RID ourselves of relapse
We were our mother's favorite child. At least, that is the way we felt. But, now, being parents, we realize that we have favorite children that get rank in a cycle of meaningful interactions that leave a lasting emotional imprint on our souls. Good or bad, achievement or disappointment, joy or pain; a situational or emotional connection that resonates deeply, securing their temporary position as “favorite.”
We have favorite episodes here at sober.coffee, and a recent release has found a temporary position as favorite. The episode entitled “Challenges in Sobriety: Emotional Relapse (Restless, Irritable, Discontent),” which aired on April 12, 2023, falls into an uncategorized bucket of “relapse prevention” conversations, and the content of this session is so chocked full of truths and tools to use in preventing relapse that it begs a double-listen.
This blog attempts to organize, summarize and augment some thoughts shared that day:
For the sober and the sober curious everywhere, relapse is a backslide, an “oh shit,” an “oops, I did it again” moment when drinking and drugging reestablishes itself into your everyday life. One usually feels like it came out of nowhere to overcome resolve, but we have learned that there is more to it than a sneak attack, and we feel that we can recognize the signs and use tools to defeat its assault.
We have learned that relapse has three stages of progression: emotional, mental, and physical. So today, we will dabble in the emotional phase – the “feelings” stirring inside us.
The big book of Alcoholics Anonymous lays out the natural sequence of emotional events driving us toward drinking. For example, ponder the text found on page xxvii:
“men and women drink essentially because they like the effect produced by alcohol. The sensation is so elusive that, while they admit it is injurious, they cannot differentiate the true from the false after a time. To them, their alcoholic life seems the only normal one. They are restless, irritable, and discontented unless they can again experience the sense of ease and comfort that comes by at once by taking a few drinks -- drinks which they see others taking with impunity. After they have succumbed to the desire again, as so many do, and the phenomenon of craving develops, they passed through the well-known stages of a spree, emerging remorseful, with a firm resolution not to drink again. This is repeated over and over, and unless the person can experience an entire psychic change, there is very little hope of his recovery.”
So, what started the circling sequence? We ask: according to the words of our life text, “They are restless, irritable, and discontented.” It is there that the mental battle begins. It is there that one has the best chance to adjust. But first, we need to identify that we are feeling these feelings. And, since no app in today’s marketplace can detect emotion (the mood ring is long gone), we will need to go old school to look at this objectively rather than subjectively.
How do we know definitively that we are in danger? We suggest that we can first look at the physical for indicators; are we scowling or frowning? Is our tone grouchy as agitated? Is our body tight as frustrated? Are we having difficulties concentrating? Is our heart beating faster than usual? Is our breathing regular? Are we snapping as annoyed? Is there a need to be in constant motion (hyperactive/ Excessive fidgeting)? Are we scattered as anxious? If any of this exists, you could be in a dangerous area. If all these exist, you are definitely in profound peril.
To reach the objectivity required, we need to tap into an accountability partner (a sponsor or trusted and honest friend or therapist - anyone you can be 100% honest with) to lay out our struggle and let them confirm if we have fallen into irritability, restlessness, or discontentedness. And while they are there, they can help us, through support and suggestions, get us to a place of calm, quiet, unworried, and composedness. The intended destinations should be; centered, satisfied, and content and reflected with happiness, cheerfulness, and a pleasant disposition.
Sometimes, we have found that we need to “act as if”; When we are not feeling calm; for example, we need to act as if we are calm until our spirit catches up with our body.
Likewise, when we feel worried, we must act as if we are assured until transformation occurs. We suggest looking at all opposites and applying as needed (the opposites of restless are calm, quiet, unworried, and composed. The opposites of irritability are happy, pleasant, cheerful, and friendly. The opposites of discontent are centered, satisfied, and content.)
Ultimately, to change at our root will require surrendering imperfections to a power greater than ourselves. Yes, we will have to rely on a higher power to intervene in our feelings and actions. That is the secret sauce.
Completion of this self-inventory, accountability, and complete surrender brings about the psychic change ( a transformation in one’s reaction to life, change in personality, or acquisition of belief in a Higher Power – by one definition) that the program of Alcoholics Anonymous talks about.—we will dig into this psychic change thing in an upcoming blog.
When we find ourselves at the intersection of the uncomfortable and uneasy, we may, by our old nature, want to seek comfort in the wrong places. However, we can assure ourselves that if we stay in check with our emotions, remain accountable to others, and surrender our behaviors to the supernatural; we will make the right turn.
Thoughts and ideas for this blog post were taken and built upon from sober.coffee podcast #107 Challenges in Sobriety: Emotional Relapse (Restless, Irritable, Discontent)The podcast dropped on 4/12/2023. Click here to hear the podcast.
Alcoholics Anonymous and AA are registered trademarks of Alcoholics World Service. Inc. References to AA, the 12 steps, and 12 traditions do not mean that AA has reviewed or approved the contents of this publication nor that AA agrees with the views expressed herein. This publication is intended to support personal growth and should not be considered a substitute for healthcare professionals' advice. The author’s advice and viewpoints are their own.