I never thought I’d relapse. Not that didn’t think the disease of addiction wasn’t real or that I was untouchable or stronger than those that do relapse. I just felt great. I felt strong. Treatment had provided me with tools, education, planning, fellowship, support, abstinence, and a spiritual road I was excited to walk down. Relapse wasn’t on my mind. I never imagined there’d come a day and/or a time when relapse was an option. It just didn’t compute with my new perspective on life in recovery. But, there came a day when it happened.
Knowing what I do now I can look back on the relapse and sort through the why of my relapse and how I got to the point where using became an option for me. There are three main things I can pinpoint that factored in my relapse: Complacency, loss of fellowship, and putting recovery tools on the shelf.
Complacency in recovery is dangerous. And, it’s not as if you feel the negative effects of complacency in the moment or even that same day. The harmful mental health consequences of complacency creep up on you over time.
The depression, anxiety, resentment, and overconfidence begin to infiltrate your recovery foundation and weaken it to the point where we don’t have a defense against the first drink or drug.
We also at that point can justify using or drinking again much easier, because we’re in so much pain. We get used to complacency and don’t necessarily notice that we’ve started to get sick again. And, another issue complacency causes is distancing ourselves from our recovery fellowship. Which is my second factor.
Loss of fellowship is a lonely and difficult road. One of the gifts of recovery is a newfound support network of individuals that have been through difficult times together. The compassion and empathy shared are immeasurable in providing stable and strong support during recovery. Organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are godsends for addicts and alcoholics in recovery. One of the issues caused by complacency is the distance from these ever-important fellowships.
Our friends in recovery are sounding boards, support, and can recognize thinking errors and blindspots that we cannot.
Distancing ourselves from fellowship either by choice or complacency has major negative consequences toward recovery and usually leads to relapse.
The third factor in relapse is putting our recovery tools on the shelf. This is very common while in recovery. For many along the recovery journey, the benefits of using our newfound tools feel good. What we forget is that using these tools over time is what has led us to levels of joy, peace, hope, and happiness that we love so much. When we put these tools on the shelf because we’re feeling good, it’s only a matter of time before the positive benefits of using these tools dissipate because of complacency and goes away.
Relapse isn’t certain. It’s not mandatory. And, it doesn’t have to be a part of your recovery. But if relapse is part of your story or you’re struggling through relapse and stuck in that cycle, you can get back on track by doing the opposite of the 3 mentioned factors that caused the relapse. Take action toward complacency. Plug back into your fellowship. Pick up the recovery tools you put on the shelf and get to work.
If these action steps seem too difficult or you’re having a hard time re-engaging in recovery, seek professional help via your therapist, or call a treatment provider for additional suggestions.