The Dark Road Called Relapse: Mental Health Awareness
written by Erica Ives
The Dark Road Called Relapse: Mental Health Awareness. RELAPSE, RELAPSE, RELAPSE…The disease of addiction is one that requires you to avoid relapse at all costs. But, how many really know what relapse means? The dark road called relapse? Most may think that a relapse means that you went out and used a type of mind-altering substance, usually the same drug of choice that locked you in your disease of addiction. Now while that is most definitely a relapse, it is actually a far broader concept, which includes numerous components that truly need to be addressed.
You hear about celebrities dying from a fatal overdose of drugs and/or alcohol. And while this is the “cause” of the death, the one that will read on the death certificate, especially because there were toxic amounts of substances found in their system at the time of autopsy, The place where we will truly learn something is to talk about what leads someone to a relapse which can easily result in a drug overdose, especially after they have been sober for any extensive period of time. While talking about what may have lead to the final overdose may be a brief part of the discussion following the death, especially because everyone is trying to make sense of a completely senseless act, the answers which arise tend to teach us a bit about the severity of the disease of addiction, the need to do something about this epidemic, and some other pieces of information. We may even hear about the dangers of relapse however, this discussion seems to fall a day late and a dollar short and then to make it even worse, the discussion dissipates as the days, weeks, months only bring about another topic that “we as a society must focus on.” Uh, hello, what happened to the one we were just talking about?
So you see, there are many concerns that need to be discussed NOW, not the next time something like this happens, NOW. We need to provide education on what the concept of relapse even means. Relapse is far more than using or drinking after a period of sobriety; RELAPSE ACTUALLY STARTS FAR BEFORE ONE MAKES THAT DEADLY CHOICE, THAT ONE-SECOND DEADLY CHOICE to use again. To truly understand relapse, we need to be reminded that it has no boundaries. To understand relapse, we need to become aware and educated on the many types of relapse. Now, if you are someone who is in recovery and is working a 12-step program, you may know what I am talking about. For those of you who do not know what I am referring to, let’s make sure to learn now. There is an emotional relapse, the “irrational thinking relapse” (I made up that name), the interpersonal relapse, and the spiritual relapse.
IRRATIONAL THINKING RELAPSE
Let me briefly explain a concept that I refer to as a “negative and irrational thinking relapse.” This is the unruly chatter that we have all probably experienced at one time or another in our life. While a large majority of people simply move forward after a bit of negative self- talk, there are those who become consumed by this chatter. It becomes louder and louder, stronger and stronger, and even more demeaning and ridiculing to the point that one is almost taken hostage by these negative and irrational thoughts. These thoughts are the gateway to the extreme emotional response that follows and which also be the start of the “emotional relapse.” These emotions are usually quite intensified and extreme and may have been sparked or re-triggered by one’s perception of a current situation. In addition, they and are felt more often than not and can be very debilitating. Some of the common emotions that are most difficult to tolerate include loneliness, despair, rejected, humiliation, shame, and hopelessness. The question though, is “was this individual connected to these emotions enough to know that they were ‘dangerous’ emotions?” If so, the other question is, “what did they do about differently than they did when they were actively using?” Did they talk to their sponsor, their support system in recovery, close peers, mental health professionals? All of this may be result in some destructive behavior that takes place before the actual substance or alcohol relapse. I am going to call this the “interpersonal relapse.” By interpersonal, I am referring to relationships between one or more people. One of the first signs of an interpersonal relapse is isolation. The addict begins to withdraw. They may be physically there but less and less present and truly engaged. Let me put it this way; there is a change that begins to take place within relationships that feels questionable and even notably different. Whatever you do, DO NOT ignore it. In regards to what I am going to refer to as the spiritual relapse, if the addict was connecting to their spirituality whether it is a higher power, God, nature and they are beginning to lose their faith and connection to whatever it is that brings internal peace that is a cause for concern.
So, let me put all together for you in a brief example. Please remember that it does not look the same for every individual and this example is simplified.
An event occurs – Your significant other ends the relationship.
The chatter – negative self-talk –
“I am pathetic, I screw up every relationship I am in.”
“Everybody always leaves me.”
“I should have left a long time ago.”
“No one is ever going to love me again.”
The extreme emotional response:
The destructive behavior
Impulsive behaviors (i.e. excessive spending, sexual promiscuity)
And inevitably – THE ACTUAL RELAPSE with drugs or alcohol.
The more you truly understand and connect to your recovery and allow others in to do the same, the more likely you are to be aware of and identify your personal signs that indicate you are heading down the dark road called relapse.
The more you truly understand the unique recovery of the one you love, the more likely you are to be aware of signs that may be indicative that the he or she may be heading down the dark road called relapse. While you cannot save or fix anyone, you can offer your support, guidance and love. Learn more about relapse prevention
In the end, we are all responsible for our own choices and actions.
We all need each other,