Alcohol or drug relapse doesn’t have to be a part of your recovery journey, but for many, a return to that old way of life, old choices and old habits sometimes occurs. The first thing to realize if you or a loved one has recently relapsed is that you haven’t lost all the tools you’ve gained while you were walking in recovery.
Some of us get so consumed with shame and guilt after an alcohol or drug relapse that we act as if we are truly at square one. Although we may have strayed from a solid path of recovery and allowed compromise to sneak in, relapse can be a good lesson in powerlessness, and you can bounce back stronger than ever.
What is Alcohol or Drug Relapse?
If you’ve been in recovery circles for any length of time, you’ve probably heard the term “slip” and the term “relapse.”
What are they and how do you know which one just happened in your life?
A slip is sometimes defined as an isolated event. A person gives in to temptation, falsely believes they can have “just one drink” or “just one hit” and the next morning they wake up filled with remorse over the choice they just made. On the other hand, an alcohol or drug relapse is often defined as a period of time spent actively using drugs or alcohol. A conscious decision is made to throw away the recovery lifestyle and the person may attempt to “live like normal people who can recreationally use without bad things happening.” These are the two definitions I’ve heard in the past, but neither one of them pops up out of the blue.
A Slip Vs. A Relapse
A slip (into drug or alcohol use) is not something that comes on us suddenly, so the title is sort of misleading. Neither is an alcohol or drug relapse. There is always the “relapse before the relapse” or the “slide before the slip.” Relapse, slip….whatever you want to call it, begins spiritually. Recovery is an inside job, and so is relapse. It’s easy to forget about our spiritual connection, pick up a resentment here or there, start leaning into anxiety and fear, and slowly but methodically move further and further away from recovery.
You are always either living in recovery mode or relapse mode.
There is no neutral ground.
If you’re inner life has become muddy with lies, denial, resentments, unforgiveness or anything that doesn’t cultivate peace, you’re in relapse mode.
Now, you can turn it around at any moment, but remember, addiction is sneaky.
The changes come subtly.
What Does Relapse Mode Look Like?
Maybe you start to get resentful toward a co-worker on Monday. They just rub you the wrong way.
Then on Tuesday you talk to a couple of friends about them. They agree with your feelings.
On Wednesday you’re tired after work and skip your recovery meeting (a place where you may have openly talked about this festering resentment).
On Thursday you notice that your boss seems to really like this co-worker, even though you know you work harder.
During your lunch break you talk to a couple of co-workers about this person and more resentment is built.
On Friday you wake up and decide to call off work. You deserve it. They don’t appreciate you anyway. You tell a lie and say you’re feeling sick.
Now you have the whole day to enjoy, right?
But wait….Now you’re alone with your thoughts and you’re kind of feeling anxious. What if they fire you? What if your co-workers tell the person you’re upset with that you’ve been talking about him?
After sitting with yourself and becoming increasingly stressed out for the next several hours, your phone lights up with a text. It’s someone you used to use with.
You decide to talk to them…I mean, it’s not like anything’s going to happen, right?
You’re just feeling lonely. You’ll just see what they want. They ask you if you want to go out. You don’t answer.
You turn on the radio and a couple of songs you used to play when you went out with your old friends comes on.
You reminisce about an old boyfriend / girlfriend and think to yourself, “Not ALL of my time using drugs were bad times. If I would have just done a few things differently, I could have kept having fun but had control of my life.”
Something inside you lights up when you think about using.
You look at your phone and decide to answer the text, “Yea. I’m free. Let’s go.”
Two weeks later, you realize you’re not free at all.
Relapse: We Are All Just One Decision Away
One decision leads to another, and another, and another…until we arrive at a place we never meant to be.
I’m sure your story is a little different than the one above, but you can still relate to parts of it. That’s the way it generally works when we experience an alcohol or drug relapse. We begin making trades in our mind. The absolutes get watered down. The road to relapse is always strewn with a series of compromises we chose to make.
Pride sets in.
We get in the driver’s seat.
So, What is The Answer?
The only “slip prevention” or “relapse prevention” that I know of is to keep my spirit and my thoughts clean.
It’s really that simple.
We make it complicated.
It is as easy as surrendering my will over to the care of God (or my Higher Power) and believing He has my best interests at heart.
If you or someone you love is worried about heading for relapse, you have the power to stop it.
Call your sponsor or an accountability partner.
Admit that you’ve gotten off track and have become ungrateful, or started lying, or been resentful (or whatever the case may be).
Ask God to help you do a restart.
You can choose to walk in recovery at any moment.
What If I Relapsed and Don’t Know The Way Back?
Sometimes, we really need to be in a safe place where we can receive healing and regain the tools for recovery. If you’ve lived in a state of relapse for a period of time and you feel like you can’t get on the right path without help, guess what? That’s okay!
Gracious Care Recovery Solutions has a reset track. You can detox, and then spend 2-4 weeks getting on the right path and grounded again. Sometimes it takes that extra help to transition successfully back into a recovery lifestyle.
Do you need help? Call us today.