Avoiding Relapse Drift

Avoiding relapse drift requires us to keep some strong, steady lines to sobriety established at all times. Once those lines are loosened or released, we will drift into relapse by relaxing our behavioral standards. Think of it this way: a boat in a lake with no currents can stay in place without much trouble. No anchors are needed. However, even a mild breeze will push a person in a boat all around the lake, given time. Consider stronger currents. Consider what happens when there’s moderate, then severe turbulence. The addict sits in the boat of recovery. His or her anchor lines are healthy activities that support recovery or take the place of using without being addictive.  The fewer anchor lines are present, the less likely the person’s boat of recovery is to stay anchored in good health. It’ll be capsized or pushed way off course.

Avoiding Relapse Drift By Keeping Standards

Relapse doesn’t often just happen. It can, I don’t deny that and never will. Relapse can be a bolt from the blue event, but that’s not usually the case. It’s more often a process of gradually cutting our lines, our “ropes” of healthy behavior, failing to replace one healthy behavior with a new one, or failing to derive benefit from our recovery activities. Recovery isn’t a finish line; it’s the marathon itself. It’s pretty easy to feel worn down and skip recovery activities like going to meetings, seeing your therapist or doctor, going back to eating junk food all the time. The list is endless. However, the list of positive activities is endless too.

Consider: an “activity that supports sobriety” doesn’t have to come prepacked off the self with those words on it. If building model ships in a bottle calms your nerves, gives you something fun to do, and opens your mind up, you’ll be far more receptive when you do indeed approach activities that are centered totally on recovery. A cluttered, over-anxious mind does not serve your recovery well.

You can prevent relapse drift by writing down what you do in a day. I use a spreadsheet program. You can use notebook paper if you want. Many days you’ll feel as if there’s no time to write a thing down, and that’s where an essential item of staying sober comes into play: self-discipline. Self-discipline rules recovery; it guides sobriety. It’s the hardest aspect of life for most people to learn, whether in recovery or never having used.

To avoid relapse drift, we have to do more than abstain from the behaviors that lead to addiction. We have to spend some time daily doing things that support recovery. More on those activities later.