When someone faces this critical crossroads it can be accompanied by prolonged or short-lived turmoil, depending on the person and the amount of time in recovery. And, unfortunately, often the solution to avoid the pain of this decision process is to succumb to that inner voice that is prompting us to use or drink again. This negative force, brought to us by us and our addiction, will likely insist that the only way to get through the day is to imbibe again. The rationalization voice quickly follows in sync by assuring that we will simply deal with the consequences at a later time. Decision made – we opt to relapse. This happens all the time and I am sure many of you have experienced this during the course of recovery.
I will confidently attest that during my three plus years of sobriety I have never seen, not once, a person who experienced a pleasant or fun relapse. And, there is no question that any relapse becomes a major setback in one’s recovery, sometimes with devastating consequences. However, any relapse should never be considered a declaration of failure. So many people I have known get themselves back into recovery and attempt once again to pursue the path of sobriety and living clean, having learned valuable lessons from their recent relapse.
This is not to say that one needs or must have relapses. The addictive mind is quite tricky and will attempt to open any door possible to reassert itself in an individual’s life. Therefore, relapses should never be taken with a blasé or indifferent attitude. During discussion groups I often commented that relapses are hell and to be avoided at all costs. It is not to be equated with simply going off of one’s diet plan for instance. The repercussions can be quite destructive, deadly and sad. And, mistrust ensues – you once again cannot trust yourself and your actions and others will continue to mistrust your attempts at living sober. This is unavoidable.
If we explore some of that precarious inner dialogue that ensues once a person decides to open that door to the possibility of using again, we will easily recognize the justifications. “I just need to feel that feeling again.” “I can’t take another day without using.” “I’ve gone this long and have been clean or sober, let me just dabble again and I’ll get right off it, I promise.” “I simply rather be drunk or high than going through withdrawal and recovery.” And, for the big winner of the day for justifying using – “No one will know, I can get this out of my system before my next urine or breath test; I’m alone, no one is around to see me, so I’m doing it.” And with a deceivingly mischievous grin we start using, fooling no one but ourselves.
Well, we all know this kind of thinking very well. Thought has power and every thought we have sets off an amazing chain reaction within one’s body, mind and soul. And, I mean every thought. Every time we think about using and the ‘fun’ we had and miss now, we are charging that thought with a dynamic power that affects everything from our brain chemistry to our entire nervous system. Each instance we allow ourselves to conjure up our nefarious romance with our addictive substance, we give that thought power. We must free ourselves from being addicted to the type of thinking that accompanies addiction itself.
So, what can help. Here is some advice I would like to offer and I would ask you to also read my earlier blog entitled Unconditional Recovery. When realizing you are on this fence, and you feel that you are in real danger of opting to use or drink again, please call someone who can help - a sponsor, a friend, your spouse or partner, a therapist or an existing recovery group hotline. Some however, may choose to pray and this is a wonderful response to urges, especially prayers that offer hope, love, forgiveness and gratitude. Others choose activities such as exercise to free their minds from addictive thoughts. Listening to music or spending time in the outdoors and taking notice of nature is also excellent. Simply put, any positive activity, that is practiced regularly, will assist a person from generating those ‘electrically’ charged forms of relapse rationalizations and pinging your own brain continually with a stream of thoughts that tempt one into using.
Many have found wonderful recovery through the practice of Yoga and Tai Chi. I have practiced for years now, mindfulness, meditation and deep breathing. Keeping our bodies filled with the nourishing effects of positively charged fresh air and breathing deeply is so very healthy. While listening and attuning with our breath we learn to quiet our minds and shift our thoughts to an image or thought that is healing and positive. Eventually, with practice, mindful breathing can be employed as a regular means of shutting the door to addictive thought.
Living with Unconditional Recovery means again, to close the door to our addiction and our addictive thoughts. Shut that door, and walk away from it and live in the healthy world that abounds around you. Learn to focus not on the past forms of addictive thought but on the new outlook of seeing life that can be free and better without using any addictive substance. Then you do not have to spend any more time lingering on that precarious fence because you have decided once and for all to live life free from addiction and finally get off that fence.