Signs of a relapse – what can you look out for?

Signs of a relapse – what can you look out for?

A relapse doesn’t start when we pick up the substance of our choice, it starts with thoughts and with behaviors, picking up the substance is the end result of the relapse.

Here are some of the behaviors to look out for, you can prevent a relapse if you become aware of the danger signs and hold yourself accountable to keep yourself safe.

Thoughts of social drinking

It’s easy to fool yourself into believing that you can manage to drink “responsibly”, in a controlled manner, maybe just “over the weekends”, to forget that you can’t stop after one glass, or even one bottle for that matter.

If your substance of choice was drugs, you might think that alcohol has never been your problem, the drugs were, only to find out that once you had that second drink you have already dialed your dealer. Any mind-altering substance is going to lead you down the same rocky path of destruction.

Keep away from social events where you know people will be drinking, Phuza Thursday at the pub, Friday office parties, Braai’s with friends, don’t tell friends or family its ok to drink next to you, it is not. It is your responsibility to keep your surrounding safe for you.

As much as family and friends think they were lied to, you have lied to yourself more. It might be the denial of the depth of your addiction, manipulating yourself to believe you can control it, use less, or be in denial about the reality of the damage you have created in your life. Once you become aware that you are manipulating the people around you, or that lying and dishonesty are becoming a pattern again, you can be sure you are in trouble.

Easily Angered
Overreaction, frustration, and irritability can become a pattern of behavior. You might be angry with the world in general (the government, the state of the roads) with someone specific, and often with yourself.

Most of us operate from a place of fear and anxiety, or shame and guilt, notice if you mask those feelings with anger. When we allow that anger and resentment to turn into rage, we may lose control; losing control can easily spill into other areas where we lose total control… loneliness, tension, and frustration can all tip your equilibrium and send you spinning out of control making you believe that there is no way out except drinking and using.

Lack of self-care
Healing starts with self-care, care for yourself, your environment, and your recovery.
Signs of trouble can be when your daily routines become haphazard and well-balanced meals are replaced by Junk food, your sleeping routine is disrupted, an inability to keep appointments, plans, or decisions become more common, you find yourself isolating from friends and family, and you become overwhelmed with strong feelings of frustration, fear or anxiety that leave you feeling rushed and overburdened or being trapped with having no way out. Make yourself and your recovery your priority, without those you have nothing.

Believing you can do it yourself without help
If you start convincing yourself and everyone that “you will never drink again” the urgency of continuing with recovery therapy diminishes. You might consider dropping out of professional counseling even though you know you need the help, or you might create conflict and tension within the therapeutic environment that gives you the reasons to end the treatment. Remind yourself “I alone can do it, but I can’t do it alone”.

Isolation and avoidance
You might have come up with valid reasons and excuses for isolating. Maybe its relationships that have become strained, or the belief that if you keep yourself away from friends, you will not be tempted to relapse. However, isolation can lead to unhappiness, triggering beliefs that you are useless and incompetent, that nobody cares. Loneliness can turn into depression making you feel trapped and overwhelmed. Avoidance grounds the ideas that life is unfair, “I’ve tried my best and it isn’t working out”, “what is the point of it all?” letting the thoughts of “things seem so bad now I might as well get drunk because they can’t get any worse”.

Feeling like a victim and indulging in self-pity can be harmful not only to your sobriety but to your self-esteem and belief in your abilities.

My 6-year-old is driving my car!

My 6-year-old is driving my car!

We have all acquired certain beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. Many people struggle with understanding
the battle of “knowing” their parents love them, and yet deep beliefs of feeling unloved. It is too painful, almost impossible, for a young child to acknowledge that his parents love him, but not in the way he needs to be loved, that their behavior is hurtful and damaging, that they do not “see me or love me for who I really am”.

2500 years ago, Buddha said, that with our minds we create the world. Gabor Mate’ says that it is the world we lived in as children that created OUR world, or our beliefs about ourselves in the world. If you grew up in a safe home where your needs were met and you felt heard and cherished your belief in yourself and your surrounding will be positive, you can be friendly and trust others, yourself, and your environment. You can understand what is safe or risky because you trust your gut feelings.

But if you grew up in a home that was volatile, where you felt unsafe, unheard, and unloved your outlook on the world and about yourself might be destructive. You might believe you need to show aggression, be selfish and protect yourself, because there is no one else that has your back. You might be fearful, suspicious, and anxious, because you cannot trust anyone, not even yourself.

When your inner child is still dictating your choices as an adult when your traumas are ruling the decisions you make as a mature person, you need to challenge that young part within you.

You will not allow a six-year-old child to drive you in a car – it is completely irresponsible and unsafe; the chances are that there will be a dreadful accident and some casualties; you will get hurt. Why let your six-year-old drive your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors?

Acknowledge to yourself that today, you are 100% responsible for your life and your choices. That you can trust yourself, with all your life experience to make the right decisions for yourself and your life. Take the steering wheel and guide your journey, acknowledging the hurt of the past, but allow the healing to direct your path.

Take control of your car and your life!

Am I an addict or alcoholic?

Am I an addict or alcoholic?

Have you asked yourself (or another person you care about) that question more than once?
Are you concerned about your behavior, but not sure if your use has turned into abuse? please consider the questions below, they will help you identify if there is a problem that should be addressed.

Can you get through the week without using drugs or alcohol?

Do you find yourself trying to control your using, bargaining with yourself that you will only use or drink over the weekend, or have you started indulging daily? Do you find that even if you are trying to control or curb this habit you are obsessing over your next fix?

Are you able to stop using drugs or alcohol when you want to?
Have you ever experienced withdrawal symptoms (felt sick) when you stopped consuming substances? Have you had medical problems because of your drug or alcohol use (memory loss, sweating, shaking, vomiting, convulsions)

Do you abuse more than one mind altering substance at a time?

Do you find that to “balance” yourself you use more than one substance? If you consumed a downer (alcohol, pain medication) you need an upper (cocaine, Cat) to get you going?
After a night of drinking, do you need to line of Coke to sober you up?

Have you had “blackouts” or “flashbacks” as a result of drug use?

Have you woken up in the morning not sure how you got back home, trying to remember what happened? Have your family or friends been so upset with you about something you did or said, but you can’t remember it at all?

Do you ever feel bad or guilty about your drug use?
How often do you feel shame and guilt? Or just find yourself angry with yourself, but find yourself taking that frustration out on others?

Does your partner (or parents) ever complain about your involvement with drugs?

Has drug abuse created problems between you and your family? Have you neglected your loved ones because of your use of drugs?

Have you lost friends because of your use of drugs?
Are you that person who is the last one to leave the party, asking everyone to stay for “one last drink”? have any of friends told you the next day that they are upset with you and the way you behaved? Have you noticed that friends who don’t use substances have drifted away from your life?

Have you been in trouble at work because of drug abuse? Have you lost a job because of drug abuse?
How many Monday mornings have you called in sick? (and probably felt sick after THAT kind of weekend) Have you been accused of losing your concentration and focus at work, harming the company you work for? Have you been fired lately

Have you gotten into fights when under the influence of drugs or alcohol?
Its common to “lose your shit” when intoxicated. Maybe you connect to your anger much faster after consuming mind altering substances, perhaps you become more argumentative.

Have you engaged in illegal activities or been arrested while intoxicated?

Has anyone been called to come bail you out of jail?

As you read this, how many times did you relate to the questions, knowing you have a story you can share from your life?
If you have tried to control your drinking or using so many times, maybe it’s time to accept that your using is controlling you and your life.

There is no shame in asking for help, it might be the best time in your life to change and get onto your journey of healing and health.

Five days in the life of an addict

Five days in the life of an addict

(A modified version of Autobiography by Portia Nelson)

Day one

I walk down the street

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I fall in.

I feel lost… I feel helpless.

It isn’t my fault!

I’m not responsible. 

It takes forever to find the way out. 

Day two

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I am back in the same place.

But it isn’t my fault.

I don’t feel responsible.

It still takes a long time to get out.

Day three

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it is there. I still fall in … it’s a habit.

But, my eyes are open, I know where I am.

It is my fault.

I am responsible.

I get out very quickly.

Day Four

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

Day Five

I walk down a different street.

“Secrets keep you sick”

“Secrets keep you sick”

This is a common statement that is used in recovery, but do you know what it actually means, or why we say it?

Secrets create the breading ground for shame. However, the more shame you hold, the more secrets you’ll keep the worse you feel about yourself. Eventually this becomes a perpetual cycle, a trap that you can’t get out of. The only relief from the shame is to engage in some sort of distraction, unfortunately sometimes in the form of substances. This is ironic because the distraction then in itself becomes shameful. In reality, you are in your own loop of shame and no matter what you do, the shame just gets bigger and bigger and eventually you are completely lost and alone. This is what we call an “emotional rock bottom”.

The feeling of shame is thus the boulder that stands in the road, blocking the path to actual recovery and serenity. Our goal is thus solely to push the boulder out of the way so that healing can take place. The tool that helps us shift the boulder out the way is honesty. This comes in the form of sharing secrets in the beginning.

As long as we can be honest and share our shame out in the open it keeps us out of the cycle of self-loathing. We begin to understand that we can make mistakes and that these mistakes do not define us or who we are at the core. We also realize that others have made similar mistakes and thus we can relate to one another and truly connect.

When we connect to others and learn from our mistakes, we are the capable of navigating life free from the desire to “escape”.

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