Last time we talked about what relapse really is, what causes it, and tried to figure out when it happens. Now let’s talk about what to do if it happens. If you missed Part 1, you can find it here.
As discussed previously, relapse is part of addiction and, (like recovery) is a process, not an event. If we believe we’re on our way to picking up a drink or a drug, we need to tell someone how we’re feeling. Otherwise, we’re picking up that burden that we put down when we began our program, and unlike back then, there is no one to help us carry it.
That’s the number one thing: talk to someone and get with our support group. The last thing we want is to isolate. (It’s often the first thing we want, too — that’s a danger sign all by itself.)
Okay, so we picked up anyway. Now let’s talk about what we don’t do.
First, we don’t assume that since we picked up we might as well go ahead and use some more. WRONG! The repairs that have been taking place in our brains since we got clean have not been wiped out yet, and we don’t want to lose what we’ve gained in that department. If we’re able to stop, it is absolutely imperative that we do it before it becomes physically more difficult to do so.
This isn’t a decision that we’re likely to make while we’re using, because — let’s face it — drugs and alcohol make us stupid. But when the cold, clear daylight comes in the window and it would be so much easier just to turn our brains off again, we still have a chance to make the right decision. If we use again, we will definitely be on that downward slide and our chances of stopping before we hit bottom are much worse than if we catch ourselves right after we slip.
Second, we don’t go, “OMG! All my clean time is wasted!” Don’t go there. It wasn’t wasted. All those things we learned, the skills, the recovery information, the friends we made, are still there, we just neglected to use them. We are not back at square one — in fact, we’ve added another piece of invaluable information to all that went before: we now know for sure that it can happen to us. (We don’t recommend pursuing this lesson on purpose; nonetheless, it is a valuable one.)
Third, we don’t decide that we’re too embarrassed to go back to our recovery group. Eighty or ninety percent of those folks have been right where we are!
What do we do? We tuck it up and get to a meeting. If we need to, we get to detox. We get back on the recovery horse, and continue doing what we need to do for ourselves. No one can choose a sponsor or home group or work the steps for us. No one can learn the skills of sobriety for us. We have to do it ourselves. Lots of folks will help: the folks in the rooms, therapists, doctors, counselors, clergymen, supportive friends — but we’re the ones who have to decide to stay clean and sober, and we are the ones who have to walk the path, even if we step off it a few times.
Relapse, in the greater scheme of recovery, is no big deal as long as we get back to our program immediately. It teaches us a lot about humility, gets us involved deeply in our program again, and we simply go on from there. We keep on keepin’ on.