By LYLE R. FRIED, CAP, ICADC, CHC In Addiction Recovery, Relapse Prevention
Posted December 16, 2015
Maybe you were clean and sober for two months.
Maybe it was ten years.
You lost your way for a little while.
The word relapse actually means to “return to an illness after a period of improvement.”
Here’s a good way to look at it: In order to relapse, there had to have been some groundwork completed. You’ve put forth the effort to improve your life, change your habits, and live in sobriety. In and of itself, this is a commendable step in the right direction. So you got tripped up and returned to your old ways…That’s relapse.
But, keep in mind, no matter how many times we stumble, there is always something to be learned.
“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley
Relapse Teaches Us
1. Feelings will fade.
Emotional upheaval…the nearly incontestable urge to use…These feelings have brought us to the point of relapse in the past. We’ve been here before. We know what’s coming next. Instead of going around and around, let’s learn from this. No matter how intense, how unbearable, or how persuasive your emotions are, they will pass. The urge to use, if ignored, will pass. Instead of acting on feelings, give yourself time to get past them.
How is this accomplished? The first step is to remember not to sit in these feelings. Playing the scenarios of drug use in your mind, talking about the “good times” and putting yourself in a position where you feel as if you’re “missing out” by not being able to self-medicate will help prolong these feelings. Get out of your head. Go do something positive. Get some exercise. Attend a meeting. You know that the quickest road to relapse is to settle into that comfortable state of reminiscing about our drug or alcohol abuse.
2. Time doesn’t make you immune.
Although you shouldn’t live in constant fear of relapse or worry that you aren’t strong enough to maintain sobriety, it’s wise to keep in mind that twenty years sober doesn’t mean that a return to addiction is impossible. If it overtook our lives once, it will likely wait to present itself at our weakest moment….but we can guard against this.
Living in active recovery is about continuing to take a daily inventory of your thoughts and actions, continuing with daily prayer and meditation and continuing to help others. These principles, when practiced, will ensure we continue to grow along spiritual lines and help keep us protected.
Regardless of the number of years a person has been sober, it is vital to guard against dangerous life habits. Don’t start dabbling in questionable behavior because you think you’re strong enough now. If you’re not growing, you are losing ground. It’s just that simple.
3. You have to do it for you.
The reason behind your sobriety is very important. Are you doing it because the job you want does random testing? Are you doing it because you want to repair a relationship, get a girlfriend (or boyfriend) back, or to comply with court orders? These are not bad motives, but are rarely sufficient on their own.
You have to do it for you. Some people may consider this to be selfish but the truth of the matter is, if you aren’t doing it for yourself, it is less likely to work. All other inspiration fades when the urge to use arises. Do it for your own well-being.
4. Other opinions are irrelevant.
How much time did you have behind you? A month? A year?
It’s exciting to make progress, so we may tell our friends and family every time we hit a landmark with our sobriety. On the flip side of that, when we relapse we often feel ashamed. We’re embarrassed to start over at day one and we’re embarrassed to share the progress we make this second, third, or seventh time around. Don’t let this be your situation. Be proud that you haven’t given up trying to achieve sobriety. Don’t give too much attention to the opinions of others, unless they are cheering you on.
Get Help Now
Are you in the midst of a relapse? Or have you never tried to achieve sobriety before? Help is out there. The Shores Treatment and Recovery has led hundreds of men and women just like you to sobriety. There is an opportunity for a bright future in everyone, and we make it our mission to help you achieve it. Please don’t wait another day. Give us a call and start living the life you deserve!