Working as a drug and alcohol counselor I constantly see the battle which the addict faces on a daily basis. The battle against this scary monster called addiction. In this battle the addict has a constant ebb and flow of defeat and victory. The defeat which I speak of is relapse, which is an always present and ominous part of recovery. Most people in recovery know, understand and accept that relapse could be lurking just around the corner, a bit like a scary Hollywood monster. Most also have a misunderstanding of what a relapse actually is and when it starts.
The word ‘Relapse’ is literally defined as “a fall, or slip back to a former state.” In recovery most look at relapse as a return back to using alcohol or drugs; this is half right. Most believe that relapse is the moment when someone in recovery picks up their drug of choice and uses again; relapse however starts long before one starts their use again. There are many sober living houses in nj where people go through this phenomenon. In most cases relapse starts very gradually, usually with our thinking. Some might start to think ‘I’ve gone a year without using; maybe I can cut back on going to my AA meetings now.’ Or, ‘It’s okay if I start dating someone who actively drinks.’
Since our thinking usually dictates our actions we might slowly start giving up the things in our life that has kept us clean. Like a boat which is tide off to a dock, our recovery is very much tied off by the things we do in our life in order to stay clean. Most people who are actively in recovery will tell you about the importance of having healthy sober activities: attending support group meetings, working with a sponsor or sober mentor, getting in touch with your spirituality, meditation or prayer, exercise, or even picking up old hobbies or starting new ones.
These activities keep us tied to the dock called recovery. As we let some of these activities go slowly we begin to drift away from our safe harbor. We begin to drift into relapse. Through tragic complacency we slowly begin our drift back to old behaviors, old belief systems and ways of thinking. Perhaps over time the addict that has laid dormant over time, starved by our efforts in recovery, begins to provide us with permission statements and self-defeating arguments about why it might be okay to use, just this once. The further we stay in our drift the closer we get to the chaotic, wild sea of addiction.
Relapse is very much a part of recovery, and very well could be lurking in the darkness, waiting for us to stumble in complacency. In the journey of recovery it is important to stay vigilant in recovery, to watch our thinking, to stay in the here and now, and to place recovery first in our lives. To avoid the stumbling block of complacency find ways to keep yourself interested in your own recovery, mix things up, get yourself outside your comfort zones. It is within our comfort zones that compliancy lives. This is a part of the battle; these are tools and weapons to use in our fight against the ugly, scary monster called addiction.