An Autopsy of My Relapse (Addiction, Part 1)

(This excerpt is taken from Addiction Saboteurs – Slips, Relapses and My Course Correction in Cultivating Love: Finishing Strong by Dr Ken McGill)

The purpose of this assignment is to identify the thoughts, feelings, behavior, and situations that may arise in your life that could lead to a Slip or a Relapse. A Slip (often called a “Lapse”) is a momentary, often “unplanned” or unintended return to the addictive behavior that you have worked so hard to depart. The difference between a Slip and a Relapse is that with a Slip, you immediately return to the thinking, behaviors, principles, choices, relationships, and life(style) which evidence your recovery. You have slipped, but you have “course-corrected,” regained your balance and you return to working your program and living in recovery.

On the other hand, a Relapse is a return to the addictive behavior and lifestyle that you had left. A relapse could last for days, weeks, or months, as opposed to the momentary and often, overnight Slip. With a Relapse, you have fallen down, and in some respect, refuse to “get up,” and return to your life in recovery.

A Relapse is often preceded by a return to seeing, and doing things from a younger ego state, rather than operating from your healthier, Functional Adult Ego state, which is that part of you that adequately, and appropriately sizes up problems and implements solutions that are helpful to you. Often, it is the Adapted Adolescent Ego State within you, that suggests thinking errors (cognitive distortions) and behaviors to defend your wounded ego (via ego defenses). Thinking and operating in this younger ego state for too long “validates” that the old ways of viewing and dealing with problems is an acceptable alternative for you to return to. Looking at, and answering the questions in the “An Autopsy of My Relapses” exercise will assist you to understand how you may have allowed unprocessed thoughts and feelings about yourself and your relationship(s) to facilitate thinking and behaviors which led to your relapse. Once you have identified what went wrong, you have the opportunity to “repair the walls of the levee,” where the “stinking thinking” leaked into your life. If repair and recovery is going to happen, the walls must be rebuilt.

Read through the tools in this section and come to your own assistance, but also, seek and ask for the assistance of others, as you will need their experience, strength and hope to illuminate and correct where your boundaries have been compromised. Consider who are the “Teammates” that you will add to your team so that you are victorious over skirmishes and battles that arise in mind and in your life. Determine the role that you will ask, and need them to play in your life so that you both advance toward the goal line(s) in your lives. Finally, allow God to speak deeply and richly into your life, through His word, and through others, to illuminate how you could be successful in dealing with Slips and course-correcting to avert Relapses.

An “Autopsy” of My Relapse

A   A Relapse occurs when there is a breach in one or more of your 7 Core Areas. You are vulnerable to relapse if you are not Spiritually, Cognitively, Emotionally and Socially “fit.”

N   “Insight” regarding your urges, triggers and cravings and how you managed or mismanaged them will serve you well. Take time to understand your 7 Core Areas.

A   And what were the specific urges, triggers and cravings that you had, in the 7 Core Areas of your life? What were your thoughts, feelings and behaviors that fueled your relapse?

U   Unpack and examine the encounters you had, the issues you were faced with, the resentment(s) you carried, the thoughts you denied, the feelings you suppressed for insight.

T    Troubled “Ego States” (Your Adolescent and Child Ego States) needs examination, as relapse occurs when your “Little Professor” Ego State deems relapse behavior is acceptable for solving problems.

O   Obsessing about re-engaging in the addictive behavior without extinguishing those thoughts puts you in the Preoccupation stage of the addictive cycle. Were you obsessing about your “drug of choice?”

P    People you hung out with, Places you used to frequent and Things you used to do were probably involved with the relapse. Self-Delusion is thinking you can still retain them.

   Stashes of content, paraphernalia, and unbridled “euphoric recall” experiences where fantasy is allowed to run amok is like smoking at a gas station. Were these on your radar?

Y   Yelling, Name Calling and other forms of Verbal or Physical Abuse facilitate intimidation, increased alienation, and stir retaliation. Were these actions part of your relapse process?

O   Overconfidence about being able to handle your addiction by yourself and not choosing to “live in consultation” with others could lead to relapse. Were you too audacious, brash, isolating and alone?

F    Failing to follow through on responsibilities and commitments translates into a lack of self-care, arrogance, isolation, fear and other emotions that could ignite thinking about relapse.

M  Movement around the Karpman Triangle generates chaotic Victim, Persecutor and Rescuer stances ratified by your Little Professor Ego State. If not interrupted, a potential relapse could occur.

Y   Your unplanned response to Emotional Flooding episodes ignites a “fight, flight or freeze” anxiety response. Not having a “fire drill” plan in place to return to clear thinking invites relapse.

R   Routines that change too quickly could create distress, especially if there is no plan in place to deal with the consequences of the changes. Where there unplanned stressors that hit too rapidly in your life?

   Examining your Moods, such as, have you been too Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired? What have you noticed about yourself that could have been a precursor to relapse?

L    Look to see if there is someone in any of your systems (Home, Work, Family of Origin, Old Friends, etc.) who want you to be as sick as they are and maybe sabotaging your recovery.

A   Are there unresolved Resentments that you nursed, which were not discussed, weighed you down, causing you to seek some release via passive-aggressive and acting out behaviors?

P    Pride, Narcissism and being a Power Greater than Yourself feeds entitled behavior where you are apt to think the rules don’t apply to you…was this a factor with your relapse?

S    Stinking Thinking means the employment of Rationalization (“Rational Lies”), Justification, Minimization, and other Ego Defenses will be used and usually proceed a relapse.

E    Escaping Pain by Engaging in Pleasure oriented behaviors that “help” you to momentarily avoid your pain, suffering and reality could be causal factors. Was this true with you?

S    Somehow, forgetting how bad it used to be and thinking you could go back for another run and avoid all of the painful consequences connected to past using episodes crept in.

Please review the next post “Recovery, Getting Refocused” (Addiction Part 2) for some suggestions to help you to get back on track. Please retweet or pass this along to others if you think it could help them – thanks, Dr McGill.

TeleHealth/Video counseling sessions are available for those who prefer to meet online – Dr. McGill

Businesswoman presses button psychological counseling online on virtual screens. technology, internet and networking concept.

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