Preventing Relapses in Addiction

Slip Sliding Away: The Closer Your Destination?

Alcoholics and addicts in recovery soon recognize some of the warning signs that can lead to lapses in abstinence. Most will take immediate steps to stay clean and sober by recalling the tools provided by sponsors or counselor/therapists. At the same time they will be following a plan that’s based on their emotional state or mental stresses that helped lead to dependence on alcohol or drugs.

The quicker the recovering person posts these signs and signals in their minds the sooner they can move forward with confidence. Hundreds of factors can lead to slips or to conflicting emotions. Sometimes referred to as no-fault illnesses, two of these include psychiatric symptoms and prescribed medications having the wrong effect. Maintaining abstinence encourages growth as an individual and identifying no-fault illness is critical to that effort. The recovering individual must retain awareness and identify limitations to the best of one’s ability. Signal flags should be in place and ready to alert the recovering alcoholic or addict when old patterns are creeping to the fore.

In chemical dependency, slips and relapses are acts of taking that first drink or drug after being deliberately clean and sober for a significant time. It is going back to sometimes fatal acts even when we know the consequences. It is well to view relapse as a process that starts far ahead of the event. Those who have slipped and slid away into relapse can nearly always point to the place where it started. It might be traced to a pattern of stinkin thinkin or, old memories that had been keyed to dependency on mood altering substances. It usually ties in with complacency over their recovery plan and a refusal to ask for help or communicate uncertainty to someone else. Every person’s exact relapse menu is unique yet many factors are shared by others.

The slip and the relapse include many combinations of circumstance and deliberate action. The process is often subtle and subconscious past actions can come into play. Warning signs might include:

  • Setting unrealistic goals perfection expected demands on the person that are impossible to meet.
  • Thinking of things that induce anger and resentments. Unresolved conflicts from past events and past associations.
  • Stopping a treatment plan skipping medical appointments avoiding therapy and meetings of self-help groups.
  • Visiting locations that were drinking haunts or places where street drugs are available.
  • Retaining drugs or alcoholic beverages in the home knowing they are always there if we need them.
  • Feeling over-confident with the certainty our troubles are over and we are cured.
  • Avoiding issues we should deal with promptly ignoring financial matters that need immediate attention. Often these are extremely important with severe penalties involved.
  • Engaging in obsessive behaviors working to extremes gambling sexual promiscuity.
  • Ignoring the signs we have come to know from our past experiences as preludes to relapse and increased dependencies.

Almost all those in recovery have had times when thoughts of drinking or using drugs surfaced and were compelling. Even dreams of using mood altering substances are not uncommon. These incidents help to remind alcoholics and addicts of the reality of dependencies and underscore the problems still in place. These demonstrate that no matter how bad things get, the benefits of staying abstinent will outweigh short term relief. The cravings, relapse dreams and uncertainties of early recovery fade. When we are committed to recovery we slowly but surely develop confidence in our new way of life without chemicals.

Staying clean and sober while managing psychiatric symptoms is an ongoing process.

Dealing with a duel disorder goes hand in hand with abstinence. An individual is in recovery when actively following a program that focuses on every aspect of recovery.

The personal recovery tool kit serves as the best protection against such relapses! By identifying people, places and things that put us at risk for relapse we can counter with the proper skills and contacts to avoid trouble before it happens. We should review our relapse prevention plans regularly with physicians, treatment professionals and our support network in AA or NA. We change those plans as sobriety becomes better established and as situations adjust to our lives in recovery.

It’s important to remember that relapses are a part of recovery, alcoholism and addiction. When and if they do happen we don’t judge or blame —we seek progress, not perfection. Sharing our experiences with sponsors, groups and therapists is an important way to identify where things went wrong. Our experiences told truthfully and in detail will absolutely help others fighting to remain clean and sober!