Good advice on relapses

Credit Sue Price

TTM #26: Good Advice on Relpases - how to prevent them, how to start

My friend Sue P from the other remailer told me about another good
book.... here is what she wrote and info about the book. I will be
heading to the library to chekc out this one next! Hope this helps 
(email to me from sue) 

The addictions book is called "Willpower's Not Enough: Recovering from
Addictions of Every Kind" by Arnold Washton and Donna Boundy. 

I found it at a used book sale. You can get it on, used ones
are pretty cheap. And let me note, I get no kickback :-). 

I recommended it to my support group and one of the members got it and
agrees with me that it is awesome. It outlines addictive thought
patterns and common they are in individuals, families, society at large,
etc. Then they talk about getting off, and staying off. 

They also show that relapses fall into predictable patterns and don't
come out of nowhere so I can recognize now when I am heading in a
dangerous direction and take action to correct it. 

They define addiction as something you can't stop doing even though it
has negative consequences - hello! 

Also it's an addiction if you use it as a mood changer, to escape
feeling you don't want to feel - hello again. They say they don't make a
distinction between physically-based addictions and things that might be
classifieds as compulsions, because the thought patterns are the same. I
do find what they say applies to my trich even though they don't mention
trich at all in the book. 

One of the best insights I got from the book is that expecting a perfect
recovery is addictive thinking in itself. It's saying that either you're
having a perfect recovery or you're not in recovery, which is wrong.
That helped me stop slips and see they are PART of recovery, they don't
have to destroy it. 

Here is an excerpt from the book that helps me a lot: 

"No one wants to have a slip and just thinking about it makes some
people very nervous. But denying the possibility altogether and refusing
to think about it and prepare an action plan just in case is addictive
behavior itself." 

A slip is not the same as relapse. A slip is an isolated event of
returning to the addictive behavior. 

A relapse is full-blown return to the addictive behavior, usually
resulting in dropping out of recovery. A relapse occurs if a slip is not

Whether this happens depends on your reaction to the slip - whether you
steer yourself back to recovery or have a defeatist reaction. 

Defeatist reactions are negative thoughts and feelings that can occur if
a person slips. 

"I've blown it now, I may as well keep going", "This proves I can't
recover", the feeling that all progress has been lost, etc. You must
short-circuit these negative feelings about the slip or it is likely to
escalate into full-blown relapse. 

"This distorted view -- that we are either successfully recovering or
are a total failure at it -- is black-and-white, addictive thinking."
Ironically, the over-reaction to a slip, thinking that a slip means
recovery is blown, is what can cause a full-blown relapse. 

"Other traits of the addictive personality contribute to a defeatist
reaction. Perfectionism, for instance, causes the addict to have
unrealistic expectations for a flawless recovery. His tendency toward
isolation and secrecy increases the likelihood that he won't want to
tell anyone. . . 

Slips occur among even the most motivated recovering people. Sometimes
it even takes a slip for someone to accept that what he's dealing with
is a lot more powerful than he is. If you use a slip to your advantage,
it can bring you closer to acceptance (and thus to lasting recovery)
than you were before." 

Here is the action plan they suggest you have ahead of time so that if
you have a slip, you are prepared: 

1. Your main goal, should a slip occur, is to CUT IT SHORT. Simply don't
do it anymore. Get back on your recovery track RIGHT NOW. This is a new
moment and you can abstain, even if you didn't five minutes ago. 

2. LEAVE THE SITUATION in which the slip is occurring. 

3. Immediately CALL A MEMBER OF YOUR SUPPORT TEAM. Identify ahead of
time who you would call. Remember if you are having a defeatist
reaction, you won't want to call anyone. So make it a part of your plan
to do this anyway, even if you don't want to. 

have whatever time you were abstinent; that time did not cease to exist.
The slip is a rough spot on the road to recovery, but you're still on
the road. 

5. DON'T BEAT YOURSELF UP ABOUT IT. The feelings of self-loathing that
follow a slip are actually in the service of the addiction; it's the
disease talking. Berating yourself and wallowing in self-hate, guilt and
shame will only perpetuate the slip. Recovery is furthered by giving
yourself COMPASSION, and taking ACTION to interrupt the slip. 

6. LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES. While a slip is not evidence that you are a
failure or hopeless case, it does indicate that you have made a mistake,
failed to observe yourself slipping back into addictive thinking or to
recognize relapse warning signs. Look upon the slip as an opportunity to
problem-solve. By learning from it, the slip will become PART of the
recovery process and not antithetical to it. 

7. WORK IN ADDITIONAL SUPPORT. Having a slip should tell you that you
need more support than you are currently getting: perhaps more meetings,
a commitment to reach out to others, or additional counseling. Being
prepared for a slip is like having a fire drill. It doesn't mean you
should expect a fire but that you are prepared to take responsible
action should one occur.