In order to discuss relapse, we must first find a workable definition of relapse. J Webster’s Dictionary defines relapse as: “to slip of fall back in a former worse state”. It also continues: “a recurrence of symptoms of a disease after a period of improvement”. Therefore, it is apparent, and quite easy to see, that relapse needs to be addressed both traditionally and behaviorally. (Relapse Prevention Worksheet, Relapse Prevention Planning)
Traditional Relapse: the actual use of chemicals (drugs or alcohol) after a period of abstinence, recovery planning.
Behavioral Relapse: returning to old patterns of behavior, (thinking, feeling, reactions), causing us to become dysfunctional in recovery. If these reactions are left unchecked they will most likely to traditional relapse, as the newly recovering individual instinctively relates “relief’ from life’s pain to using drugs and alcohol, rather than “going to any lengths”, for sobriety in their early stages.
Many of will encounter “stuck points” in our recovery, despite our best efforts. Do not be discouraged. Recovery is a long-term, skill-building process. Recovery is not an event that happens immediately, without positive sobriety-oriented action. Recovery begins the moment an individual recognizes they have a problem with addictive use, but the .surrender into the process towards recovery doesn’t take shape gets into action new behavior, as well as a halt to his active, addictive, use of chemicals.
Relapse doesn’t just “happen”. People do not get ‘struck intoxicated’, Traditional relapse (using) follows a period of irrational thinking and reactions, based on how we see life, (thinking), and how we react to our emotions, (feelings). It is easy to see that reacting to thoughts and emotions may take us in a direction that proves hazardous to our recovery, (misdirected dependency on thoughts and feelings).
Syndromes that Affect Early Recovery
Beating the Clock: We never seem to have enough time to do all those things we think we have to accomplish (to prove to others bow ‘well’ we’re gelling). This adds stress and frustration and the feeling of never having enough ‘time’ to accomplish “all of those things” sobriety seems to require.
Always More: No matter what we do it never seems to be enough! This is where we have difficulty validating our accomplishments and the “if only . . .” excuses, the “would have…”, “could have. . .” exceptions seem to intensify our shortcomings. We have a difficult time giving ourselves credit. (This causes self criticism, self-punishment).
Too much not enough, stress lifestyle: Due to a lack of initial understanding, a balanced lifestyle appears hard to achieve. Thus, our life appears at times to be so hurried, with loose ends and chaos, (beat the clock, never enough), and this will tend to produce frustration. On the other hand, too little actively is likely to produce boredom and is dangerously close to complacency.
Inadequate coping skills in recovery process: Again, lack of balance and old habits cause the tendency to react in the old method. Attention must be paid to risk-taking toward new perspectives.
Thinking process: Our inability to manage our emotions may result in anger and frustration.
Memories: The tendency to dwell on reliving old experiences and failures begin to haunt us. Our reactions to this emotional roller coaster cause us problems (guilt, shame, self-punishment).
Unrealistic Projections/Expectations: Either to avoid present unpleasant situations or to ‘hurry things up’, we tend to project into the future with goals that may tax our abilities.
People, Places, Things & Situations: Needless worry about our impact (or lack of) on others or allowing them to affect us causes undo stress and frustration due to inadequate coping skills.
Chemically dependent persons are no more complicated or abnormal than the rest of the population. Chemical dependents tend to have a difficult time doing “life on life’s terms” and tend to ignore a potential relapse symptom that doesn’t include a drinking or drugging episode. The mistaken belief is that an individual is okay until they drink or use drugs. Nothing could be further from the truth.
By now you may feel somewhat overwhelmed. Don’t give up!. Looking back over the previous situations, realize that they’re feelings, not necessarily facts. Begin to learn how to see life as the facts, not feelings. How do you do that? Good question. Want a hint? It has something to do with a paper and pencil. Writing!!! Now you’re getting closer.
Learn to write about your situations when you feel off-center, out-of-focus, or just plain confused. List on paper what was going on for you emotionally, spiritually, physically, environmentally (your surroundings), with your job, or socially that could affect your situation. Usually your committee (head) will talk to you about your thoughts/feelings. Writing may give you some clarity about the facts.