Preventing relapses

Relapse Prevention

Periodic relapse is not uncommon for individuals struggling to recover from substance abuse and addiction. Approximately one third of all individuals who attempt recovery and to work to achieve abstinence enjoy permanent abstinence after their first serious attempt at recovery. Another third have periods of brief relapse episodes but eventually achieve long-term abstinence. An additional one third have chronic relapses and encounter long-term difficulties. Predictable and identifiable warning signs that begin long before a return to use occurs mark the relapse process. Relapse prevention therapy is a systematic method of teaching recovering patients to recognize and manage relapse warning signs and provides individuals with the personal tools to interrupt the progression of relapse early, to return to the process of recovery and to become more successful in their efforts to achieve health and sobriety.

Second Offenders Group

This group is designed for persons who have had two or more arrests related to drug or alcohol use. Typically, group members have been referred because of intoxicated driving convictions or from a probation or parole office. Some participants choose to join the group on a voluntary basis. Members receive information on the development and progression of substance abuse problems, relapse prevention, corrective thinking, stress management and spirituality.

GA's Combo Book says, HONESTY, OPEN-MINDEDNESS, AND WILLINGNESS are the key words in our recovery. "Actually, it's not the words, but the qualities, that are key to our recovery. Why?

Well, we often hear someone say, "It's a program of honesty." And it is. We were anything but honest when we were practicing our addiction. Our objective in recovery is to turn around the negative behaviors that characterized us then; it stands to reason that honesty is a quality we need to cultivate.

No need to enumerate the details of our dishonesty here. We're so much alike! Our lengthy lists would probably be quite similar. I can only speak from my own experience, so I want to address the dishonest behavior that has proved to be my biggest challenge as my recovery progresses. LYING.
One big lesson I've learned is that life is much less complicated if I tell the truth. For one thing, I don't have to expend energy and gray matter remembering what I've said! It was hard keeping all the lies straight; if I tell the truth, I've found I rarely contradict myself. But I became such a facile liar when I was gambling. Lying has proved a hard habit to break. I'm working on it.

I don't believe it's in my best interest to draw some arbitrary line, where it's OK to lie on one side of the line, but not on the other. If I draw a line, I can move the line. If it's OK this week to lie about why I didn't get the lawn mowed, next week I may decide it's OK to lie about why I didn't do a lick of work on my current writing project. I've never heard anybody say, "It's a program of selective honesty"! Like addiction and recovery, lying is progressive.

So I'm not very open-minded when it comes to lying. On many other topics, I've become much more open-minded than I used to be. It's important in GA for members to be open-minded regarding the spiritual beliefs of others. My way isn't the only way. In the beginning, we may have to be open-minded just to buy into the concept that a 12-step recovery program can help us put the disease of pathological gambling under arrest. Many of us have to open our minds to the belief that working Steps 4 and 5 will relieve us of the heavy burdens of anger, resentment, fear and guilt that have weighed us down most of our lives. And Step 7! I'm a firm believer in open-mindedness, while at the same time placing credence in the old saying, "Don't become so open-minded that your brains fall out!"

Willingness is of equal importance with those other two key qualities. I had to be willing to admit that I simply couldn't stop gambling without asking for some help! I tried and tried and I just couldn't do it. I had to become willing to ask Wanda to sponsor me. And I became so willing that I asked Marilyn to sponsor me too! I tell people, "I'm a tough case; I need two sponsors." I had to become willing to follow their advice and the occasional order. I've become willing to shlep off to that extra meeting when I know I need it, whether I want to go or not. Above all, I had to become willing to change.

Betty C., AZ

Emsmith, Sunday April 25, 2004
11:29 PM EDT