Addiction is a difficult thing to beat on your own. It doesn’t matter if your addicted to alcohol, other drugs, pornography, sex, shopping, gambling or any other behavior – your addiction can run your life, dominate your thinking, and be the source of pleasure or friendships. But it’s hurting you in many ways.
Getting clean and sober is an amazing feeling! Unfortunately many addicts relapse and end up using or falling back into unhealthy behaviors. The following will help you keep from relapsing and, if a friend or family member is addicted, this will help you understand relapse and help them stay sober and a healthy part of your life.
Relapse is often thought of as using again or doing the harmful, addicted behaviors. That’s the last phase in relapse which we refer to as PHYSICAL RELAPSE. There are two phases of relapse that happen before physical relapse. Recognizing these two phases for you or your loved one will help avoid physical relapse.
In the first phase, EMOTIONAL RELAPSE, you start feeling the emotions that your addiction helps keep at bay. This could be more frequent bouts of anger, anxiety, depression, frustration, loneliness, failure, etc. When these emotions come on and you don’t have healthy ways to manage them, it’s easy to drop into the second phase of relapse.
Part of your RELAPSE PREVENTION PLAN should be to understand what emotions you struggle with and find healthy ways to handle those emotions.
In the second phase of relapse, MENTAL RELAPSE, you begin to thing about your physical relapse. Your thoughts begin to drift to using or doing the unhealthy behaviors. You might start bargaining with yourself, saying things like, “One time won’t hurt.” or “I’ve been clean for a while, so I know I can handle it now.” or “I’ll just do it this one last time and them I’m done.” Of course, any of these thoughts are dangerous. It’s your addiction talking, not your sobriety!
Other warning signs in the mental phase might include: fondling recalling the “good times” when you and friends were drinking, getting high or having dangerous sex; imagining yourself in the act of shopping or eating and noticing that you start to feel better; thinking about how you’ll hide it this one last time and not get caught – all of these thoughts are your addiction talking!
By the time you’re in MENTAL RELAPSE the only way to keep from a PHYSICAL RELAPSE is to seek help. You cannot and should not have to handle this alone. Call the person in your RELAPSE PREVENTION PLAN who you’ve already talked to and knows what you need when you make this most important call. This is your lifeline! If you don’t make this call you’ll more than likely slide down the slippery slope of relapse and lose your sobriety.
You can beat addiction! People are doing it and working at it every single day. Understanding these three phases of relapse, and working with a counselor to create a relapse prevention plan, will help ensure you are clean and sober and available to your family and friends.