By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.
Are you at risk of relapse?
The concept of relapse generally applies to people with a drug or alcohol issue, where people develop a problem, go through a process of recovery and create a new, clean and sober life. Recently we’ve come to believe that people with mental health problems, anxiety or depression even conditions like psychosis that were once considered incurable can do recover.
Both addiction and mental illness are chronic conditions. With any chronic disease, there is always the presence of a risk of a return to active symptoms. Whether your problem is drugs, alcohol, depression or anxiety, certain behaviors can keep you on the road to recovery and other actions that increase the risk you will fall back into active symptoms.
Here are some of the things people tell themselves that increase the risk of relapse.
Don’t hang out with healthy, sober friends. They are no fun anyway.
You probably have some friends; maybe you should call them acquaintances, that are not the healthiest people out there. There’s a temptation to tell yourself that now that you have recovered you can hang out with those old friends and not be pulled back into your disorder.
Sometimes those friends are drinking and using, other times they are just negative, unhappy people. If the people you’re hanging out with damage your self-esteem or tempt you to engage in the activities that created your problem in the first place, deciding to spend time with them is a relapse in the making.
Ignoring your feelings increases the risk of relapse.
Internal feeling states are tremendous relapse triggers. If you are starting to feel lonely, sad, or angry, don’t ignore those feelings. Relapse and active substance abuse usually begin in the mind well before someone picks up the substances. Trying to pretend you’re not feeling what you’re feeling put you at risk slipping back into active substance use.
Self-medicating your feelings with drugs or alcohol will increase your emotional issues. Alcohol is a depressant it will make you more depressed. Using chemicals to medicate anxiety works only very temporarily when the substances wear off the anxiety will be even worse.
Telling yourself, you can control your problem now leads to relapse.
The great fallacy of many alcoholics is the belief that after a few years without drinking they have been cured and can now drink safely. People with a history of drug problems often come to believe they’ve learned so much about their addiction that they can now control it and will never fall back into a full-fledged addiction.
Having once gotten over your anxiety or depression people often return to a bad relationship or an unhealthy work situation, thinking that this time they will be able to handle precisely the situation which triggered their depression or anxiety in the first place.
Don’t tell yourself that relapse is a part of recovery.
People who believe that everyone relapses give themselves an excuse to relapse. If you tell yourself that you should start planning yours now.
Somewhere along the path of recovery, many people start to tell themselves since their problem is a chronic condition that should expect to relapse. While the return of active symptoms is common is by no means required. Recovery requires active maintenance of the things that got you better. Accepting the idea that relapse is inevitable amounts to giving yourself permission to relapse.
After recovering from one issue, trying another problem leads to relapse.
Many people with a drug problem tell themselves that they need to find another activity to replace that. Sometimes they try a different drug in the belief that they will be able to control their usage. Looking for the same thrills, some people turn to gambling or risky sexual behavior.
Switch to using alcohol, marijuana, or prescription medication they’re not risky, right?
The widespread prevalence of alcohol and more recently marijuana has led many people to believe those substances will be easier to manage. A well-hidden fact is that the majority of drug overdose deaths are the result of consuming multiple drugs. Use of the “legal drugs” alcohol, nicotine, and more recently marijuana can be a first step on the return path to an addictive or dysfunctional life.
Just because the doctor gives you a prescription for something doesn’t make it safe. The recent epidemic of drug overdose deaths has largely been fueled by the abuse of prescription medications often in combination with alcohol or street drugs.
Trying to make up for lost time increases the risk of relapse.
Once you’ve gotten out of rehab for your depression and anxiety has reduced to the point it’s not controlling your life it’s very tempting to try to make up for lost time. Some people take a full-time job, go back to school full-time, and start a new relationship all in the first few months of recovery. Trying to do too much, too rapidly, can overwhelm you and reverse all the progress you’ve made in creating a life that works.
How many of these relapse risk factors have you allowed in your life?
Staying connected with David Joel Miller
Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!
Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.
Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.
Sasquatch. Wandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.
For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.