Oh no you’ve had a drink/drug/bet, let’s get out a big stick and beat you with it!
The dreaded relapse is something many people fear. They can look on it negatively which is a pity really because then the lesson is missed.
A relapse doesn’t ‘just happen’
There is always a lead up to it and herein lies the learning. When we look on a lapse negatively we can miss on the personal learning that is in it. While that may be hard to hear at the time identifying thought patterns and behaviours leading up to the lapse can be a revelation. Plus it can also prevent future lapses. Unfortunately many people look on a lapse with distain and disappointment which can further compound the feeling of guilt and failure.
So let’s look at the learning that we can take from a relapse. What do you need to watch out for?
Changes in Behaviour: Maybe you are argumentative, picking fights or arguing with people for no obvious reason. You’re attending fewer AA/NA meetings, missing aftercare or counselling. Going to the pub or spending more time around people you used to drink or use with can be a relapse trigger.
Changes in Thinking: Remembering the ‘good times’ or ‘forgetting’ the reason you stopped in the first place, thinking you deserve a reward or convincing yourself it’s okay to have the ‘one’ can lead to relapse. Becoming negative about recovery, being unable to see the positive in anything, looking for faults in recovery and justifying the drug/alcohol use. This is a huge red flag.
Trial & Error
As with anything trial and error are common at the start but the test is that you keep trying and don’t give up. Becoming aware of your thought and behaviour patterns is where you will grow and learn as a person.
Where is the learning in all of this?
Well, if you explore what was going on for you before the relapse. Was there some major event happening in your life? How were you feeling, were you stressed, angry, lonely? What were your thoughts like, were they negative, self-defeating?
Often relapse starts in the sub-conscious without being fully aware what is happening. We can focus on an issue or event which affects our thinking (overthinking or obsessing) which in turn drains our energy which of course affects our mood. It’s at this point the person is most vulnerable and the relapse can happen. The earlier you become aware of your thinking and how it affects your recovery, the earlier you can reach out for support. Maybe you need to write about why you stopped drinking/using in the first place? Maybe you need to talk to a family member, friend or sponsor. Maybe you need to make contact with your counsellor or case worker. Either way you are the expert in your recovery. Tuning into yourself and your inner voice will make you more self-aware which of course can prevent relapse
I’ll leave you with this quote:
Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.