“Wherever our mind goes…our body follows.”
Mental relapse occurs long before you pick up that first drink or drug. Many people in recovery say they were blindsided, and it is quite possible that the warning signs weren’t fully recognized, but that doesn’t have to happen to you ever again. Relapse signs are much like road signs or mile markers. If you know how to read them, you’ll have a better idea of where you’re headed.
Before we look at the warning signs of relapse, it’s important to set the stage. What does a healthy mindset look like?
Your Mindset Will Determine Your Path
Keeping an open mind and steering clear of denial are the first steps to relapse prevention. We have to develop the ability (or at least the willingness) to ruthlessly remove the things that are putting our sobriety in danger. Learning to look at ourselves objectively, scrutinizing motives, monitoring thought processes, and allowing mentors and sponsors to speak into our lives will keep us moving forward instead of regressing.
Much of our sobriety depends on forward progress. If we allow ourselves to sit in limbo, without goals or direction, we will regress. It’s just a matter of time.
A Word About Denial
Denial is tricky. When we’re in it, we put up walls and often refuse to recognize that we’re in it. In essence, we deny the fact that we’re in denial.
So how can we steer clear of it? Two words…Spiritually awake.
The closer we draw to God (our higher power) and surrender to His leadings, the more willing we will be to accept the fact that we often don’t want to look at our flaws and character defects. We protect them because they’re comfortable. It’s what we know. In a way, our “go-to defects” provide us with a sense of safety. If we are used to lashing out in anger and suddenly stop, what will we do? That can be a scary question for someone who already put aside alcohol and drugs as the solution. Now we are expected to peel away layers of unhealthy character defects too?
The good news here is the fact that God can “do for us what we are unable to do for ourselves.” This includes keeping us “denial free.” All we have to do is ask Him.
5 Warning Signs You’re Headed Towards Relapse
Here are five warning signs that you are headed toward a possible relapse:
1. You stop seeking support
The healthy habit of attending recovery meetings and regularly engaging with your sponsor and mentors is an important part of your life. If you find yourself making excuses, complaining about the people at meetings or telling yourself that you’re “just fine” without community support, it’s probably a good sign of trouble ahead.
Recovery is uncomfortable. As addicts, we have to learn to face the uncomfortableness of growth and continue to press forward.
2. Romanticizing Substance Abuse
Many of us have been guilty of this one. I remember telling stories about how pills “helped me to focus” and “made it easier to get through my day.” It is quite possible that you can discuss the “positive” attributes of your drug use once, twice, or maybe a half dozen times….But somewhere, the switch flips and you move from the discussion phase to the romance stage. Remembering the “good times” and somehow forgetting about the horrifying withdrawals, the lost income, lost relationships, the bondage, and spiritual bankruptcy that comes with addiction can become more distant as we begin to play the carefully selected scenes of the “good times” in our minds.
This is yet another reason why attending meetings and doing service work is important to our continued recovery. When we are there for the newcomer or newly sober and we witness first hand their pain, lack of clarity, and questions…When we are able to offer them hope, encouragement and love, we are quickly brought to a place of gratitude. Working with others keep us on our purpose and helps protect us from relapse.
3. Complicating Your Life
We are extreme people. Addicts just are. That’s the way we were wired and it’s perfectly okay. We excel at everything we do BECAUSE we put 150% into it. This is awesome and scary at the same time. The temptation is to take on way too many things.
Here’s a scenario for you. We get sober and we get a dog in the first six months. Then we take on a second job. Then we add a romantic relationship, a new car payment, and volunteer for the next recovery event. Our plate is beyond full….and then the wrench is thrown in. One thing goes wrong. Maybe it’s a flat tire that makes us late for work, which leads to our boss being unhappy with us, which stresses us out to the point that we lash out at our girlfriend/boyfriend. That turns into a four hour discussion/fight and the next thing we know, we are saying, “The hell with recovery. I need a drink or a drug.”
The real truth here is that we sabotaged our own recovery with “too man things.” A simple life is often a protected life. Self protection is good and keeping things simple and clutter free is a great tool in recovery. Don’t take on too much too soon.
4. Little by Little
Are you slowly but surely removing all the positive elements from your life that have kept you anchored? It’s like a slippery slope. We remove one thing, and then another, another, and another. Before we know it, we’ve become a live target for relapse.
What kind of things am I talking about? This looks different for everyone. With me, I can see it when I stop doing the little things like making my bed in the morning, answering the phone to relatives, attending church, and reading my Bible in the morning. I become “too busy” and the little details become my warning signs that all is not well.
5. A Defensive Attitude
Last but not least we’ve got the red flashing lights of warning signals…a defensive attitude. When we’re confronted about our choices, our attitude or anything to do with our recovery, we immediately take a defensive stance. Remember when we were spiritually fit and we actually said, “Thanks. I’ll take a look at that. Maybe there is some truth to what you’re saying.”
Yea…That’s long gone when we are close to relapse. We are in defensive and hiding mode. We’re too busy being angry with everyone else for being “all in our business” to actually take an honest look at where we are.
Do any of these signs ring true with you? There’s no time like right now to make a change. Today…right this moment…This can be your moment of truth. This moment can be your new day. Make a decision. Call your sponsor. Contact a mentor. Do the next right thing.
If you’ve fallen back into the deadly cycle of addiction, you don’t have to remain there. Reach out to the caring staff here at The Shores Treatment and Recovery. We are here to help you!