Monday, June 11, 2007

On Relapses, Slips and Triggers:
By Peter S. Lopez ~aka Peta

Main Entry: 1re•lapse
Pronunciation: ri-'laps, 'rE-"
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Medieval Latin relapsus, from Latin relabi to slide back, from re- + labi to slide -- more at SLEEP
1 : the act or an instance of backsliding, worsening, or subsiding
2 : a recurrence of symptoms of a disease after a period of improvement

• Working A Progressive Recovery Program~

As recovering drug addicts working a wholistic progressive recovery program, we work hard on our daily sober recovery, take care of our wholistic health, cultivate our inner spiritual growth and get actively involved in progressive community action to help others in positive ways on day at a time. It all demands clear direction, hard-core discipline and strong determination. Action enlightened by wisdom is the key!

The basics of a strong recovery program should always include the following key three {3} components:

1. A conscious contact with Creator God through study, prayer and meditation,
2. A clear understanding of the basic principles of the traditional AA 12-Steps Program, and
3. A solid ‘home’ group where one attends regular meetings, participates as an active member and is of service to others in the group.

Naturally, there are other important aspects of a strong program, including getting a sponsor to help guide us, carrying the Message to others and helping out in the local community, but the above are essentials for any real recovery to take place from chemical dependency and its related evil ways.

Working a recovery program with Honesty, Openness and Willingness to change ~the HOW of our program~ requires us to remember the important lessons of our past experiences so as not to repeat them, engage in a daily personal inventory to examine our program for any weaknesses and encourages us to live one day at a time as functional mature adults with a new clear vision for a sane and sober future.

• Recovery Is A Protracted Process Of Healing~

First of all, understand that a recovery program is a protracted process of healing ourselves from the effects of our deadly disease and staying on guard against any relapse. Deep recovery must include our discovering the root reasons for our chemically dependency. We must take personal responsibility for our recovery, not try to find any co-dependents to lean on because we cannot stand up on our own and face the truth about ourselves.

We must examine our family of origin, our early childhood and the things we picked up along the way? Why did we get ‘strung out’ in the first place? How did we get caught up in a form of long-term suicide by becoming drug addicts? Who did we harm along the way and how do we make amends for past wrongs? Where do we go from here and how do we protect ourselves from any future relapse or downfall?

Thus, we know that recovery is not an easy quick fix, special magic moment or sudden spiritual awakening when we become all well and wonderful and pretend we no longer need to stay on guard against any severe relapses or sudden slips into darkness.

We need to constantly keep working on our program on a daily basis, stay conscious of our being ‘in recovery’ and practice our spiritual principles in our personal lives, in all our relations and in all our business dealings with others. Recovery encourages and empowers us to get well, have high self-esteem and gives us the courage to go out into the real rip-and-tear world in order to ‘change the things we can’ in connected reality.

• Relapse Only Happens From A Recovery Program~

A great fear of many recovering drug addicts is the fear of relapse after being involved in a recovery program for a short time, especially for newcomers. Relapse threatens our whole program, is evidence of a serious weakness in our program and is a warning sign of our still active disease. Relapse cannot be a part of any genuine recovery; it is always a part of our continued sickness, a cry for help and a shout out for sanity.

Basically, the term ‘recovery’ is a medical term related to a treatment program for a patient who is ‘in recovery’ so he can get well and actually be recovered from the ill effects of an injury, ailment or disease.

In combating drug addiction, one cannot relapse unless one is already actively involved in working a program, not just staying sober in the physical sense. Grasp the logic: How can one relapse from a recovery program if he is not working a program? A relapse is a failure in our recovery program and a retarded return to our old ‘dope fiend’ behavior and its vicious circles. Lifelong habits are hard to break and old habits die-hard.

Recall the second definition of relapse above:
“2 : a recurrence of symptoms of a disease after a period of improvement.”

Being in recovery gives us a period of improvement in a protracted healing process and the quality of our recovery is always more important than the quantity time clockwise of our sobriety. If you sober up a lying horse thief you still have someone with major character defects. A quality recovery program that equips us with our recovery toolbox makes it easier for us to bounce back after a relapse for further improvement and fine-tuning of our program. We either learn our lessons well or we crash and burn in hell!

Physical sobriety is the starting point for all real recovery to take place in our lives and a real beginning, but it is not an end in itself. Staying sober alone and carrying the Message with fancy words without basic works is never enough.
“I just know that you are expected, at some point, to do more than carry the Message of A.A. to other alcoholics. In A.A. we aim not only for sobriety---we try again to become citizens of the world that we rejected, and the world that once rejected us. This is the ultimate demonstration toward which Twelfth Step work is the first but not the final step.” ~ As Bill Sees It: Citizens Again, LETTER 1959
In essence, real recovery from the triad disease of chemical dependency involves our entire life in terms of what we were in the past, who we really are in the present and how we want to live our lives in the future. It is a living breathing dynamic on-going continuum in time, not a fixed conclusion measured by calendar dates. It is a key part of who we are, our lifestyle and the hallmark of a new culture as world citizens and mandatory for our spiritual maturity and self-esteem.

The AA/NA anonymous approach emphasizes total sobriety, collecting brittle birthday chips and has an unwritten zero-tolerance policy. Many who do suffer a severe relapse dread going back to their home group, telling the whole truth and going through the drama of an open public confession because of thoughts and feelings of guilt, shame and remorse because they have let themselves and their fellow members down.

However, when one of our own has a severe relapse we should not harshly criticize them, rush to judge them or seek to condemn them. We do not shoot our wounded; we nurse them back to health. We should receive those who come back to our meeting rooms and sincerely re-dedicate themselves to a strong recovery program with open arms, pure love, genuine understanding and humane compassion, but do not baby adults.

Chemical dependency is one of the most complex dangerous diseases known to medical science. It attacks without mercy the whole human being as a triune being in the trinity of the mind-body-soul matrix. We suffer from a mental, physical and spiritual dis-ease as we are not at ease with ourselves when we are in our disease.

•`Slips Are Not A Severe Relapse~

We should have a clear understanding of the basic distinction between a real relapse and a short-lived slip or lapse, which can easily slide us back down into a tragic relapse. Sometimes a glass of wine, especially at a gala event or other special occasion, can simply be a glass of wine and harmless if one stops right there afterwards. However, we are often dealing with long-term hard-core drug addicts, not soft slippers A sudden slip quickly wipes out any clean time we have acquired to date and usually deteriorates into a severe relapse or re-emergence of old character defects.

When we relapse many of our brothers and sisters in the fellowship are negatively impacted, emotionally injured and doubts can creep up about the relevancy of our recovery. Does the 12-Steps recovery program really work? Is it all worth it? Am I doomed to die a drug addict? After all the pain, misery and suffering we have endured we should not get stuck on stupid and mindlessly toy with a deadly disease that is ‘cunning, powerful and baffling’.

In slippery places, a slip is dangerous because it can be so sly, subtle and sneaky even to the slipper. It could start with a simple glass of dinner wine, a small can of beer, a tiny line or a quick puff, not necessarily one’s usual drug of choice. There is always the ever-present danger of cross addiction when one just casually substitutes one drug for another that is not the original poison of choice, but a choice of convenience. It was there, we were there and who is going to know?

The combustible flames of chemical dependency are easily ignited into a full-blown relapse after a slip, especially in the early recovery stage when one is still new to recovery processes, its daily practices, its group meetings and spirituality. One is still picking up and sharpening his recovery tools and just learning how to use his spiritual weapons for spiritual warfare. After all, we are fighting a drug war against powerful forces in order to save our lives!
Ephesians 6:11-12~
“11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
The truth is that a slip or lapse from one’s recovery program will often result in a relapse and a downward spiral back into the gruesome grip of our deadly disease.
Hebrews 2:1~
Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.
• Relapse Signs and Symptoms ~

Experiencing Post Acute Withdrawal: I start having problems with one or more of the following; thinking difficulties, emotional overreaction problems, sleep disturbances, memory difficulties, becoming accident prone, and/or starting to experience a serious sensitivity to stress.

Return To Denial: I stop telling others what I’m thinking/feeling and start trying to convince myself or others that everything is all right, when in fact it is not.

Avoidance And Defensive Behavior: I start avoiding people who will give me honest feedback and/or I start becoming irritable and angry with them.

Starting To Crisis Build: I start to notice that ordinary everyday problems become overwhelming and no matter how hard I try, I can’t solve my problems.

Feeling Immobilized (Stuck): I start believing that there is nowhere to turn and no way to solve my problems. I feel trapped and start to use magical thinking.

Becoming Depressed: I start feeling down-in-the dumps and have very low energy. I may even become so depressed that I start thinking of suicide.

Compulsive And/Or Impulsive Behaviors (Loss Of Control): I start using one or more of the following- food, sex, caffeine, nicotine, work, gambling, etc. often in an out of control fashion. And/or I may react without thinking of the consequences of my behavior on myself and others.

Urges And Cravings (Thinking About Drinking/Using): I begin to think that alcohol/drug use is the only way to feel better. I start thinking about justifications to drink/use and convince myself that using is the logical thing to do.

Chemical Loss Of Control (Drinking/Using): I find myself drinking/using again to solve my problems. I start to believe that “it’s all over ‘till I hit bottom, so I may as well enjoy this relapse while it’s good.” My problems continue to get worse.
[Adapted from Terence T. Gorski's Warning Sign Identification Process]

Relapse Triggers ~

Relapse triggers can affect any individual in recovery that encounters people, situations, or settings they associate with past drug abuse. Often times, they experience strong urges to use drugs or alcohol and slip back into addictive use. Such cue-induced relapse, can occur long after the individual has stopped using drugs or alcohol. Certain triggers set off our desire for food, substances, and behaviors. All advertising is designed to trigger our impulses. Situations, people, and times of day can all be triggers. They can be overwhelming or subtle.
When drug abusers stop using, they make important progress toward recovering from their addiction. But the danger of relapse (beginning to use alcohol or drugs again), threatens the chances of full recovery. Identifying what triggers relapse, can prevent it.

Below are known relapse triggers:

Exhaustion: Allowing yourself to become overly tired. Not following through on self-care behaviors of adequate rest, good nutrition, and regular exercise. Good physical health is a component of emotional health. How you feel will be reflected in your thinking and judgment.

Dishonesty: It begins with a pattern of small and unnecessary lies with those you interact with in family, social, and work settings. This is soon followed by lying to yourself or rationalizing and making excuses to avoid working your program.

Impatience: Things are not happening fast enough for you. Others are not doing what you want them to do, or what you think they should do.

Depression: Overwhelming and unaccountable despair may occur in cycle. If it does, talk about it and deal with it. You are responsible for taking care of yourself.

Frustration: With people and because things may not be going your way. Remind yourself intermittently, that things are not always going to be the way that you want them.

Self-Pity: Feeling like a victim, refusing to acknowledge that you have choices, and that you are responsible for your own life and the quality of it.

Cockiness: "Got it Made," compulsive behavior is no longer a problem. Start putting self in situations where there are temptations to prove to others that you don't have a problem.

Complacency: Not working your program with the commitment that you started with. Having a little fear is a good thing. More relapses occur when things are going well than when not.

Expecting Too Much From Others: "I've changed, why hasn't everyone else changed too?" You can only control yourself. It would be great if other people changed their self-destructive behaviors, but that is their problem. You have your own problems to monitor and deal with. You cannot expect others to change their lifestyle just because you have.

The Use of Mood-Altering Chemicals: You may feel the need or desire to get away from things by drinking, popping a few pills, etc., and your physician may participate in the thinking that you will be responsible and not abuse the medication. This is the most subtle way to enter relapse. Take responsibility for your life and the choices that you make.

The 10 most common relapse triggers:

1. Being in the presence of drugs or alcohol, drug or alcohol users, or places where you used or bought chemicals {be aware of the here and now and the surrounding terrain}.

2. Feelings we perceive as negative. Particularly anger, sadness, loneliness, guilt, fear, and anxiety {low self-esteem, floating hostility and lack of self-control}.

3. Positive feelings that make you want to celebrate {a rationalized excuse for getting stoned without considering consequences}.

4. Boredom {a very subtle yet dangerous quiet trigger when one trips out about the excitement of the next high}.

5. Getting high on any drug {in search of the first high, experimenting, field research}.

6. Physical pain {automatically reaching out for painkillers instead of finding out about alternative forms of pain management and wholistic medicine}.

7. Listening to war stories and just dwelling on getting high {do not romance the stone, wander into a battlefield and remember the graveyards!}.

8. Suddenly having a lot of cash {a cheap temptation to show off and flash}.

9. Using prescription drugs that can get you high even if you use them properly {exaggerating symptoms and over-medicating}.

10. Believing that you no longer have to worry (complacent). That is, that you are no longer stimulated to crave drugs/alcohol by any of the above situations, or by anything else. Therefore believing it’s safe for you to use occasionally {being all fixed, well and wonderful}.

The Effect: A Return to the Use of Alcohol and/or Drugs ~

We can achieve a complete cure from our chemical dependency but the catch is that after we are healed we are well advised from a logical, rational and medical standpoint to stay away from all harmful addictive chemical substances, whether legal, semi-legal or not. We should stay out of slippery places, evil environments and not forget to go out and have good clean fun with others in recovery who are working a program. Whatever happens, life goes on within us and without us.

We need to continue to carry the Message to other suffering drug addicts with humane love, true kindness and the clear understanding that we are waging spiritual warfare for our lives. For us, the success or failure of our program means life or death. True lasting recovery is a living dynamic process that develops in different stages, goes through phases and has its ups and down. It is a war we must wage daily for our continued sober recovery and spiritual maturity as we move closer to our own complete liberty as humane beings.
Isaiah 38:16
O LORD, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit: so wilt thou recover me, and make me to live.
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