Thinking distortions, such as denial and rationalization, make it easier to set up your own relapse episode. The process is started by participating in or setting up a number of events or activities that lead you to expose yourself to high risk situations. This can also allow you to deny any responsibility for relapse. There is no such thing as a relapse caused by things external to you (Parks, & Marlatt, 2000). It results because of your actions or lack of actions. This is good news because you have the power to be proactive and make changes.
The choice to use again is strongly influenced by the level and variety of skills you develop to manage your life. Choosing to use is the final decision in a series of small decisions that led you to an opportunity to choose to pick up that glass of alcohol, swallow that pill or inject that drug. Relapse is the act of returning to your previous condition: a former mood or way of life, especially a bad or undesirable one, after coming out of it for a while. It always refers to a return to a negative state.
- No one says: I had a relapse and started exercising again. I don’t know what happened.
- No one says: I had a relapse and started going to school again. I don’t know how I got enrolled.
Relapse consists of conscious acts. An act is something you do. A reason is an explanation or justification for doing or not doing something. Unless you are experiencing a serious episode of mental illness such as psychosis or have suffered serious brain damage, you can become more aware of your reasons and motives for acting or thinking in a particular way. To get a handle on your rationalizations and the distorted thinking that supports use or a return to use, cognitive or thinking therapy is often a good resource. It recognizes you are able to control and make changes in your thinking.