At the moment I am feeling pretty secure in my sobriety. Wolfie has shut the fuck up and gone off in a huff (and, possibly, a puff?!) He is probably concentrating on all the newly sober new year folks. If you’re reading this and that’s you, tell him that I have your back and that I’ll beat him up behind the bike sheds if he doesn’t leave you alone. He’ll slink off. He’s a bully. That’s what bullies do.
Secure in my sobriety may equal complacent. While I welcome this comparative calm after the turbulence of early days, a breath of wind can capsize a boat on otherwise still waters.
So I am trying to have my cake and eat it too. Yup, cake is still pretty big in my life. I am trying to balance the feelings of growth, of having moved on and changed, with an awareness that I am still vulnerable to relapse, and doing everything I can to prevent that.
I spent an entire 3 mile run yesterday trying to come up with a pun about relapsing, and the best I could come up with was this:
“Which tea stops you falling off the wagon?” “Relapsing souchong.”
(guess i should have run further, huh?!)
So I’ve been doing a bit of internet trawling for symptoms of relapse and prevention, and thought I’d put a summary on here.
This was a good website generally on addiction and recovery which I hadn’t come across before. Their relapse section and tools of recovery section were particularly interesting. I like how they separate the stages of relapse into emotional relapse, mental relapse and physical relapse, and giving you techniques to address the first two stages. And guess what the technique is for addressing emotional relapse? Yup. Self-care.
‘You use drugs or alcohol to escape, relax, or reward yourself. Therefore you relapse when you don’t take care of yourself and create situations that are mentally and emotionally draining that make you want to escape.’
This article on 12 triggers to relapse is a bit more of a list. It also mentions complacency, and says that more relapses occur when things are going well than not. Which makes sense because that is when we are least on our guard.
This article on relapse after long-term sobriety has some interesting ideas (I hasten to say that I don’t think 88 days qualifies as long term. although. EIGHTY EIGHT DAYS??!!!??? pretty damn amazing!!!) It includes:
‘Relapse is not uncommon in early recovery because individuals are learning what changes they must make to live a sober life. The relapse can be a learning experience in how to develop better coping skills and get through difficult experiences without the use of alcohol or drugs.’
I am not prepared to have a relapse as a learning experience (without in ANY WAY judging or doing down anyone who has had a relapse, because that could be me. I spent so long breaking my own word to myself trying to be a moderate drinker that I know how that happens.) I am not willing to lose my momentum in this process.
One thing I am also trying to achieve in this balancing act is a good grounding for my long-term sobriety. I have read so much about recovery and what I don’t want to end up with is being a ‘recovering alcoholic’ for the rest of my damn life. I am more than that. It was described very well by Lucy on the Soberistas blog:
‘Gradually, being alcohol-free morphed into being my choice, and so the idea that I was somehow diseased and would be threatened by temptation for the rest of my days was/is totally bizarre. I don’t wish to make it sound an easy thing to resolve an alcohol dependency – it wasn’t and it took a hell of a lot of soul-searching and emotional pain. But now that the hard bit is over, I feel as though I am reaping the rewards of making the choice to stop drinking – which, in my opinion, is a far healthier way of looking at things than sticking the label of ‘alcoholic’ on my head and worrying about booze for the rest of my days.’
Finally, if you didn’t recognise the title of this post, then shame on you and off you go to buy the first series of Games of Thrones this minute. It comes from a scene between a spirited nine year old girl and her fencing master.
At the end of all the strategies, techniques, thinking, researching, only one thing counts. To be able to say, “Not today.”