Coping With Chronic Relapse
Relapsing is a part of addiction. It is unavoidable for nearly every addict. An occasional setback is to be expected and should not make you feel like a failure or that you have sunk back to the bottom. You can get past a relapse and move on. When relapses get really frustrating is when they keep happening over and over again. How can you cope with your constant setbacks?
Addiction as a Chronic Disease
First understand that your illness is a chronic disease of the brain and is similar to chronic illnesses of the body. For instance, around 70 percent of patients with asthma or hypertension relapse, 50 percent of patients with diabetes experience setbacks, and 60 percent of addicts relapse. All of these are chronic diseases that require lifelong treatment. No matter which one you have, when you let your treatment slide, you forget to take your medication, or you stop attending therapy and support group meetings, you are bound to relapse. There is no shame in making this mistake, but you must acknowledge it, correct it and move on.
When You Relapse Repeatedly
Relapsing is a normal part of recovery, but falling down again and again is not. If you keep relapsing, it means that you need to make some changes. What can you do to alter your life so that you can resist those urges to use again? Is it your treatment plan? Is it your attitude? Is it your support network? There are so many things to consider if you find yourself in this situation. Here are some things you can do:
- Make this relapse your last relapse. Attitude is essential when you are in recovery. If you let shame, guilt, frustration and anger wash over you, you will never find relief. When you slip and relapse, you probably beat yourself up about it. Self-loathing is common in addicts. Shift your attitude. You have the power to change this, so when you relapse, insist to yourself that it is your last one.
- Work with your sponsor. If you don’t have a sponsor, now is the time to get one. A sponsor is a powerful means of support. He has been sober longer than you and has experience from which you can draw. As soon as you feel the itch to use again, call him.
- Use the HALT acronym. HALT stands for hungry, angry, lonely, tired. From research we know that recovering addicts are much more likely to relapse when experiencing one of these feelings. When you get the urge to use, stop and ask yourself if you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired. If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re angry, engage in a stress-relief activity. If you’re lonely, call your sponsor or a friend. If you’re tired, get some rest.
- Recognize your progress. Everyone knows that when you relapse, you reset your sobriety clock. This seems really frustrating, but when you do, remember to acknowledge all of the progress you have made in spite of being back to one or two days’ sober. All the work you have put in means something, regardless of that clock.
Always remember that you have control over your urges. It doesn’t always seem that way, but you can make this relapse your final one. Remember to rely on your sponsor and other supportive friends, analyze your feelings before you use again, draw on your experience with sobriety and make this your last mistake.
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