A relapse can occur for any number of reasons: pain pills after an accident, a death of a loved one, a job loss, a promotion, a hard time, a good time, a marriage, a divorce… most anything can push alcoholics and addicts back into their disease if they are not working hard to stay sober.
Becoming overwhelmed by the trials of life instead of continuing to make recovery the number one priority above all else can lead directly back to the bottom. As a group, addicts tend to be sensitive people who are strongly impacted by successes and by perceived losses. We are often be self-congratulatory and when things are going well, take full responsibility. On the flipside, we can be overly self-critical and when times are hard, or we have made mistakes, we are apt to wallow in self-recrimination or depression. If we don’t have a strong program of recovery to rely on during stressful times, we risk going back to our addiction.
A common misconception is that once sober for several years, we have ‘succeeded’ and no longer need to focus so diligently on our recovery. However, this approach almost always leads to trouble, as relapse is always a risk, no matter what length of sobriety a person has. Our next drink or drug is just a bad decision away. This is not to be discouraging, but to serve as a reminder that addiction is a progressive disease. We are not ‘cured’ by lengths of time sober.
The good news is that once we have fought that hard battle and gained sobriety, we can maintain our sobriety by following some simple rules:
Don’t let the life that sobriety gave you get in the way of your sobriety
If work, kids, spouse, fun, or challenges begin to take priority over working a program of recovery, remember that you wouldn’t have anything without freedom from your addiction.
Keep in the middle of the pack
Stay connected to the people of recovery. Each day talk to people in your 12 Step program, your counselors, and/or your sober friends. Maintaining those relationships can one day save your life. Think of each time you reach out as an investment in your long-term sobriety.
Go to meetings!
Develop a regular meeting schedule and stick to it! Going to the same meetings each week helps us build relationships as well as holding us accountable in our sobriety. Meetings teach us new things, and help protect us from one of our biggest obstacles: isolation. When we are alone with our thoughts, we can rationalize almost anything and fears and challenges take on massive disproportion.
This may be the hardest of all our tasks. Remaining honest in our lives about our recovery, our emotional sobriety, our temptations, and our fears. Honesty means facing those things that scare us the most and being willing to ask for help if we need it. For many, this may include seeking treatment at a Center such as the Pat Moore Foundation after years without a drink or a drug to reaffirm or maintain our sobriety.
Wherever you are today in your sobriety, remember it is just one step at a time. As long as you are willing to be honest today, and to commit to living the next 24 hours without a drink or a drug, you are on the path to peace.