A full relapse is more likely when:
- The lapse is viewed as confirmation of the individual’s personal weakness.
- The lapse is viewed as confirmation of the individual’s failure of will power.
- The individual has poor coping skills (Marlatt, & Donovan,2005).
Guilt and shame are of no benefit to you when you experience a lapse. A self instilled burden of guilt and shame can be used to justify a return to using or drinking. What can you do immediately after a lapse?
- Use rational thinking skills, to end the all or none dysfunctional thinking. “If I lapsed once, I will continue to full relapse.”
- Stop self-blame. Learning to maintain abstinence is a process just like learning any other skill.
- Remove guilt. If you must feel guilt use it to stimulate positive action for further relapse prevention.
- Stop negative emotions and negative self-talk. They are counter productive. Use relaxation techniques and physical exercise to clear your mind.
- Assess the situation for using cues that led you to the lapse. Make changes to your environment, behaviors, and your relapse prevention plan.
- Practice drug and drink refusal skills based on scenarios just experienced during the lapse.
- Increase exercise, meditation, and relaxation activities during the days after the lapse (Marlatt, & Donovan, 2005).
The effect that all drugs and alcohol have in common is they impair judgment. Poor judgment can result after taking small amounts, which is why taking a small amount often leads to taking more. One drink leads to two. With impaired judgment, it appears to the user that more is better. Impaired judgment from drugs or alcohol is a high-risk for relapse. In addition to using, if your judgment is also impaired by lack of sleep, chronic fatigue, depression or anxiety, you are at even higher risk for relapse. A balanced life style improves physical and mental health, improves your judgment about using drugs, and reduces the risk of relapse.
It is relatively easy for people to change undesired behaviors temporarily. Maintaining behavior change is much more difficult. This book encourages you to look at multiple areas of your life so that at any given time, you are always succeeding and moving ahead in some life area. Even if you lapse or when one particular life area may be temporarily left on the backburner, you are still moving forward, taking action.
A lapse is the initial use of a substance after an individual has made a commitment to abstain from that substance. A relapse is a full return to the negative behaviors and the original level of substance abuse. Using increases the intensity of craving. A single dose or use of a drug or alcohol causes your body to react in an anticipatory way. During your period of addiction, you trained your body to expect that you won’t stop at one drink or pill or injection. When you use once or lapse, your body remembers past patterns of use, and it asks for more through escalated craving.
Expect increased cravings after a single use and use the techniques described in Chapter 5 to reduce craving intensity. Use your coping skills that you learned about in Chapter 6 and from other sources so you can take action to reduce the risk for further use.
Although you can learn from a lapse and even from a full relapse, the most effective learning occurs during daily drug and alcohol-free coping with life’s problems and by achieving your goals.