A Relapse Can Take You Places You Never Wanted to Go
The Dangers of a Alcohol Relapse
After you have been in recovery a relapse can be dangerous because it can take you to dark places you have never been before physiologically, psychologically, and emotionally.
Relapses after beginning recovery are very common. In fact, it is uncommon for people trying to maintain a clean and sober lifestyle not to have at least one relapse on their way to finding lasting recovery.
Some who suffer from severe alcohol use disorders can have several relapses along their journey to recovery, but with each one, it gets more difficult to find the path back to lasting abstinence.
You Don't Know If You Will Make It Back
That's the main danger with a relapse. You never know if you are going to make it back the next time.
In Terrence Gorski's famous paper on "The Relapse Syndrome," he described the serious crisis that a relapse cycle becomes for a person who has been in recovery and has known a period of abstinence.
Because of the feelings of guilt, shame, and failure that a prolonged relapse can produce the experience can lead alcoholics to psychological and emotional depths they have never dealt with before, making them totally unable to function.
Relapse: A Serious Crisis
These are the factors that can come into play during a relapse as described by Gorski:
Degeneration of All Life Areas: The addict may become unable to contribute to the work, social, family, and intimate areas of life. As a result, all life areas suffer due to neglect.
Drug or Alcohol Use: The addict may begin to use drugs or alcohol as a means to escape the pain and desperation. There may be an attempt to control drinking by limiting the amount or attempting one short term binge. The ability to control drinking is soon lost. This sometimes happens very quickly.
Sometimes it occurs after a period of controlled drinking. The addict returns to out of control drinking with symptoms experienced during the last period of addictive use.
Emotional Collapse: The addict may become emotionally unable to function, may overreact or become emotionally numb, or cry or fly into a rage for no reason at all.
Physical Exhaustion: It may become impossible for the addict to continue to function due to physical exhaustion.
Stress Related Illness: The addict may become physically sick due to the severe stress that has been occurring for a long period of time.
Psychiatric Illness: The addict develops a severe psychiatric illness such as psychosis, severe anxiety, or severe depression. The psychiatric illness may be so severe that it forces the addict into treatment.
Suicide: The addict may become suicidal and may attempt or actually commit suicide.
Accident Proneness: The addict may become careless and unable to take normal precautions in acts of living, resulting in a sequence of accidents. These accidents may take the form of car accidents, falls, burns, etc. Often the accidents are life threatening or create serious injury.
Disruption of Social Structures: The addict may be unable to maintain involvement in normal life activities, may become socially unable to function.
A Note From BuddyT
If there is one light at the end of the relapse tunnel for those who have been in a recovery program previously: they do know exactly where to find help when they finally decide to reach out for it. Unfortunately, some wait too late to make that decision.
Don't let it keep you down. Pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and stand up and fight this thing. You have choices!
Source: Miller WR et al. "A simple scale of Gorski's warning signs for relapse." Journal of Studies on Alcohol 2000 Sep;61(5):759-65.
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