In the early days of recovery, life is miserable. Detoxing from hardcore drugs or alcohol is not only physically exhausting, it is mentally fatiguing and emotionally draining. Most addicts and alcoholics report that a time warp occurs in the beginning stages of recovery. Every moment that passes is like taking a trip to your own, personal, living hell. Hours seem like weeks. Resisting cravings takes every ounce of your being and learning to live a life free from drugs and alcohol requires your full attention. Let’s not forget, too, that mental confusion, extreme boredom and grueling physical withdrawal also accompany those first few weeks of sobriety.
The Road To Relapse
Then, the fog lifts and life begins to seem hopeful again. We start making friends at our 12-step meetings, we get a sponsor and we begin working a program of recovery. This is what many refer to as “the pink cloud phase.” Everything seems bright and cheery –we are excited about the life recovery has to offer us. After living in darkness for so long, the light of life is so uplifting, many addicts and alcoholics report that they feel high on life.
But, after awhile, the nostalgia of recovery begins to wear thin and life takes an interesting turn. The job we were once proud to show up to seems redundant. Recovering friends start to get on our nerves. Our sponsor may seem like a jail keeper rather than a friend. The new places we once found exciting now seem tedious and lackluster. If this is your experience, and you’re feeling restless in your recovery, you won’t want to hear the hard truth, but you are sliding into relapse mode. At this point, bells and whistles should be going off in your head and a voice should be screaming, “Danger, Will Robinson!” (Or something similar!)
Relapse is “the act of backsliding, worsening, or subsiding, experiencing the recurrence of symptoms of a disease after a period of improvement.” Yep, that pretty much describes it. Relapse is a very real threat to any addict or alcoholic who is earnestly seeking to work a program of recovery. In fact, statistics suggest that as many as 90 percent of all people who complete in-patient rehab or seek help from a 12-step group will relapse at some point in their efforts to stay clean.
These statistics are staggering, but they do not reflect a lack of desire or sincerity on the part of addicted people. What they do demonstrate, however, is just how cunning, baffling and powerful addiction and alcoholism can be. For most, staying sober and living the principles of the 12 steps is incredibly difficult. Many even think it is impossible. The thing is, it can be done –and you can do it. Relapse does not have to be a reality in your recovery.
If you are feeling irritable, discontent, bored, resentful or downright angry and miserable, you are in relapse mode. Experts say the addicted mind relapses long before the body follows. You may not even be aware of the fact that your mind is wandering in a dangerous direction, conscious only of a general attitude of apathy and discomfort.
The anecdote to relapse is honesty. Open communication followed by enthusiastic action is necessary to avoid relapse. If you are beginning to lose your passion for recovery and life in general, it’s time to tell on yourself. Call your sponsor and tell him or her you’re feeling out of sorts. You may not even know what to say other than, “I don’t know what’s going on with me, but something isn't right.” Take the guidance of your sponsor and follow whatever instructions he or she may give. Contact the members of your support group and ask them to stay close to you in the coming weeks. Get into constructive action and stay busy with positive activities –clean out your closet, go get your hair done, see a movie or exercise. Writing about your thoughts and feelings will also help you gain insight into your present situation.
Remember, Don’t Use No Matter What.
You may want to drink or do your drug of choice with every ounce of your being, but resist the temptation with all your might. After an extended period of recovery, a relapse is a devastating experience. Once you have experienced the joy of sobriety, getting loaded will never be the same. Anyone who has ever relapsed will tell you: it is not fun. Stay connected to your 12-step group and continue to walk the path of recovery. This too shall pass and before you know it, life will be beautiful again.