Recap: Emotional, Mental, Physical
Last week, I shared part one of a post on relapse prevention, based on Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery by Steven M. Melemis. That blog focused on the three stages of relapse: emotional, mental, and physical. To quickly recap, emotional relapse is the stage in which a person begins to neglect personal care and the work required to stay sober. Mental relapse follows and consists of the “war within the head,” wherein the addict battles cravings. Finally, the physical relapse consists of breaking down and taking that drink or drug. Now that we know what we’re working with, this week we’re going to focus on the steps to avoid relapse. Melemis groups these steps under his “five rules of recovery.”
Rule 1: Change Your Life
There is a saying familiar to those who spend time in the rooms that goes, “the only thing you have to change is everything.” That might be a bit of an overstatement, but it drives home the idea well. Melemis relates an anecdote about addicts coming to rehab and “wanting their old life back.” I’m happy to say that it doesn’t work that way. That old life was the soil from which addiction grew and recovery is about moving forward. We need to change our negative thinking, we need to ditch the people, places, and things that we came to associate with our using, and we need to learn to live a new life. This sounds pretty overwhelming and it is. Not to worry, however, as the rest of the rules will help cover that.
Rule 2: Be Completely Honest
After spending years in active addiction, lying becomes second nature. We have to lie to get our drug of choice, lie to hide our use, and lie to get out of the trouble we cause. However, most of all, we lie to ourselves. We tell ourselves that we got this, that the next time will be the last, that we’re only going to have one. 12 step programs champion rigorous honesty and say that we are only as sick as our secrets. Melemis lists dishonesty as a sign of emotional relapse. It’s old behavior – remember that we’re working on moving forward – and it’s a sure way to get us drinking and drugging again.
Rule 3: Ask for Help
Addicts and alcoholics have as much of a difficult time with this as any other step but asking for help is essential. Therapists and counselors, 12 step meetings and other self-help groups, peers in a sober support network…there are plenty of people to help with the formidable task of staying sober. They help to keep us accountable, they help us see a new perspective on what is going on in our lives, and they support us when it all seems too overwhelming. We can’t do this alone and, luckily, we don’t have to.
Rule 4: Practice Self-Care
Melemis calls this “one of the most overlooked aspects of recovery.” Once we get sober, it’s so easy to push ourselves too hard as we try to “make up for lost time.” However, this reaction consists of both dwelling on the past and worrying about the future. Both, as Melemis states, are triggers for relapse. We need to learn to stop being so “ruthlessly critical” of ourselves. We also need to learn to allow ourselves to relax and make it a daily habit. Mindfulness meditation and exercising with the goal of breaking a sweat and having fun are two methods I’ve found to be particularly useful.
Rule 5: Don’t Bend the Rules
Failure to adhere to this rule is almost guaranteeing an emotional relapse. This is where we start to hear things like, “Well, my problem was with heroin. I can drink or smoke weed without any trouble.” This is where we start lying to ourselves again, telling ourselves that we got this. I’m not suggesting that our needs or our plans of action won’t evolve as we mature in sobriety. But these are some basic principles that are unalterable.
To some of us, these rules will seem overwhelming and impossible to follow. Others will see them and think, “Great! I can handle these on my own, no problem.” Remember, though, rule #3. We don’t have to do this alone. Furthermore, because of the biases in our thinking, we can’t do it alone. However, with help, it can be done. If your habits have become too much for you to handle, please consider professional help. Ocean Recovery has been treating addiction since 2002. Give us a call and start building your foundation for hope.