My Relapse Prevention Plan – The Life Long Journey
While there is much to be discussed about the vital ingredients in the recipe of successful addiction recovery, there is still one underlying element that is a contributor and potential threat to the equation of long term sobriety.
This element is referred to as the infamous ‘relapse’ and it is, and will be to most, as much a part of the process in long-term recovery as sobriety is. For that reason alone it should (and actually will be) also be referred to as the ‘inevitable’ relapse.
I can honestly say, personally, that my relapse prevention plan has been an ongoing executed plan for the past 13 years. My relapse prevention plan has not, and is not, a rewritten novel that includes “THE END” on the last page of a book that I read and neither will yours be.
The term relapse will remain infamous to those who are aware and respect it. It will also become inevitable for those who do not. There is no gray area associated with this. It is clearly black and white. You will either continue to maintain sobriety or you will relapse. Layman term: you are either clean or you are dirty.
The best way to describe ‘my relapse prevention plan’ would be to add ‘what is’ or ‘what will be’. This is a self-addressed question that requires re-visiting on a daily basis by anyone who identifies as being an alcoholic or an addict. If I may tell the truth, the first step in recovery is admittance.
So if you are reading this and you are saying to yourself, ‘I don’t have a problem’ then you are in the wrong place. Many people die (and will continue to die) in the disease of addiction because of this simple lack of realization. Unfortunately you cannot change what you do not realize.
The truth is simply this; relapse is a part of recovery and it has to be treated as such. This is why a relapse prevention plan is necessary. Having a plan doesn’t necessarily mean you will have to utilize it. What it does mean, however, is that it is better to have one (a plan) and not need it than to need one and not have it. It is a plan for a life journey and a design for living. So ‘who’ are we talking about and ‘who’ are we talking to on this journey?
Understanding Who Needs A Plan
First of all, the ‘who’ is anyone who identifies as an addict or alcoholic. Without the self-diagnoses of identifying as an addict or alcoholic, chances of recovery are slim to none.
I believe we all know people who drink, smoke a little weed or toot a little blow, for example.
Some of these people have nice houses, have secure jobs, are raising children, have multiple vehicles, participate in different functions etc: and they drink or use occasionally and maybe even regularly. Some of these people have bars in there homes and wine cellars and vintage bottles of this and that. These people we know have been living this way for years. They still have their home, their jobs, their relationships with their children and other family members, they get together still on holidays to celebrate and they seem quite normal.
More importantly, they appear to still have the one ingredient that I could never keep intact.
That ingredient was my sanity. Whenever I had just one drink, just one puff or just one line, it led to another, then another, then something stronger, then something stronger than that and ra-da-tat-tat (sound familiar for you too). Before I knew it, it was pitch black dark and all was lost. Including my residence, relationships, employment, integrity, morals, you name it, it got stripped behind the beginning of the end of ‘just one!’
If you identify with me more than those other people who “have been living this way for years” then you would be the ‘WHO’ needs a plan people, just like me.
Relapse Prevention Is Contingent Upon Daily Maintenance
Every plan is not tailored the same just as every well-made suit is not tailored the same. It is tailored to fit the individual. A relapse prevention plan, however, has fundamental elements, or ingredients, that apply to all.
As an example, every relapse prevention plan must be grounded on the foundation of understanding that drinking or using is not an option. This is a fundamental element that is strictly ALL inclusive. This applies to all who identifies. It is important to understand that if nothing changes, then nothing changes.
The signs of relapse are red flags that we intuitively know and see during the journey of our recovery. The problem for many comes from not being able to recognize the signs of relapse before it takes place and understanding what cannot be compromised during this journey.
A possible incomparable contingency to understand that applies to us is, “I cannot drink or use…period!” If this contingency cannot be fundamentally protected by the individual, then relapse is inevitable.
Getting Clean Is Just The Beginning
One of the most, if not the most, important fundamental ingredients to maintaining sobriety is individual participation in continued recovery after treatment. You may have gone through detox treatment and felt that it was enough. Maybe you have gone through both detox and residential treatment and stayed clean for a while.
Or, possibly you may have done outpatient treatment as well, with no detox or residential treatment. Hypothetically speaking, some of you have done 20 episodes of detox treatment and 10 episodes of residential treatment and still find yourself with yet another relapse. This is extreme I know, but it is also the Gods Honest Truth for most of us.
Treatment regimens vary but in this extreme example of 20 episodes of detox and 10 episodes of residential treatment, one thing you can establish for certain is this: relapse exists because getting clean is the easy…staying clean is the hard part. Once you get clean, you have to decide one of two things: “either I am going to stay clean or I am not” and that decision is going to be made rather you like it or not. You are going to do one or you are going to do the other.
Treatment episodes, rather detox, residential or outpatient are only the beginning of the sobriety journey. Treatment is the “getting clean” part. The most difficult, slippery and challenging situations take place outside of treatment.
Sobriety Is A Journey, Not A Destination
It is important to understand the different plans involved with addiction, substance use disorder. There’s a treatment plan, a recovery plan and a relapse prevention plan. If the first two are utilized effectively, the latter won’t be necessary.
Unfortunately, statistics say otherwise. The statistics of relapse in this country alone are quite depressing. The good news is statistics are meant to be broken.
To Sum It Up
Your relapse prevention plan may not fully resemble my relapse prevention plan or anybody else for that matter. In our sobriety we have to replace time we spend in our alcoholism or our addiction, with productive, new or old, activities that we love, or that we once loved and no longer do because of our time-consuming addiction.
You may find playing golf is relaxing, where I may find that playing the drums is soothing. One may enjoy cooking more than someone else who prefers hiking as a productive pastime now. But WE ALL have one thing in common that we must agree on if we are going to be successful. And this applies inclusively.
That one thing is the same mindset that we ALL agree on…we cannot afford the luxury of drinking or using like other people. We have discovered the truth that when we use, we lose relationships, we lose children into the system, we lose our homes, our jobs, our self-respect, our self-worth and our freedom from incarceration to say the least. We simply LOSE EVERYTHING.
So you see, the mindset has to be that, “relapse is not an option here”. The foundation of relapse prevention must be built around the precursor that the mind has made a decision to remain abstinent from anything that is mind altering. The process is simple, the concept is easy. What makes this whole gig difficult is that we, the individual, are involved with the decision-making in the process.
So we have to firmly decide “not to use no matter what”. It’s really that simple. Simple, yet difficult. But difficult is not impossible, and if it’s not impossible then it is possible, and if it is possible then it can, simply, be done. So decide. You are going to make a decision rather you like it or not.