If there’s anything that can be a potential relapse trigger for those in recovery, it’s the thought of impending doom or facing a high-stress situation.
In active addiction, our minds would ping-pong between thoughts of overdue bills, withdrawal, broken or strained relationships, legal troubles, declining health, and other responsibilities that were crumbling. Temporary relief could be found in a bottle or a needle, again and again, until days turned into years…or decades.
During high stress situations my thoughts often wander back to the choices I used to make and I’m filled with gratitude that I don’t think that way anymore. I have been delivered from a hopeless state of mind and body. The obsession to relapse has lifted and I don’t “struggle” to not pick up a drink or a drug today. But once in a while I am still tempted.
Here’s some thoughts that may help you overcome those temptations to relapse, especially during crisis or difficult situations:
Handling the Storms of Life
Hurricane Irma was predicted to hit our area as a category 5. The potential for anxiety was great and no one would blame us for coming unraveled, but as a person in recovery I can’t afford to allow myself to lean into fear…and for that I’m grateful.
The storm actually arrived as a category 2 but the wind bands and storm cells that broke off from Irma devastated whole areas. My own home is currently without power and I have very little phone service. I’m currently sitting at a Starbucks writing this post and I’m going to tell you the temptation to relapse I encountered during the storm and how I got through each one:
(Side note: I am three years clean and sober from opiate addiction and alcoholism and the temptations were not severe, but they were there. It was not a “struggle” to choose to remain sober, but it definitely was a conscious choice.)
Dealing With Temptation To Relapse
- Guard Your Mind: As the storm approached, I made the internal decision to rely on God, make a plan and not allow my thoughts to be tossed around by alarmists and stories of impending doom, especially on social media. The first step to walking in recovery is to guard your thoughts with absolute diligence. Mindset is everything and so many people look to others to decide what to think. We can’t afford to be one of those people.
- Live in Gratitude: Yes, it was kind of crazy trying to drive to Georgia with containers of gas in the back seat, animals and traffic that looked like the zombie apocalypse was taking place, but I continued to remind myself that it could always be worse. Some people in other countries couldn’t leave if they wanted to. I chose to remain grateful and to be present and helpful to others who were not in the same mindset. When you make this choice it really sets you on a higher level of thinking where fear isn’t a problem.
- Be of Service: While we were in Atlanta, my family and I encountered a lot of currently homeless individuals who we had great conversations with and helped out. We bought food for others, gave money where we could and treated this evacuation trip as an opportunity to help others. It was beautiful.
- Tricky Moments: So, you’re probably wondering where the temptation to relapse was? There were two moments during the evacuation that stand out in my mind. The first moment was our 4th night away from home. The initial adrenalin of the evacuation was over and everyone was just sort of waiting for the storm (now a category 1) to hit Atlanta. The evacuees from Florida were pretty weary by then so the bars in our hotel were full and a lot of others were walking through the hotel lobby carrying 12-packs.”Wouldn’t it be nice to check out for a while?”The thought hit me out of the blue. It was almost comical the way temptation waits until we are tired and displaced from our daily routine. I quickly dismissed the thought and replaced it with the moments I wasn’t there for my children, the conversations I missed, and the nights I spent in jail. Then I took a mental inventory of the life I have now…the family vacations…the holidays shared…the family dinners. That was all it took to assure me that sobriety was the life that led to fullness, freedom and success for me.
The other “relapse potential” moment came after I returned home from Atlanta and walked into a house without power, internet or cell service. I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face and for a second I thought about how nice it might feel to have a good long drag off of a cigarette. “Maybe I should drive to the 7-11.”
Cigarettes are harmless, after all, right?
Sure. Maybe for others. But I have chosen a different life. I have decided to continue to move forward in my recovery and I gave up smoking two years ago (a habit I had picked up during the tail end of my stay in rehab).
I am not about taking steps backward and I’m not about looking for opportunities to feed weakness. I quickly said no to this desire, and you know what? It left, just as quickly as it arrived.
- Spiritual Fitness: I know I have this as last, but I assure you, it is first. Without a spiritual connection, I would be operating on my own free will and would have given in to the temptation to relapse a long time ago. God removed the obsession so I don’t walk around with a daily burning desire to use, but there are the occasional whispers that seductively call me back to toy with a life I have chosen to leave behind. God is our strength during these moments. He is the one who keeps us from falling. Today I am grateful for all of it…all of my experiences…even the occasional temptations, because they let me see and experience the strength my God provides.
If you or someone you love is in need of recovery, our addiction specialists are ready to help you. Give us a call today.