The warning signs were flashing emergency and the alarms were blaring at a sonic boom the week prior to my latest relapse, but I was oblivious to them. I had been doing so well with my sobriety and thought I had mastered the art of seeing red flags that I was headed toward possible relapse. I was beginning to consider myself a master at deterring relapse and being in tune with the signs. When the unexpected opportunity to use was gift wrapped and presented to me, I snatched it up and ripped that pretty bow off with the eagerness of a child on Christmas morning. I have never pulled one over my own self, until now.
I have a pretty crazy life; there is no one category that I fit into. I am a gypsy spirit and I wouldn’t have it any other way, it can hold me ransom whenever it feels like playing games; mind, body, and soul. I had been in midst of switching up my path in life, but with no clear plan. Switching roles from sexy ‘starving artist’ with a penchant for nudity and an unfiltered mouth; to an unconventional writers voice that uses words not skin to capture attention isn’t textbook life goals. I had learned a few weeks prior that I have a worrying autoimmune disease and maybe in trying not to panic or become overwhelmed with that news I dropped the ball on fighting relapse.
Up until the precise moment that using became a choice again, I had been insanely proud of the timespan of my sobriety. I was fighting the good fight and had learned through previous relapses coping skills that worked for me. A lesson I had not yet learned was how to ‘balance’ an egg basket of realities that all needed my complete and focused attention. Caught off guard and not realizing it I ended up failing my relapse fight.
With my new health concern and the demands of figuring out how to make my new career and life path work out, I stopped listening to my addiction and protecting myself against relapse. I didn’t even see it coming, which is the craziest aspect of this experience. I never let anything or anyone dupe me, so how in the world could it be that I duped myself? It all makes sense now; after the fact. This is where the word balance comes into play. Balance DOES NOT mean you become a plate spinner. It isn’t a circus act when someone spins plates on poles, without them falling off.
Just days after my relapse I learned that balance means working together, not building a wall around things of importance. I caught myself thinking “I wish I had known.” It would have been a tool, a powerful mental coping skill that I could have added to my arsenal of coping skills. Realizing that all of my most demanding issues need to be paid attention to and nurtured without forsaking one for another could have helped me see their relation as ‘what’ I need to zone in on and not ‘things’ I need to differentiate between . These are my ‘reality’ so I am going to look at them as whole and not separate groups. I tend to overwhelm myself when I fall into the “everything in its right place” mentality. I see now that the things in life that demand my all are the” everything” that will help me to overcome. My health issue weighed fully on my mind and I got wrapped up in those fears. I know most of my addiction triggers. Fear and worry are huge triggers for me and when I experience those I am quite vulnerable to relapse.
I needed to ‘look back at how far I had come.’ Most addicts never address their addictions. Few actively work to understand their issue in order to rise above it. I got myself into rehab, talk openly and without fear about all of my struggles, and connect all lessons learned. I am in that uncharted middle area between addict and recovery , yet still very proud of myself. This relapse was created because I failed to use knowledge and skills I already had to properly cope and not give into panic and fear. I relapsed because I failed to see the signs that a cliff was coming up and I needed to change my mental and emotional direction. I thought that worrying about my health issue was a coping skill. By devoting all of my time and energy, negative energy at that, to this one thing led me to relapse. Coming down was not pretty and could have cost me dearly, but the ray of light at the end of this tunnel is that I have learned from this experience. I can better prepare myself for the next time relapse tries to make an appearance in my life.
Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.