There’s something about the word ‘relapse’ that evokes a difficult, sinking sensation in the pit of your stomach. It’s not a happy word, not a hopeful word. It doesn’t celebrate past successes but sings loudly of current failings. Relapse, relapse, relapse: you’ve failed again. Slipped, fallen and allowed the thing you fear the most to creep back in.
You didn’t see it to begin with. It idly peeped out from its hiding place and you briefly made eye contact; so brief, in fact, that you didn’t even notice. But IT did. Eye contact turned into a meaningful glance, and then again, and you momentarily reminisced about all the good times you had together; because there WERE good times. And there it is: the thought has wheedled it’s way in, tunnelled under all the layers of recovery and laid down a little root at the back of your brain. The little root gets a little watering and slowly begins to lay down some foundations. By the time you even realise it’s there, the little root has begun to shoot and produce some flowers, and suddenly it’s a thing again.
There’s very little else in life that’s able to cause pain, pleasure and inconvenience all at once in the way relapse does. The pain comes from the abject disappointment of returning to old behaviours – of being back ‘there’ after enduring (and surviving) the recovery process, mixed with the fear of not only having to do it again, but of wondering – deep down – whether this is ‘it’ and there’s no going back this time. Don’t let that thought take hold.
It can be hard to acknowledge that relapse is pleasurable, but let’s be honest we’d be lying if we said there wasn’t a tiny bit of false euphoria involved at times. Ah, the familiar is back; the forbidden, the forgotten, the thing you left behind. Reunited like old friends you embrace and momentarily wonder why you ever parted ways… And then you remember. Everyone likes to have a naughty friend, but not one who also lies, cheats, deceives and is really only interested in hurting you.
The inconvenience of relapse is what makes you groan and hold your head in your hands. All of a sudden you have to make room in your head and in your busy life to fit this thing in again; to give it the attention it demands. Admitting relapse to family or friends is also pretty inconvenient; there’s no easy way to do that, is there? The energy those conversations demand has been quickly swallowed up, and so you start to fall back, hide what’s happening and push people away.
Relapse hurts. But you haven’t failed, and there IS a way back. You know the road; your footprints are already on it showing you where to tread. Don’t be afraid to tell someone you’ve picked it up again; there’s no shame in being human, no shame in finding something difficult.
In fact, be proud: relapse means you were high enough to fall in the first place.
Now let’s get climbing back up there.
@FreedomFromHarm | @RachelWelch