You don’t have to be an addict to relapse.
We all relapse sometimes.
When I say “relapse,” I don’t just mean using a substance or engaging in a behavior identified as potentially addictive or compulsive.
I use “relapse” to mean any time our coping mechanisms were temporarily overwhelmed, and we engaged in a self-defeating behavior we had previously decided not to.
Does using drugs or alcohol when you’re in recovery from drug addiction or alcoholism qualify? Yes.
But so does being cruel to yourself in your self-talk when you’re trying to recover from depression.
So does engaging in prolonged avoidance behavior (as opposed to temporary “time outs” in order to catch your breath or regroup) when you’re trying to recover from anxiety.
So does binging, restricting, or purging when you’re recovering from an eating disorder.
So does procrastination.
So does crashing your diet or eating plan in an unplanned, non-purposeful way.
Every time we take a self-sabotaging, self-defeating step backwards, it’s a form of relapse— and we need to understand exactly what that means.
It means our coping skills were sufficiently overwhelmed that we got dragged away from our long-term recovery goals.
Relapse is not our fault— but it IS our problem.
Relapse has a way of putting unhelpful thoughts in our heads.
Thoughts to the tune of, “I obviously can’t do this.”
Thoughts like, “Great, now I have to start all over again.”
Thoughts like, “Well, I already relapsed; I might as well go whole hog, as long as I’m not in recovery tonight.”
The thing about those thoughts is: they do not come from a voice that is helpful to or concerned about you.
That’s the voice of your addiction talking.
Or your depression, or your anxiety, or your eating disorder.
It does not care about you.
It just wants you to do what it tells you to do.
And it will lie to you to get you to do it.
If you’ve had a relapse— if you’ve taken some self-defeating, self-sabotaging steps backward, and temporary compromised your recovery goals— the voice of your addiction, depression, anxiety, eating disorder, or other life challenge is going to pipe up pretty loudly…because it knows you’re at a crossroads.
When we’ve relapsed, we are faced with the very valid question of what comes next.
That choice is real, and important.
Think about it this way: in a year, you’re going to be telling one of two stories about your relapse tonight.
You could be telling the story about how you were doing okay…but then you had a stumble. And that stumble was what led you down the rabbit hole, causing you to sink deeper and deeper into your life challenge.
That could be the story you tell about this in a year.
Or, in a year, you could be telling a different story about this relapse.
You could be telling a story about how you relapsed…but then you realized that didn’t have to be the trigger to an avalanche of prolonged self-defeating behavior.
It could just be a blip on the radar.
It could be what woke you up and turned you around.
This relapse could be what defeats you…or what saves and strengthens you.
You get to decide which story you’re going to tell in a year.
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