You’ve been out of addiction treatment for a little while and feel pretty confident that you are going to be able to live a sober life from now on. You’ve listened to your counselors, therapists, and sponsors and have purged your life of the people that you had been doing drugs or drinking with. But, could there be other ways that you are unknowingly putting your sobriety at risk?
Your new friends are really nice and none of them do drugs, but they do go out to bars and clubs and have drinks. They are all really supportive and want you to stay healthy. They aren’t going to try to influence you to use or drink, but they aren’t totally teetotalers themselves. Even if these new people in your life have good intentions, seeing them having fun and partying may be an added temptation that could lead you down the wrong path.
Building a new life is not an easy thing. You will often have to deal with the leftover problems from your past and may suffer mood swings, up and downs or depression in the course of sobriety. But then so do non-alcoholic people. Like them, however, you cannot drink/use whatever the situation. By remaining sober, a new clean and rewarding life will gradually emerge. But that doesn’t mean it will be without problems and tragedies as well as great moments and good times.
Relapse is the return to alcohol or drug use after an individual acknowledges the presence of addictive disease, recognizes the need for total abstinence and makes a decision to maintain sobriety with the assistance of a recovery program. People who successfully complete a formal treatment program, such as an inpatient program or an intensive outpatient program at The Discovery House, have significantly higher recovery rates than those who do not.
Relapse is not uncommon in early recovery because individuals are learning what changes they must make to live a sober life. The relapse can be a learning experience in how to develop better coping skills and get through difficult experiences without the use of alcohol or drugs.
Over time, this lifestyle becomes a way of life and concerns about relapse fade. If you are successful in the eyes of the world, it is easy to become complacent. You may become less rigorous about applying all the coping skills you developed when you first learned how to live a sober life. Then, when stress levels increase or conflicts arise as they do even in normal lives, your altered brain remembers what takes away those feelings immediately and effectively. So you pick up the drink or the drugs, and everyone wonders how this could have happened.
Complacency can set in when life is going well. Individuals in recovery sometimes believe that they no longer need to focus on their recovery efforts; they are convinced they will never drink or use drugs again. When drinking is the furthest thing from someone’s mind, then not drinking is no longer a conscious thought, either. It can be dangerous to lose sight of the principles of recovery when everything is going well.
Pay Attention to the Warning Signs
Warning signs of relapse change with more recovery. Some of the typical warning signs of a looming relapse in early recovery may be having a denial of your addiction or physical and emotional craving and euphoric recall (remembering only the positive experiences of previous alcohol and/or drug use). There is also the tendency to focus on the negative aspects of life without alcohol or drugs and failing to see the improvements that have come with abstinence.
Frequent AA or NA meetings must remain an important part of your life. This is where you made the friends who helped you through the difficult times in your recovery. It continues to be the place you can turn to when the going gets rough or when you simply need to talk to someone who will really understand. Without recovering people in your life with whom you can share your struggles and successes, it can become too easy to forget the addiction that once was active and the recovery that makes it possible to live a happy and successful life.