Relapse doesn’t happen when you take that first drink or drug. Relapse is a PROCESS. When you experience pain that goes left unchecked, you are vulnerable to going down a slippery (but identifiable) slide that can result in using.
Whether you’ve been sober 2 weeks or 20 years, the changes brought about by this pandemic may have impacted your recovery.
We’ve listed the stages of the relapse process so you can:
- Become AWARE that you are on the slide to relapse.
- ACCEPT that this is what’s happening.
- Take ACTION and stop the slide.
An event, interaction, or change takes place that causes you great distress. It could be a change in a relationship, job, or an unexpected illness. Due to COVID 19, you may have experienced disruptions in all these areas of life at once! It could also be something that seems small or insignificant, but it has an impact on your emotional, social, physical, and/or social well-being.
You Minimize the Impact of What Happened
You don’t consider the pain or anxiety caused by “what happened” to be a big deal. You minimize how scared, angry, or sad you feel. You don’t talk about how you’re feeling with your friends, family, sponsor, or at meetings. You tell yourself you’re doing OK. You see no threat to your sobriety. You deny that anything is wrong and may start focusing on what’s going on with others to avoid what’s happening with you.
You Stop Relying on Your Tools of Recovery
Specifically during COVID, you may have resisted going to meetings on Zoom. In general, you may have stopped talking to recovery friends, your sponsor, or cut back on meetings entirely. You may have stopped journaling, doing your step work, or you might’ve been unable to do service work due to social distancing. You start to struggle with isolation and head back into self-reliance mode.
Your Thoughts and Behaviors Become Problematic
Your internal dialogue may start to become increasingly negative and you become consumed with depression, self-pity, or resentment. You are judgemental of yourself and others. You begin lying and avoid questions or people who are concerned about you. You get into arguments and cut off contact with others. You engage in impulsive and harmful behavior.
Acute Relapse is Upon You
You start rationalizing that it wouldn’t be that big of a deal if you had a drink or used a drug. You tell yourself that things are so bad already, it won’t make any difference if you use. You may have feelings of despair or be thinking about suicide. You tell yourself you can control how much you drink or use and aren’t really an alcoholic or addict anyway. You get a bad case of the “F-ck Its.”
You Drink or Use Drugs
You have reached the bottom of the slide. You pick up the drink or use the drug to escape your feelings of pain and desperation. You may attempt to limit how much you use or plan to have only a short binge. If you are able to sustain a period of controlled drinking/using, you return to out-of-control use within a matter of time. You may end up in jail, have an accident, or you may even die.