Relapse   Leave a comment

Well after  waht feels like FOREVER, I have actually come back to complete an actual “article”. I hope that you will find it helpful to you in your struggles with very important issue.

A special thank you to Carol Rhodes a friend, fellow traveler and reader of Road to Recovery for suggesting this topic. 

Recognizing and heeding the warning signs of relapse instead of letting it sneak up on you!

It does not matter whether your struggles are with mental illness, substance abuse/dependence or both, relapse always seems to be waiting to pounce just around the next corner. However, if we learn to be more observant we can avoid letting it sneak up on us.

Professionals on the Recovery industry have long stated that an individual is already in relapse long before they take their first drink. In short, relapse is not simply based on your behaviors; it starts in your thoughts and attitudes. These ultimately are realized in our words and behaviors.

 Let me share with you an example of an acquaintance that is currently struggling in her recovery. She recently intentionally overdosed on prescription medication not once but twice within one week. However, she was long into her relapse before the first pill had been swallowed. Why? She was already thinking about it, planning and ultimately, envisioning herself actually doing it including imagining how it was going to make her feel. By that time she was in full blown relapse whether she took no pills or 50. Her taking the pills was simply the outward expression of her internal relapse.

 With that in mind, I have compiled a number of resources that I hope that you will find helpful in your efforts to avoid relapse as you continue on your journey.

 Relapse Warning Signs and Symptoms

Experiencing Post Acute Withdrawal: I start having problems with one or more of the following; thinking difficulties, emotional overreaction problems, sleep disturbances, memory difficulties, becoming accident prone, and/or starting to experience a serious sensitivity to stress.

Return To Denial: I stop telling others what I’m thinking/feeling and start trying to convince myself or others that everything is all right, when in fact it is not.

 

Avoidance And Defensive Behavior: I start avoiding people who will give me honest feedback and/or I start becoming irritable and angry with them.

Starting To Crisis Build: I start to notice that ordinary everyday problems become overwhelming and no matter how hard I try, I can’t solve my problems.

Feeling Immobilized (Stuck): I start believing that there is nowhere to turn and no way to solve my problems. I feel trapped and start to use magical thinking.

Becoming Depressed: I start feeling down-in-the dumps and have very low energy. I may even become so depressed that I start thinking of suicide.

Compulsive And/Or Impulsive Behaviors (Loss Of Control): I start using one or more of the following- food, sex, caffeine, nicotine, work, gambling, etc. often in an out of control fashion. And/or I may react without thinking of the consequences of my behavior on myself and others.

Urges And Cravings (Thinking About Drinking/Using): I begin to think that alcohol/drug use is the only way to feel better. I start thinking about justifications to drink/use and convince myself that using is the logical thing to do.

Chemical Loss Of Control (Drinking/Using): I find myself drinking/using again to solve my problems. I start to believe that “it’s all over ‘till I hit bottom, so I may as well enjoy this relapse while it’s good.” My problems continue to get worse.

Adapted from Terence T. Gorski’s Warning Sign Identification Process

THE TEN MOST COMMON RELAPSE DANGERS

  1. Being in the presence of drugs or alcohol, drug or alcohol users, or places where you used or bought chemicals.
  2. Feelings we perceive as negative, particularly anger; also sadness, loneliness, guilt, fear, and anxiety.
  3. Positive feelings that make you want to celebrate.
  4. Boredom.
  5. Getting high on any drug.
  6. Physical pain.
  7. Listening to war stories and just dwelling on getting high.
  8. Suddenly having a lot of cash.
  9. Using prescription drugs that can get you high even if you use them properly.

10.  Believing that you no longer have to worry (complacent). That is, that you are no longer stimulated to crave drugs/alcohol by any of the above situations, or by anything else – and therefore maybe it’s safe for you to use occasionally.

RELAPSE ATTITUDES

(If you find yourself with any or many of these attitudes there is a very good chance that you are already in relapse.

SOBRIETY IS BORING
I’LL NEVER DRINK/USE AGAIN
I CAN DO IT MYSELF
I’M NOT AS BAD AS …..
I OWE THIS ONE TO ME
MY PROBLEMS CAN’T BE SOLVED
I WISH I WAS HAPPY
I DON’T CARE
IF NOBODY ELSE CARES, WHY SHOULD I?
THINGS HAVE CHANGED
I CAN SUBSTITUTE
THEY DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT
THERE’S GOT TO BE A BETTER WAY
I CAN’T CHANGE THE WAY I THINK
IF I MOVE, EVERYTHING WILL CHANGE
I LIKE MY OLD FRIENDS
I CAN DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY NOBODY NEEDS TO KNOW HOW I FEEL
I’M DEPRESSED
I SEE THINGS MY WAY ONLY
I FEEL HOPELESS
I CAN HANDLE IT
IF I HIDE BEHIND EVERYONE ELSE’S PROBLEMS, I WON’T
HAVE TO FACE MY OWN
I CAN’T DO IT
WHY TRY

THE EVENT: A RETURN TO THE USE OF ALCOHOL AND/OR DRUGS.

 

Additional Relapse Attitudes and Risk Factors

Oddly enough when you edit the ‘blah, blah, blah’ of the individual explanation or rationalization, it comes down to some really basic addictive thinking errors. 

If you are still in addiction recovery and any of these thoughts start swirling around in your head, run, don’t walk, do not pass go, head right to the nearest 12 step meeting, call your counselor or someone who knows your story. This type of addictive thinking is the beginning of the relapse process, and your job is to interrupt and not act on these destructive thoughts. OK here we go…

1. It/I wasn’t so bad…(when I was using). I said this to my sponsor once, he looked me right in the eye and said “Yes it was”. I shut up

2. It wasn’t ________ that was my problem it was __________. For example fill in alcohol/my job or alcohol/cocaine, or alcohol/stress.

3. I’ve been sober for X # days/#months/#years, I can have just one.

4. I’m all treatmented/meetinged out, I need a break.

5. Becoming complacent.

6. Not keeping sobriety a number one priority.

7. Not changing yourself, people, places and things.

8. Becoming a recovery guru (to the exclusion of your own program)

9. Attempting a little controlled using.

10. Not having a support system in place for crisis.

Those are some examples of relapse thinking and dangerous places to be in. Now I’ll give you my opinion of the greatest relapse prevention toll there is. It is not dependent on intelligence, gender or economic status and it is something we can all pull off if pressed. Are you ready? Here is the secret answer…Awareness and Persistence.

Relapse Prevention

We MUST maintain our vigilant effort to maintain our recovery. We MUST have a recovery plan and stick to it. Develop a routine and stick to it as best as possible. Keep your hands and mind active and engaged; busy hands and a busy mind leave fewer opportunities for us to focus on symptoms and think negatively. MANY of have relapsed in the past and some will again, but you do NOT have to.  Whether we relapse or not is based solely on our willingness to stick to our program, and our ability/willingness to continue to make positive healthy choices, even when they are difficult and even painful at times.   Brief example: I have been best friends with “James” since we were in Jr High. We now have group of guys that have “poker night” every couple of weeks. As can be expected, it entails a lot of drinking and occasional use of other substances. If I truly am going to prioritize my recovery and sobriety, then I must make the difficult and painful decision to no longer participate in Poker Night, unless the entire group is willing to give up substance use, at least while we are playing.

One final yet simple thought regarding avoiding relapse and coping with early signs of it. I encourage you to try a simple system, I call it AAA (Triple A).

A-AWARENESS: I must learn about my illness and be AWARE of my symptoms and the triggers that can initiate them. (Keep a trigger/symptom journal).

 A- ACKNOWLEDGE: Not only do I have to recognize that I am having symptoms, I must ACKNOWLEDGE them we they are present. STOP living in denial (You will drown there.) Part of ACKNOWLEDGING is developing a plan for managing the symptoms or coping with difficult/stressful situations. Finally,

A- ACTION: Now that you have a Recovery Plan take ACTION on it. Every plan that is not put into ACTION is worthless.

 Be wise, watch closely where you are and with whom you are with. You are you own BEST advocate when it comes to your sobriety and recovery, as you learn to self-monitor and self-regulate, you will grow stronger and wiser and your journey will become easier and easier.

REMEMBER… YOU are the one in control, not your illness. Declare to yourself and believe,

“I’m NOT sick, I have an illness”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: