Thursday, May 26, 2011

Dealing with Relapses

Look, addiction is powerful. It's hard to explain to someone who isn't an addict exactly what it feels like to be a slave to a substance. Cravings become unbearable. White knuckling it is exhausting. Listening to the self-talk of your inner addict ("Go on, one drink won't hurt anybody," "You can too have a drink; you can control it anytime you want," "These fuckers are trying to tell you how to live") makes you feel positively possessed.

Sometimes people give in, despite their best intentions, despite their desperation to quit.

Relapsing isn't okay, but it's certainly understandable.

It doesn't need to be a part of your recovery, but it often winds up being so.

So what to do if you relapse, or if an alcoholic you know relapses?

(1) Put the drink down or help them put the drink down (assist; don't control).

(2) Do NOT judge them or yourself. That doesn't help. We can't exactly help being an addict. Besides, the way the addict's brain works is like this: "Well, fine, if you're going to bitch at me and write me off as a lost cause, I might as well go ahead and be one."

(3) Go ahead and express your disappointment, or feel disappointed in yourself, but remember: "Progress, not perfection." Nobody's perfect, and we're all only human. The important thing is to learn from your mistake so you don't repeat it.

(4) Learn from the mistake, or help them learn from it. Relapses happen for a variety of reasons, but they usually boil down to several common triggers. Remember H.A.L.T.: don't let yourself get too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Remember to check your resentments at the door. (That has everything to do with anger.) Lastly, how is your faith? Faith is something that needs to be nurtured. You don't find it and then just sort of let it hang there uselessly.

I read somewhere once that AA has a high failure rate--maybe something like 80%. (Nevertheless it is the program with the highest success rate.) Or, people will say that AA doesn't work because on the one hand you're told you can't help your addiction, yet on the other hand you're told you can help your addiction. It seems irrational.

But really, that's a little off the mark. True, addicts CAN'T help their addiction. Their self-will has no power over it. But addicts CAN help their addiction by giving their self-will over to something else that DOES have power over it. We can't have faith in ourselves anymore; we've let ourselves down too many times to know we're not bigger than the grip of our substance. But we CAN have faith in the power of something else. (That something else--or Higher Power--can be God, it can be universal love, it can be your own AA group, it can be anything as long as you can put your faith in that. And I mean whole-heartedly.)

Faith is what saves us. Without faith, without some kind of belief in a greater good, we are all lost. There is no reason to not fall prey to our addiction.

Thus, (5) Pray.


Anonymous said...

I have faith in my wife and daughters, my family. Wish I could find faith in a Deity, but I require proof....something tangible. Im dnvious of those who DO believe, but Id just be another hypocrite sitting in church on Sunday pretending. And rock n roll and riding my chopper...helps keep the demons at bay and blows the cobwebs from my brain. And if the rock n roll is loud enough, I cant hear the voices of temptation whispering in my ear...


Joyce said...

Hi Stuart, but you know... you don't need a Deity as a Higher Power. It sounds to me like your HP is your love for your family. That is something you can have faith in. That is what keeps you going, keeps you wanting to be a better man.

Listening to rock and roll is a good way to deal with triggers. :)