5 Signs of a “Prelapse” & 5 Solutions to Avoid a Full-on Relapse
Are you prelapsing?
Relapses don’t come out of nowhere. They typically build in three stages: emotional, mental, and physical. When enough momentum builds in the wrong direction, you “accidentally” find yourself on a runaway train. Destination: Relapse City.
Pretty soon, you’re right back in the dungeon of pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization that our Big Book talk about. This is no place to be. So, gird your loins, my friend, and be aware of these warning signs.
5 Signs that Indicate You are Vulnerable to a Relapse:
- Romancing the High: You are romanticizing how GREAT is was to drink or smoke or shoot up. You concoct elaborate fantasies about your next big, fat juicy high. You are on a slippery slope. It’s astonishing how easily we forget the consequences, the damage, the crippling shame of “just one.”
- Restless, Irritable & Discontented: Serenity killers, all, and a prelapse waiting in the wings to clobber you over the head. Perhaps you spin in constant state of stress and anxiety. You might have erratic eating habits, tending to binge, withhold nourishment, or raid the refrigerator in the middle of the night. Feelings of malaise or futility may also haunt you. If you have full-on depression (see list of symptoms at the way bottom of this article) you need to get clinical help. Look to your mental and emotional state; your actions march to the beat of your brain.
- Erratic Sleep: Sleeplessness can also have a hugely detrimental effect your will power and your judgement. Yes, sleep came much easier when you were loaded. But if you’re thinking how much a drink or a hit will help you sleep, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Remember waking up in the middle of the night with the shakes, trying to recollect the previous night’s misadventures? That is just one small price of a “nightcap”.
- You Think You’re Bulletproof: You got this sobriety thing, right? You’ll never “pick up” again. So you hang out with the old gang, in your favorite haunts, with the same old talk and swagger. Suddenly you’re in the wrong place and the exact right time for a relapse, Even if you feel strong in sobriety, when one bad day meets convenient access to your drug of choice … you’re screwed.
- Isolation: You spend too much time alone. You obsess about yourself and your problems. You are self-centered instead of other-centered. You just can’t seem to make yourself pick up the phone or get to a meeting. Drinking was a solitary endeavor. Sobriety can’t be. Between the old “watering hole” and abject solitude, there is a community of recovering alcoholics/addicts who are delighted to meet you, to get to know you, and to be your friend.
Significant life changes can trigger a relapse, when your emotions are just too overwhelming to process.
Breakups, divorce, loss of a loved one, loss of a job … these are biggies that will wallop you with massive amounts of stress, anxiety, grief, sorrow, and feelings of unbearable loss. Cocktail anyone?
There is NOTHING so bad in your life that a drink or a drug won’t make worse.
A series of small incidents that are particularly discouraging, frustrating or demoralizing can also trigger a relapse. The ceiling doesn’t have to cave in … as alcoholics/addicts, we’re used to finding any excuse to “pick up.”
Good things – celebrations, vacations, parties – can also give you a dang fine “reason” to raise a glass…and start a downward spiral.
We’ve gotten used to using booze and/or drugs as a solution to our problems. Now we turn to the powerful tools of recovery, our Higher Power, and each other. The results are massively better than the runaway train of addiction that always takes us to the depths of despair.
(Personal note: I’ve been there, too. Too often. Relapse #1: Divorce. Relapse #2: Job loss. I did more damage in a 2-year relapse after my divorce than I did in all my prior 30 years of drinking.)
Okay, let’s get to the solutions.
1. Get the Support You Need
None of us stay sober alone. None. You are not in this by yourself. It’s 100% up to you to get the support you need and surround yourself with people and tools that will support your sobriety.
Isolating isn’t doing you any favors. Self-imposed solitary confinement may, in fact, be your death sentence. Note: Your old drinking using buddies aren’t going to help you stay sober. Try this instead:
- Join a New Tribe: Surround yourself with people who have what you want in sobriety
- Go to Meetings: Go to a 12-step meeting every day; go to 90-in-90 if you’re feeling sketchy
- Get a Sponsor: Talk with/text that sponsor every day; wear a path to your sponsor’s ear so it’s easy to find him/her when you need serious help
- Be of Service: Reach out to other alcoholics/addicts daily; listen to their story; ask how they are doing today
- Build a Relationship with Your Higher Power: This is Job #1 every day. When all the chips are down, when you feel lost and alone, when darkness is swallowing you whole, your Higher Power (God, Spirit, The Universe, Greatest Love—whatever you call the Divine) will give you strength and comfort. If you listen, the still, small voice of HP will always move you toward the next right thing in your life
- Get Professional Help: If you feel you need physical or mental health, or if you need to go to treatment center, by all means, go to any length to get the help you need
You aren’t meant to do this all alone. Sobriety networks and 12-step programs are vast and extensive and in your neighborhood. Don’t fight me on this. Don’t be shy. Don’t be too proud. “Go all the way and sit all the way down,” as we say in recovery, and you’ll be able to stay sober…one day at a time…for the rest of your life.
Also, your Greater Mind Tribe is here for you! Join the “7 Hacks” Sobriety Tribe here.
2. Eat for Sobriety
The American Addiction Centers recommend several holistic methods to improve your overall quality of life and guard yourself against relapse: sleep, exercise, and nutrition. Let’s start with nutrition. Addiction did a number on your body and your brain, depleting vital nutrients that you need in order to live a vital, thriving life.
Fortunately, brain and nutrition science reveal specific things you can eat and drink to support your recovery. Click here for more about super brain and body foods that will help you thrive in recovery…and in life. You’ll also learn what to eat and drink when you’re going through a rough patch or detox.
3. Get Good, Revitalizing Sleep
Physical and mental fatigue can be a deal-breaker for recovering alcoholics. When your brain is tired, you will have a harder time making choices that require will power. As alcoholics, the cost is higher for mistakes we make when we’re hungry, angry, lonely or tired. Click here for more about the importance of sleep and to get tools to help you get the regular, revitalizing sleep you need to thrive in recovery.
4. Get a Move On
You don’t have to run a marathon or hike to Machu Pichu to benefit immensely from movement. But you do have to do something … even if it’s just a walk to the mailbox and back or a stroll around the block. Most of us land in the middle somewhere. Push yourself to a new level of movement. Up your game. You don’t need me to tell you what sort of activities are good for you. Here are a few suggestions that can be fun at the same time: badminton, croquet, yoga, tai chi, Zumba, pickleball, hiking, biking, swimming.
The journal, Frontiers in Psychology, reports that “regular aerobic exercise may make it less likely for a person to use, or return to using, drugs. Not only does exercise enhance sleep, but it may also work to improve brain chemistry and circuitry. Exercise can be a healthy outlet for individuals to reduce stress and provide new ways to feel pleasure without drugs or alcohol.”
5. Pause When Agitated
When we get tipped over, we want immediate relief. With a long track record of soothing ourselves with booze or drugs, we ended up in big trouble in the long run. Just because we’re sober doesn’t mean we don’t get massively pissed off on a regular basis. In fact, sobriety can exacerbate our emotional responses because we can’t numb the pain with our substance of choice. So we lash out. We cause more damage.
The single best way I know of to be able to “pause when agitated or doubtful,” as our Big Book says, is this: Mindfulness. If you have a short meditation practice of 10-20 minutes and you do it regularly, you’ll find it much easier to pause and choose better … before you say or do something you’ll regret.
There are other tools to increase your mindfulness that don’t require a meditation “sit.” Here are a few:
- Mindful walking, slow, observant
- Doing a task at half speed, noticing every movement
- Checking in with your 5 senses: What, specifically, can you see, hear, feel, taste and smell right now in this moment?
Mindfulness, however you achieve it, will change your life. Click here for more about meditation and to get tools for super-meditation.
These are not just good ideas. They are a recipe that works. Combined, they provide a shield against relapse.
More Good Ideas
For all of us in recovery, we only ever have a daily reprieve based on the fitness of our spiritual condition. Invite your Higher Power to the party.
It’s a compelling idea to think that if you drink/use again it won’t be that bad. Or you have to do SOMETHING, because you’re so unhappy or discouraged. Or, what the heck…I can always start over. This kind of thinking leads to bad decisions, massive wreckage and horrible feelings of shame.
If you’re still teetering on the edge of a relapse, good Lord and by all means, check yourself into a treatment center.
Shining a light into this darkness can help illuminate a path out of these internal struggles and put you back into the “sunlight of the spirit” that our Big Book talks about … a very good place to be.
Join our Tribe! Alcoholism/addiction is a dark, solitary journey. But you don’t have to navigate sobriety alone. Just click here to join the Greater Mind tribe.
Set Yourself Up to SUCCEED In Recovery & In Life
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*Depression: The American Addiction Centers list these as symptoms of depression:
- Low energy
- Significant appetite fluctuation
- Feelings of being worthless
- Problems concentrating
- Anxious feelings
- Change in sleep patterns
- Lack of interest in things
If you’re a victim of relapse, you are not alone. The relapse rate for substance abuse is estimated to be between 40% and 60%. But you don’t ever need to be a negative statistic. Relapse is not your destiny. You would born for more.