We can get seriously down on ourselves when we backslide in our recovery.
Backsliding or relapsing happens to everyone.
I don’t just mean “most” people. I mean it happens to EVERYONE.
Nobody’s recovery is linear. Nobody just improves, and improves, and improves, with no stumbles along the way.
Some relapses are more significant than others— but we ALL struggle in recovery sooner or later.
It’s not a matter of intelligence.
It’s not a matter of how good our therapist is.
It’s not a matter of how effective the therapy is.
It’s just the way these things work.
The name of the game isn’t completely preventing relapse or backsliding— because you can’t COMPLETELY prevent it.
The name of the game is doing everything we can to minimize the impact of a relapse on our lives.
We can’t completely prevent relapse.
We can, however, identify our triggers.
We can create a safety plan for WHEN we get triggered (not “if”— “when”).
We can create an impulse scale— that is, a chart that explicitly lays out what signs and symptoms to look for as evidence that we’re getting ramped up, as well as coping skills and strategies appropriate to each level of increasing danger.
We can create a Triangle of Safety— that is, a triangular chart listing strategies and resources that we can realistically utilize at every point along the way if we find ourselves struggling, which culminates in reaching out for emergency assistance if we need it.
Everybody needs to build safety planning into their recovery plan.
The thing is, virtually nobody wants to think about it.
Nobody thinks THEY are going to be the one that needs to make safety planning part of their recovery plan.
Everybody wants to think that their recovery is going to go smoothly.
Even the smoothest, most successful recovery plan requires safety planning as part of the mix.
The important thing, in addition to having a safety plan, is to not get all up in our heads about NEEDING a safety plan.
Almost every single trauma survivor I’ve ever worked with has been harsh with themselves when they’ve struggled along the way.
If we beat ourselves up when we struggle, all we’re doing is reinforcing old messages that it’s somehow “bad” to struggle.
It is not “bad” to struggle.
It is perfectly normal and predictable to struggle— especially when we’re trying to make headway against things like complex trauma or addiction or chronic depression and anxiety.
We have to deal with the fact that struggle is part of the process. Relapse and backsliding are part of the process.
It happens to everyone. It happens to people with years of recovery time. It happens to people who are smart and strong and resourceful and supported.
Don’t let it get in your head.
If your’e reading this, and you’re struggling in your own recovery: what you’re experiencing isn’t evidence that you should quit trying.
Work with your therapist to have a safety plan.
Load that safety plan up with practical, usable strategies and resources.
Nothing is too small to put on a potential safety plan. Put ANYTHING that might help on there.
And whatever you do: make peace with the fact that at some point you WILL have to use your safety plan.
Acknowledge your need for it; use it as you need to; move on.
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