Relapses Happen

Recovery isn’t linear. Normally there are periods it stagnates, having setbacks, and starting over from the beginning. There is no perfect recovery process or a perfect patient either. The average person is expected to relapse at least once in the process of recovery. The only thing that shouldn’t happen is a person giving up entirely.

I had several addictions, including anorexia and self-harm. My chemical addictions lasted for three years, but even now I still fantasize about what would happen if I were to do them again. I struggled with self-harm for ten years, half of my life. Even now when I am incredibly upset or agitated, I want to run back to it. Will the thoughts and urges stop quickly? Usually not. Thoughts and feelings may never go away. However, I never believed in punishing thoughts either.

There is a shade of grey between indulging in fantasies of urges, and merely having it be a quick impulse when a person is upset. Obsessing about it to where it consumes a person’s life, is not healthy. Neither is surrounding yourself with triggers, as it increases the risk of a relapse happening.

And you relapsed? It’s hard. It can bring up feelings of shame and hopelessness, which fuels the want to continue engaging in the behavior. However, there is a rather beautiful outcome of this. A relapse can teach you what to do right next time after doing something wrong. It brings to light new potential triggers and also what new coping skills can be learned. Instead of seeing it as something shameful and being a disappointment, try to think of it as a learning experience and something that is natural in the process of recovery.

Now here is some tough love, so don’t read this part if you want. In my blunt opinion, you can only be in a relapse a specific period of time until you have to force yourself to get out of it. Life is short, and will continue on whether or not you participate in it. I have wasted my youth reveling in a relapse and never putting effort in getting better. And that was absolute garbage of me. Now when I think back to my teenage years, I have to push myself not to be filled with regret. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it is expected to be a productive, contributing member of society. If you can’t keep up, you will be left behind. Use that fact to push yourself to be successful in life and in recovery.

 

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