Contrary to popular misconception, relapse doesn’t begin with a return to using; using is the culmination of the relapse process, a process that usually starts long before the resumption of the actual use of substances or other manifestations of addiction. The seeds for a return to using are sown during a gradual return to the same kinds of thinking, attitudes, ways of dealing (or not dealing) with feelings, and behaviors that pervaded active addiction. The onset of this relapse process frequently begins with complacency. Complacency refers to a sense of self-satisfaction combined with a lack of awareness of potential or actual dangers. When things appear to be going smoothly, whether in life in general, or in specific life areas (such as recovery), it can be easy to begin to take success for granted and become complacent. There is an almost natural tendency to become complacent and coast in one’s recovery when all is well and seemingly going smoothly. The indicators of complacency can be shrouded by the mists of our defense mechanisms, notably a re-emergence of denial, minimization, and rationalization. However, the warning signs are apparent if we know what to look for. They include, but are not limited to:
- Believing that I have “completed” my recovery or that I am “recovered.”
- Believing that I “have this recovery thing down,” and know everything I need to know.
- Believing that it’s been long enough that I no longer have a problem with addiction or that the amount of time I have in recovery or what I know somehow inoculates me from relapse.
- Disengaging from actively practicing the awareness and actions of recovery by significantly reducing or discontinuing going to meetings, aftercare/therapy, meditation, prayer, exercising mindfulness, applying spiritual principles, keeping in contact with one’s support group, reading recovery literature, doing twelve-step work, or continuing to work with a sponsor.
- Engaging in thoughts, attitudes, and/or behaviors that were part of one’s patterns in active addiction, including returning, perhaps slowly and gradually, to being involved with “people, places, and things” associated with one’s using.
This blog post is an excerpt from Some Assembly Required – A Balanced Approach to Recovery from Addiction and Chronic Pain by Dan Mager, MSW; Published by Central Recovery Press (CRP).