Relapse: Catastrophe or a Second Chance?
Relapse from a period of sobriety is a disheartening time for the person and their loved ones. It’s far more common than we think as a person leaves drug and alcohol abuse and starts a life of sobriety. So, how can we best understand relapse and use that knowledge to move forward and back to sobriety. I suppose that we could blame other people for inducing us to “get high”, or focus on a stressful life situation which caused us to return to use or blame ourselves for a character flaw or weakness. The reality of dealing with relapse should focus more on what is needed to get back on track with sobriety.
Maybe it’s not the number of times that a person has “fallen off the wagon” that counts. The focus should more be on what it takes to get back to sobriety and to stay there. What was learned from the relapse which can be put to good use in the future. Do we need to recognize “triggers” for use which were key to this relapse or find better ways to manage stress before we return to using? Do we need to establish ourselves in a sober living social network and steer away from our old buddies and places we associate with use? Sometimes it may be in attending more support meetings or calling our sponsor earlier at the earliest recognition of cravings to use.
As we know the holiday periods can be difficult for people maintaining their sobriety. There are many influences to use, ranging from holiday parties to higher stress over family relationships to greater feelings of loneliness and isolation. But, if a person relapses and returns to drug and or alcohol use, it is important for their support system to help them get back on track. And, for the person, to regard their relapse as a point of teaching about how their sobriety was broken and what they need to do to get back in control. It may be a time to consider returning to treatment to address the addiction and associated psychological problems. It may involve throwing oneself more into the self-help community with attending more meetings. But, whatever it takes will require that person have the fortitude to recognize relapse and move back to sobriety.
It is not a time to indulge in a pity party.