Dear Rae, I have been sober for a little over a year now. I have been struggling the past few weeks and recently had an alcoholic beverage, my first since I gave up drinking last year. My friend Albert says that I have relapsed, even though I haven’t had another drink since. Is he right? – Rob C.
Dear Rob: I would say this is a lapse, not a relapse. It’s like you sprained your ankle, instead of completely breaking your leg. But, a “relapse” and a “lapse” are as much about functioning and thinking, as they are about using alcohol. Taking a sip of alcohol is not the lapse. That’s the end result of addictive thinking. A relapse begins psychologically. The sipping of the alcohol is just the visual of other things that have been going on. These “struggles” are important to address from this day forward.
Don’t Focus on the Relapse…
Don’t focus on the relapse, it’s just a word. You can tell that to your friend Albert… Your concern and priority should be getting back on track immediately.
An important thing to note, is that you knew you had been “struggling”. Make sure you’re actively practicing your recovery. When you become complacent, addictive thinking can start to creep in. Think about what stressors and triggers led you to that drink and be mindful of those in the future. Know that there are signs like, mood swings that you and others can watch for in order to prevent a lapse.
Use this as a learning experience. Put what you learned into your recovery tool kit to make you stronger and smarter. Your next step is to address how you are going to move forward. Be aware. If you begin to struggle again, talk to a sober friend, step up your 12-step meeting schedule or get out and get some exercise. If the difficulties continue, seek professional help.