“Relapse is now seen as the rule rather than the exception in addiction recovery. And it is no longer viewed as a catastrophe but as an opportunity for learning more and better strategies for overcoming urges and for identifying the moods and situations that are likely to be difficult. What is inappropriate is black-and-white thinking about success that turns a slip-up into a disaster and sees it as a sure sign of defeat. The fact is that it takes time to change all the mental apparatus that supports any particular habit-the memories, the situations that trigger craving, and more. Addiction changes brains, and it takes time to change brains back.”
*Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, nor should this advice be substituted for professional medical advice.*
Days Without Incident: 0
Look in the mirror, reset the counter, regret the encounter. Whether your addiction is substance related or behavioral, the chance of a relapse is substantial. As I said before, the opioid system and habit cycle in your body are formidable opponents in the face of change. To change engrained systems such as these will take time and effort. This recent foray into addiction management hasn’t been my first rodeo and I’ve come up with a steps that help straighten my mind out. Some might work for you and some won’t, take them with a grain of salt.
– Deal with the immediate medical issues / emergencies (stomach pumped, etc…)
– You feel like dogshit, mentally and physically, accept that you made a mistake.
– Contact your support structure, ideally people that fully understand addiction and relapse and will not judge you harshly such as Narcotics / Alcoholics Anon, addiction clinics / wards, friends, family, hotlines.
-The shame, addiction, shame spiral is extremely powerful. (You use drugs to ease the pain of shame, then feel more shame after, negative feedback loop.) You must focus on the positive to snap yourself out of it. You have the courage and fortitude to take the first steps toward sobriety and had a small misstep along the path. You have not failed, only faltered momentarily.
– Write down everything that lead up to the relapse. Events, how and what you felt, why you felt that way. Jotting it down will clear up the reasons why and will help you rectify the situation next time.
– Change you state: State dependent memory is real and can sink your boat. Work out and get a sweat going, change your clothes, go for a walk. Learn what moods and situations trigger your addiction cravings and deal with them accordingly. You’re going to have to remove certain people and things from your life, accept that.
-Dr. Gabor Mate’s definition of sobriety: “Sobriety is developing a mind state focused not on staying away from something bad, but on living a life led by positive values and intentions. It means living in the present moment, neither driven by ghosts of the past nor lulled and tormented by fantasies and fears of the future.” Read his book, it changed my life and will probably change yours.
Share your best tips on how to successfully cope with a relapse in the comments. Good luck and God bless.