No matter how long you’ve been sober, relapse is never impossible. We’ve all heard it before, don’t take that first drink. And it’s true, that first drink might kill us. We might not survive a slip: relapses can be fatal. Relapse is part of many stories in recovery but those stories don’t always have a happy ending. Sometimes relapse can lead you back to recovery and sometimes it can lead right back to drinking and death.
Relapse doesn’t happen suddenly. Your thinking starts to change leading up to a relapse. Or you stop doing the work and get complacent. After a month, or a year, you think, I’ve got this and you stop doing the work. You skip meetings, hang out in dangerous places, start fantasizing about having ‘just one drink’.
If you’ve relapsed before, you have a good idea what led you there. Know your triggers! Romantic drama can lead to relapse. That’s why it’s suggested to avoid new romances in the first year of recovery. Your work may be a trigger, either the stress of the job or a work culture centred around drinking. The pain of unresolved sexual or physical abuse can be a trigger when you are flooded with memories and pain.
If you start thinking about drinking again, it’s time to work recovery like it’s your job. It needs to be your number one priority in life to survive. Do more of whatever keeps you sober: meetings, friends, exercise. Our recovering brains are always going to be more susceptible to drinking. That’s why working a long term treatment plan is vital to long term recovery.