Let’s first look at the definition of “Relapse”: To fall or slide back into a former state; To regress after partial recovery from illness; To slip back into bad ways; To backslide; A falling back into a former state, especially after apparent improvement. (It comes from the Latin word (relabi) which means ~ to fall back gradually, or to slide.) The first note to make is: “If you’ve begun nothing new in your life like: A new attitude, new actions or new behaviors, then there actually is no “re” lapse…because to do that, you would first have had to be “in recovery” to begin with. (If there has been no change, it would simply be “lapsing”, (not re-lapsing), back into using/drinking, which is inevitable when an alcoholic/addict makes no changes in their life.
Now this being said, there is a LOT of talk about relapse in treatment and early recovery isn’t there? I mean, either you hear about: How You shouldn’t do it; How you could do it; How someone else might be doing it; How someone did do it; How someone is back in treatment from doing it; How someone went to jail because they did it or sometimes… How someone is no longer with us because they didn’t come back from doing it. Either way, it is a part of life pretty much from the moment we walk through the doors of treatment.
The response to this issue is varied, but generally goes like this:
(1) Initially we wish it was us doing it; (2) We hear about one person who did and believe that “everybody” is doing it; (3) We get angry at fellow recovering people who DID do it (4) We get angry and blame someone else for those who ARE doing it (5) We either throw ourselves into recovery, being surrounded with recovering people who are NOT doing it. resulting in a clean & sober life OR (6) We withdraw into old behaviors and solutions, (becoming overwhelmed), and end up doing it ourselves. Here is the question though: Does relapse “just happen?” Not generally.
Granted, in the first few days to weeks of recovery, there are most definitely people who are doing good one minute and without a thought – BOOM! – They drink/use…and even they are freaked out by it! But for the most part it doesn’t actually happen that way. Recovery and Relapse generally occur in a specific order. RECOVERY: Begins with the Physical (detox) – then the Mental (fog lifts, learning, easing away from the mental obsession) – THEN the Spiritual (we begin making a connection with a Power source other than ourselves). Then there is RELAPSE: Which starts with the Spiritual (we begin disconnecting from our Power source) – then the Mental (stinking thinking, twisted perceptions, mental obsession begins setting in) – THEN the Physical (once we believe the lie, we pick up a drink or drug, (usually starting w/ a chemical we’ve had a reservation about), and we are in “full blown” relapse once again. But I want to note…The relapse began when we started disconnecting from the Power source, (God, then sponsor, home group, therapist, etc…), and once again relying on “self” ~ repeating the same actions and expecting different results.
So you might be thinking, “Ok, I pretty much agree with this so far, but what is the (Even When “I” Think it’s Not) part referring to?” Well, here is where we tread across the often bumpy road of people’s experiences, opinions, (and when living in a therapeutic setting), guidelines and rules come in. There are all sorts of paths that can lead us into trouble and relapse. *And again I want to stress that the relapse being referred to, starts long before the chemical is ever picked up ~ as previously mentioned*
Here are some of those paths: Who we hang out with / Places we go to have fun / Certain jobs such as:
working in bars /Use of mood altering over the counter medications/ Chemicals that are not illegal and
“technically” people are not in treatment for/Use of energy drinks or pills / Use of relaxation drinks or
pills / Mouthwash that has alcohol in it…and the list goes on.
Is she really going there?? (YES she really is ~ Ha!) I’ve heard, (and at some point in my life “said”), it all. Like, “Drinking an energy drink is no different that someone drinking coffee”…Well that is somewhat true: If a person only drank one HUGE can of energy drink a day and it were split over a period of time throughout the day…it would be like drinking cups of coffee during the day. However drinking multiple drinks, guzzling energy drinks, etc… is because of the desire to “get a mood & mind altering effect”. If I walked up and saw someone sitting at the table with a pot of coffee in hand, and they were guzzling it all down – wouldn’t that be a slight indicator of a problem? (Sarcasm intended). What about Kava Bars? Well, why did we go to clubs/bars? Some would say, “To have fun”…true…but why else? It was a watering hole to do something that everyone else was doing ~ drinking &/or using. So what is the real draw to a Kava Bar…to hang out? NOPE…it is to do what everyone else is doing…and what is that?…hmm?
Using a mood/mind altering chemical IS for the sole purpose of “altering how we feel”. (We don’t have to admit that to ourselves or anyone else for it to still be true) Believe it or not ~ things like Kava Bars & Energy Drinks are not so new. Granted, back when I first got in recovery they didn’t exist – but other things like them did.
For example: There were OTC pills that were made with “only caffeine”, (about the same dosage as energy drinks now), and OTC sleep aids with similar ingredients to what exists now. There were actually clubs that posed as being for “people in recovery” that had a “bar” and had “bottled drinks hanging” which contained a very low amount of alcohol, (although advertised as having none), and were called a “non alcoholic beverage”. I knew SO MANY people, (myself included), who ended up in full blown relapse, and that was part of the path that lead to it.
This is why: We have a disease that doesn’t know the difference between chemicals or our motives, and it isn’t gone (no matter how long we are clean). When we begin acting out in this way, (and a disconnection from spiritual growth is what leads us to believe this lie in the first place – only God enables us to see the truth), eventually our brilliant mind says, “Hey, if you can do this responsibly – then you can do THAT responsibly”, and so the seed is sewn. It takes root and somewhere down the line, (if nothing changes in your attitude & choices), you WILL believe the lie and go back where you came from.
© Rebecca Balko, 2013-2014