How To Deal With Relapse In Your Sober Living
In my first halfway house experience in 2005, I lived with almost two hundred men. By the time I was a year sober easily half of them had gone back to using and drinking. By the time I was five years sober, there were less than five of us that I knew that were still sober. At ten years sober I was the last of the Mohicans. I didn’t make it to twelve years sober. Of course, I didn’t personally know everyone or track the exact demographics, but the point is clear. Many will fall, more than not.
What is relapse?
Let us address the fault in the question first. Relapse.
Definition of relapse (Merriam Webster)
1: the act or an instance of backsliding, worsening, or subsiding
2: a recurrence of symptoms of a disease after a period of improvement.
Words matter! The word “relapse” is most commonly used in the medical field. Its often applied to cancer patients and had qualifying factors before a doctor using the term. It is not used until the patient has been diagnosed, accepted the full treatment and the condition has gone into remission. This parallel seems to have been missed as the term became popular in the recovery world. That means that a person who has not worked the 12 steps and recovered most likely never went into remission and just “picked up.” This is a considerable distinction. It means every step we take is either closer to or further from picking up again. A more precise understanding of this will help avoid surprises. Predictability is predictable. So the question is, “What to do when someone in your halfway picks up?”
Rule 1 of Dealing With A Relapse in Sober Living
” To thine own self be true” Indeed its the only rule in this scenario. But its a new idea for a newcomer. Most of us have been taught street codes, like: “snitches get stitches.” These codes are an example of misplaced loyalty. Our loyalty to our recovery is a top priority. That is the proper outworking of “To thine own self be true.” We owe nothing to anyone that detracts from our new path. What does this look like in action?
If we are doing what we are supposed to, we will not be doing what those who undoubtedly will pick up are. Avoid people who do the following:
– Glorifying using
– Getting out of self by chasing sex or money
– Breaking rules of the house
These avoidances will separate you from the herd of those that won’t make it.
Rule 2 of Dealing With A Relapse in Sober Living:Boundaries
Prevention beats damage control every time. A great way to stay ahead of the curve is to place yourself there. If you are in a situation where either unhealthy options are being presented to you, or foul play seems to be apparent here is what a healthy boundary conversation sounds like:
“Hey, I’m not looking to do anything but change my life. I’m not sure what works for you, but these certain things (add in troublesome behavior) have never worked well for me. Please do me a favor, don’t include me in any of this. Also, I don’t care what others do as long as it doesn’t affect my recovery. Please don’t put me in a position where my stay here is jeopardized. If I am forced to choose between me and someone else, I will choose me for the first time in my life.” Tailor this any way that fits. But make sure the point is clear.
Report: If someone puts you in a position to be kicked out, you have already stated where you are ahead of time. Sometimes the choices are hard. But recovery isn’t about making the easiest decisions. Anyone using, selling drugs, keeping contraband, trying to manipulate drug tests or similar in a halfway is a danger to the community. You are the community. The community is you.
To Thine Own Self Be True