Let’s continue on for a bit with the idea of fundamental principles in recovery. If we can spot similarities that all of us experience, then that can lead to new insight and deeper understanding of the recovery process.
If there are fundamental principles of success in recovery, is it possible that there are also universal paths that inevitably lead to relapse as well?
Now of course there are a million and one different situations that could lead up to a relapse, but in my opinion, the actual decision to return to the madness is going to come from one of 2 possible mechanisms: self pity or resentment.
The reason I say this is because every relapse is preceded with mental justification. The recovering addict or alcoholic, if they have truly been living in recovery, will not just pick up a drink or a drug on a complete whim. If they have found any sort of meaningful recovery in their life then they have some level of protection against a snap decision. They can still relapse (and many do), but it has to be preceded by an emotional and mental process first.
Because the addict needs justification in order to relapse, this indicates anger. In order to justify such an outrageous move as to go back to the insanity of using drugs or alcohol, the addict has to do an amazing feat of justification. It can only happen if a person is angry enough and they allow it to happen. So really there are at least 2 steps to the process:
1) A heightened emotional state where the addict or alcoholic has a lot of anger.
2) Mental reasoning born out of this anger where the person gives themselves permission to relapse. They justify it before they do it.
I see two distinct situations where this can happen:
1) When an addict is filled with resentment and cannot let it go, and
2) When an addict is filled with self-pity and cannot snap out of it.
These are just labels of course (resentment and self-pity), but they describe the dangerous conditions we need to watch out for because they are both obsessive conditions. They are both driven by anger, and they are both characterized by being stuck in a repetitive, obsessive mode. The anger is revisited, over and over again. Most people do not think that self pity is borne out of anger, but I have looked deeply at my own life and my own situation, and I believe that most of my self pity that I had was actually driven by anger on some level.
How can we avoid these traps that can lead to relapse?
There are different ways that we can strive to achieve emotional balance in our lives. But first we have to realize that some people are not even aware of their anger at all. Thus we might need to simply work on increasing our awareness and tuning in to what our emotions are doing at first.
Once we have learned how to listen to our own emotions and can start taking charge of them and take some corrective action, then we are in a position where we can actually protect ourselves from relapse. As you can see, simple awareness is a huge key to this. Identifying patterns of resentment and self pity is going to be important as well.
Self pity is a mental game that you play with yourself. It is not an emotion but rather an obsessive thought pattern that was born out of an emotion. You have a choice to control it and shut it down by simply refusing to let yourself go there. I know this because I had a strong tendency to engage in self pity myself, but learned to overcome it. This learning process that I went through was largely driven by discipline. I told myself I would not engage in self pity and so I stopped myself whenever I noticed the pattern. This worked for me.
I also used the idea of gratitude in order to overcome self pity. I forced myself to practice gratitude when I found my mind reverting to self pity mode. This also helped a great deal.
Tune in. Seek emotional balance. Correct when necessary.
Does anyone have any tips for overcoming resentments? Let us know in the comments…..