The Three Warning Signs
When you are getting clean and sober, relapse may seem like the worst thing that can happen to you. But you would be surprised by how many people in long time recovery that have gone through a relapse or will go through a relapse. Just remember, “It’s not how many times you get knocked down that counts, it’s how many times you get back up.” The most important thing you can do for yourself is to learn from your experience, identify your triggers, and move on. It may seem like the most obvious assumption, but if you know yourself, you’ll know how to prevent a relapse in the future.
What is a Trigger?
If you don’t know what a trigger is you’ll be walking into a mine field and relapse will only be a hair breath away. In terms of addiction, a trigger is a form of external or internal stimuli that makes you want and need to use again. That could be a memory, a friend or just the sight of an old place you used to hang out before treatment. When you willingly place yourself in a negative environment where you are surrounded by your trigger, you are tempting yourself both consciously and unconsciously to do it again. You may even think, “Just once won’t hurt, right?” or “I got out before and I can do it again.”
Take a look at this scenario: Say a couple of your buddies want to hit the bar after a long day at work. You feel secure in your recovery and the steps you are taking to stay that way; so you agree. You guys end up going to a bar down the street that you used to visit frequently in the depth of your addiction [trigger]. When you walk in, the musty smell settles on your skin like a lover’s caress, you feel normal again [trigger]. As you guys settle at the bar you watch as the bartender fills the glasses of your buddies with the golden liquid [trigger], you could almost taste is as they gulp the foam and a good portion of the liquid back [trigger]. Everyone around you is having a good time. You like the atmosphere of the place and everyone knows everyone. People offer to buy you a drink, welcome you back, invite you out again and each time you can feel your will power diminishing. Finally, you can’t take it any longer and you justify your actions by saying that you can stop after one drink; this doesn’t count as relapse because technically I only drank one! So many other excuses cross your mind anything to get that drink into your system, right?
One is too many and a thousand is never enough.
In the midst of addiction, the craving won’t stop at one drink. You’ll justify more and more actions as you slip farther and farther away from your path.
During the course of your recovery, triggers will tempt you to slip-up and drink, use, or engage in behaviors that you are trying to stop. It’s a constant battle and the enemy is yourself. Your sobriety depends on you knowing the victory is worth the blood, sweat and tears you put into your treatment.
If you are struggling with maintaining your sobriety and fighting triggers, make sure you keep on top of your 12-step program.
Stopping a 12-Step Program
Maintaining your sobriety without help can be difficult. Having others who have fought the same battle to inspire, listen and offer you support is important when overcoming your addiction. The 12-steps will help you maintain a clean and sober life by taking it one step at a time. When you stop working a 12-step program because you think you can do it alone, you run the risk of your life falling apart before your eyes.
It usually starts with not going to meetings. You think to yourself, “since I don’t have the desire to drink or use, why do I need to go to meetings?” There is no cure for the disease of addiction and you will have to continuously work a program to remind yourself of where you came from; it isn’t something you can just graduate from. Your ability to steer-clear from drugs and alcohol depends on how you are maintaining emotional, physical, and spiritual health. You will achieve this by going to meetings regularly, working the 12-steps honestly, prayer and meditation, and working openly with others.
When you start to slip up in your program, praying or going to meetings, you can feel yourself slowly losing the person you have worked so hard to become. You will start to see yourself justifying negative behaviors and lose your serenity; once the serenity is gone, so is your sobriety.
Engaging in Old Behaviors
Once you lose your serenity it is downhill from there – you start acting as you did in your addiction. When you work a 12-step program it doesn’t just keep you from using; it changes your outlook on life.
When you start working a program, you start to lose the negative behavior and exchange them for healthy ones. This type of behavior is a warning sign and could lead to a relapse. When and if this negative behavior starts to return, you should do everything in your power to prevent yourself from falling into this trap. Take preventative measures like calling your sponsor, attend a meeting, or help a new comer. It’s hard but if you make calculated decision to help yourself, it gets better.
Hopefully if you partake in these measures regularly, you will begin to feel uncomfortable when you start to have these cravings. Listen to your gut! This is your body’s way of telling you that you are doing something that could impede on the harmony of your mind, body, and soul. It’s a rude awakening but maybe it’s time for you to wake up and notice that these behaviors won’t just go away, you have to actively pursue the recovery that you want.
Relapse is a Slippery Slope
Falling back into your addiction is a slippery slope. You have to be open and honest with your sponsor and those who are supporting you. You hear the stories from those in recovery, “I don’t understand; I just suddenly heard myself calling my dealer” or “I didn’t even realize I had ordered a drink until it was in front of me.” In truth, if they looked back over the past few days or months, they would see this was the natural progression of relapse. The sooner you catch yourself slipping back into old behaviors, the better chance you have of catching yourself before it’s too late.
You can always get back up!
If you do end up suffering a relapse it doesn’t have to be your final battle, don’t give up when it happens, use it as a learning curve. Don’t waste time being hard on yourself, instead build up strength and lean on your support system, get honest with yourself and others. Make sure you turn your relapse into a blessing, you now know your triggers and what not to do with them. Remember all the relapse did was give you a little more wisdom so, get with a new comer and share your experience strength and hope, you might save them from slipping up.
If you see these signs in your loved one, be supportive, get them to a meeting and pray with them. The support alone might just save them from their battle with drugs and alcohol. Relapse is scary and can happen to anyone, however, it can be prevented. Let them know how proud you are of them; it is the little things that will make them think twice.
Stay tuned ABTRS is going to teach you how to help someone you love through a relapse!