A Brief Breakdown of Relapse Prevention
Okay so you’ve been through treatment and as you look back, maybe a lot of your group sessions have become a blur. Don’t remember anything about the relapse prevention group you had week one? Well, no worries! Here’s a basic rundown of warning signs and helpful tools to prevent a relapse
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Let’s start by quickly analyzing the warning signs that are associated with relapse.
Emotional Distress (Emotional Relapse):
So this can be anything upsetting to a recovering alcoholic. When we are new, we are easily agitated and often anxious, just like other people, by a new job, family troubles, romantic relationships, money, arguments with friends, or even just from what’s going on inside our heads. As you may know, we alcoholics are not always the best at processing our emotions…
Mental Infatuation (Mental Relapse):
Okay so we have been letting our emotions get the best of us for a while now, and we may start to remember the “good times” we had during our addiction. We might find ourselves reaching out to old friends we used or drank with, hanging out with people we know might not be the best for us, or even starting to plan how we will relapse.
A Sampling of Relapse Prevention Exercises
If we continue to let our heads and hearts work in those ways without combating them with the twelve steps, we are almost guaranteed to relapse. This stage is when your emotions have gotten the best of you, and your thoughts have convinced you that going back out will give you the peace you thought you were looking for.
While it is good for every alcoholic or loved one to understand and recognize these stages, it doesn’t mean that once they start, they can’t be stopped.
There is a reason the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous repeat the directions:
- Go to meetings
- Get a sponsor
- Work your steps
We go to meetings to surround ourselves with like-minded people, who have felt what we are feeling and can help us.
We get a sponsor so we can start the steps and begin to understand why our brain works the way it does.
We work the steps to clear the wreckage of our past and learn to live a new way of life.
“Never have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not give themselves to this simple program”
Alcoholics Anonymous pg 58
A Personal History of Relapse: My Cautionary Tale
I’d like to share a little of my personal history with relapse, as I’ve been working this program for a little while now and I’ve definitely been through all of these phases.
When I first got sober, I was dragged into it by my mother, who is a saint, I see now that she saved my life. I didn’t think I had a problem, I just thought that my behavior may have gotten a little out of line as of late. But I did the deal anyway, went to treatment, moved into a very good halfway, and ended up getting four months.
During these four months, I didn’t work a single step, had a sponsor who I only called to complain about the rules of my halfway, and was completely focused on the opposite sex. Slowly but surely I started to think about drinking and drugging and had a friend that would tell old stories of our using days with. Soon, we planned our relapse, we would pack up and leave during the day when everyone was gone, get a hotel room, and be fine. And we did. And it only took us 48 hours to remember just how miserable it all was.
Four more relapses followed in the following year. I have become almost a professional at identifying my own relapse signs.
Mine are as follows, keep an eye out for any you may identify with;
Isolation: Too much Netflix can, in fact, be a bad thing
Overworking: Focusing on money gives me anxiety to no end
Putting Relationships First: Every single time I relapsed, I allowed “romance” to rule my life (expectations are a killer!)
Conspiracy Thinking: I tricked myself into thinking AA was a cult and that I could safely drink almost every time.
[email protected]!% It!: I was so far away from the program that I thought I couldn’t get back, and just said oh well, I’ll never get better.
I’d like to point out how scary all of these headspaces were to be in. As an alcoholic, I have always convinced myself that I was alone and no one could help me. I thought I was too good or too strong to even ASK for help, and I didn’t like to admit when I was wrong.
Finally, when enough was enough, I dove into AA. I was sick and tired of being alone and anxious and angry at the world. Today I can see that the only person I could be angry at was myself.
So What Can You Do To Prevent A Relapse?
I had such a hard time with this because it was so simple. I thought I was missing something or doing it wrong. These are the basics, whatever you add on for strength is entirely up to YOU.
- Get a home group and take a commitment role, seriously.
- Get a sponsor that has at least one quality you admire.
- Work the Steps with your sponsor.
- Figure out who and what your higher power is and talk to it often.
- Always be honest and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
After getting a little time, things get easier. You will start to figure out that hobbies help, friends with good sobriety are essential, and you can actually enjoy life.
Remember, all problems come and go. If you feel yourself getting all worked up over something, take a deep breath and ask yourself, have I gone through worse? Did I overcome that event? In a year from now will this even be a big deal?
You have been given a gift of sobriety, and while it may not always be sunshine and rainbows, you can be damn sure that it’s far better than the what’s behind us!
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Freedom From Addiction
If you have found yourself either deep in addiction or relapsing chronically, you are not alone! If you are ready to change your life and live free of addiction, then Find Addiction Rehabs can help. We refer to inpatient and outpatient treatment services for men and women across the country. For more information on nationwide programs and to find the best choices for yourself or your loved one, call our compassionate team of recovery representatives now!
Charles F. has been an active part of the Florida recovery community for over 5 years. He began as a behavioral health technician at an addiction treatment facility in Ocala, Florida and has since begun training as a Licensed Addiction and Chemical Dependency counselor in Boca Raton. Charles’ passion involves the promotion of recovery and helping spread the hope of recovery to as many readers as possible!