Relapse is a process, not an event. It's in the nature of our disease, but it doesn’t have to happen. Constant vigilance of our thoughts and maintenance of our spiritual condition provide the daily reprieve I need.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that 40-60% of recovering drug addicts relapse within the first few months. This percentage is not all that different from the relapse rates for other chronic illnesses, like diabetes, hypertension, or asthma. “With numbers like that, why even bother?” you ask.
First, statistics apply to groups, not individuals. Second, the life of addiction was killing us. We had reached a point where it was either quit or die. As my counselor said, “If you use again, you die, and it won’t be pretty.” Relapse is not a requirement. Here's what you can do to help yourself.
It's a Process, Not an Event
We always plan our relapses ahead of time. They never just occur spontaneously. This means I can avoid relapse if I know what to look for and can learn to recognize the early signs.
Develop new coping skills
In our using we acquired many destructive habits. They didn’t disappear just because we quit drinking and drugging. These pitfalls will surely trip us up if we don’t recognize and avoid them.
Signs and symptoms of relapse occur well before relapse itself. These behaviors led us toward using in the first place. And they will do it again if we don’t know them when they return.
If you do
It’s not the end of the world. The hard part is returning to the rooms and admitting your mistake. But don’t worry, that room is filled with your friends who have done the same thing.