Relapse is more than just using alcohol or drugs. It is the progressive process of becoming so dysfunctional in recovery that self-medication with alcohol or drugs seems like a reasonable choice.
The relapse process is a lot like going a little insane. The first thoughts that were not ok yesterday are ok today. I tell a lie about something and I feel smart about getting away with it. I stroke my Ego and tell myself how cool I am. I look at some porno on my computer and self-pleasure around it. Then I suppress the guilt and bury it deep inside where it will surface and return to bite me when I am feeling down. I start putting off paying that bill, I leave the unwashed dishes in the sink, and I wear the same clothes as yesterday and don’t take a shower. The sequence of problems that lead from stable sobriety to relapse are similar to negative behaviours. There are two differences. First, each negative behaviour (i.e. each problem unsolved brings us closer to substance use) gets a little bigger and heavier until it over-whelms us and we lose our faith in recovery and begin thinking “what’s this all for anyway” and apathy sets in. I allow myself to become bored and I stop doing the do things, I don’t call a friend or my sponsor. I lay around feeling sorry for my-self.
So here we are moving along in recovery and we begin to allow ourselves to go out of control and we develop the devil may care attitude and anything can and will happen. So now we need to make the pain go away and we reach for old reliable – the magical substances that always helped us out with pain and confusion in the past. We’ve now started drinking and drugging just a little, our denial helps us out here.
The answer to avoiding relapse is not to take up becoming superman or superwoman. Part of the answer is to learn self-awareness. To watch for the change in attitude and behaviour. To keep doing the do things, clean where you live, keep you and your clothes clean. Pay attention to boredom. Step out of it when it happens. Look for some volunteering to fill in your time when you are job hunting Another part of the answer is to develop an emergency plan for stopping the chain reaction quickly, before you lose control and everything becomes unmanageable. Then if it does get on the phone and talk it out and back into your recovery. Relapse behaviour is just a problem to be solved.