel bad enough, we begin to think drinking or using couldn’t make it worse.

Dishonesty:        We begin with a pattern of unnecessary little lies we tell to fellow workers, friends and family.  Then we lie to ourselves.  This is called ‘rationalizing’ – making excuses for doing what we know we should not do. It’s no mistake at all the slogan for the entire twelve steps is TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE!

For more information regarding avoiding relapse, made easy contact us about our recovery treatment programs. We have a unique, modern and sophisticated way of treating addictions, stress, grief, depression and dual diagnosis clients. We specialize in treatment for people who have tried the main stream programs and rehab centres and who are determined to find a real, lasting and sustainable key to long term sobriety and healing. Call 287824424779 or email info@sanctuaryplett.co.za

Letting go of depression

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