If you have recently experienced a relapse, give yourself a break. Relapse is not the end of the world, although it may feel like it. Before you spin out of control with guilt and shame, you need to know that a relapse can be the jarring experience that brings about a more rigorous application of the program. If you will decide to move forward, recovering from a relapse, rededicate yourself to your recovery program. A disturbing return to drugs and alcohol can actually turn into a positive experience.
The fact is, MOST recovering addicts and alcoholics will experience a relapse at some point in their recovery journey. This can happen after thirty days or thirty years. No matter how long you have been sober, a relapse is almost always a devastating experience. In fact, when you ask people returning from a relapse if they had a good time, they will respond with a resounding, “NO!”
The Enemy: Relapse
When an addict or alcoholic decides to use their drug of choice, they usually go on an all out binge. The thought process is, “If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it right. No holds barred, baby!” The series of unfortunate events that inevitably follow usually include spending an entire paycheck, staying out all night, worrying the family who was just beginning to trust you again and waking up in the morning with a serious hangover coupled with an overwhelming sense of regret. Indeed, a relapse is no trip to the circus –it is a descent back into darkness.
Unfortunately, most people who relapse feel so hopeless after a binge, they stay sick. By continuing to numb their pain with more drugs or alcohol, they don’t have to deal with the fact that they are going to hell in a hand basket –and fast! Rather than confront the reality of their present circumstances, addicts and alcoholics who have relapsed usually do what they do best –more drugs and alcohol. This doesn’t have to happen to you.
The Hero: You
Recognize this experience for what it truly is: the recurrence of symptoms of your disease after a period of improvement. It really is that simple. Addiction is a medical condition that is unbelievably difficult to overcome. Statistics suggest that as many as 90 percent of all recovering addicts and alcoholics will return to old behaviors and familiar thought processes, which ultimately lead to a relapse.
In spite of our best efforts, many of us find the world of recovery to be a scary place. We suddenly begin to experience feelings that are completely foreign to us and life feels like it’s coming at us all at once. Boredom, complacency and apathy are enemies of recovery and most of us fall into their snares sooner or later.
There are a million reasons why relapse can seem like a positive alternative to sobriety and after the idea gnaws at us awhile, we give in. It is so easy to convince ourselves we just aren’t cut out for a life of abstinence from mind-altering substances…..and off to the races we go. This is completely normal and very common. You are not unique –nor are you a loser, a bad person or any of the other negative connotations your brain is trying to convince you of. You are a sick person trying to get well and working hard to make radical changes to your way of life.
Get into positive action immediately. Call your sponsor, go to a meeting and share about your recent mishap. You are sure to hear a message of hope, compassion and love from your friends in recovery. You are not alone. There is no shame in relapse –the only shame is not returning to recovery.
Look at it this way: you fell off your proverbial bike. It’s time to get back on and learn to ride that thing!