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  • Let's Talk!: Lapse and relapse

    A place for community rundowns, special events and announcements from Counselling Online forums facilitation team.
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    Senior Member
    Posts: 206
    Joined: Mon Jan 21, 2019 12:54 pm

    Let's Talk!: Lapse and relapse

    Fri Jan 24, 2020 10:36 am

    For so many, lapses are part of the journey to recovery. While they can feel really crappy, lapses do not mean you cannot do it, or that you should give up.

    In this Let's Talk, we'll be discussing the difference between a lapse and relapse. We'll share our experiences and struggles with lapses, and how to take control and continue forward, and what can be learnt from these experiences.

    While a lapse can feel like a really tough thing, you're not alone.
    Join us.
    1 x
    Peace Dove
    Community Builder
    Posts: 372
    Joined: Mon May 03, 2021 9:22 am

    Re: Let's Talk!: Lapse and relapse

    Mon Sep 27, 2021 11:46 am

    Hi everyone, today we’re going to talk about lapse and relapse as these are often part of the recovery journey. Let’s begin by differentiating these two:
    - Lapse is a one-off short return to an addictive behaviour.
    - Relapse is a return to an addictive behaviour.

    Lapses and relapses can occur at any time and at various times throughout the recovery journey. It is also possible to experience a lapse without it becoming a relapse. For example, a person might have a lapse after one year of being sober and then another lapse two years after the first lapse.

    - How to transform a lapse/relapse into a learning experience?
    A lapse or relapse is an opportunity to identify your triggers. By doing so, you’ll be able to improve or learn new strategies such as how to manage urges and cravings. Similarly to a learning curve, every lapse/relapse can help you be better prepared to deal with your triggers next time.

    Finally, it's important to acknowledge that a lapse or relapse does not mean you’ve failed, you’re weak, a bad person or incapable of maintaining recovery. If you’re experiencing these kinds of thoughts, you might also want to read about dealing with feelings of guilt and shame.

    Have you experienced a lapse or relapse during your recovery journey and/or how have you dealt with it? @PnorkelPW @ScorpionPW @Katiee @Simply me @EtherealAngel111 @initae89 @Spyrina @apples123 @Newlife21 @Keita @BonsaiBeginner @Stivy @Arteen @Wyatt103 @Nugnug @Runz @OceanSky
    1 x
    Peer Worker
    Posts: 334
    Joined: Tue Jun 01, 2021 3:14 pm

    Re: Let's Talk!: Lapse and relapse

    Mon Sep 27, 2021 10:34 pm

    Great topic @Peace Dove !!!

    I experienced a relapsed a few years ago.........it lasted a number of weeks and I sometimes try and bullsh*t my way into defining it as a lapse but the reality is it was a deadset relapse. Only thing is that it wasn't drugs or alcohol..........it was gambling. I've touched on this a bit but my addictions play out in a number of ways and substances are only part of the picture.

    The lapse built over time. It started with not acknowledging some issues that were building. I was pretending I was okay but all the time some things were eating away at me. I happened to be in the vicinity of the casino one day and thought about going in but managed to avoid it. I never truly acknowledged how close I came to lapsing that day and let the thoughts of gambling build more and more in the back of my mind. Over the next few weeks it grew stronger but I never spoke about it.........somehow I thought that it was the lesser of the evils if I gave in to it and convinced myself that I needed some sort of outlet. Next thing I knew I snuck into the casino one afternoon and didn't do too much damage...................That was it.

    In a matter of weeks I was going in two to three times a week, catching the train home on weekends at 3 in the morning, had all these rules and stipulations on how much I'd gamble and how I'd control it...............convincing myself I wouldn't go that night and having the yes/no arguments in my head before finally giving in............all the signs of a true addict............I had zero control and almost did some big damage to my savings account. I kept telling myself that it was okay because I wasn't drinking and I'm unsure how I actually managed that under the circumstances. I almost did real damage to my savings account until in a moment of madness I managed to get myself back to square............that could have been the end of me. If I hadn't managed to do that I fear for the way that spiral would've unfolded. The truth is that I'd only just been holding it together and it was affecting me at work and my general wellbeing.

    I knew what was happening but I wouldn't admit it to myself or anyone else. The shame was building. The disappointment was front and centre. I felt like a complete and utter fraud and was paralysed by fear. I reached out to a friend and ended up at her place one Tuesday night at about 11pm instead of going to the casino. We had a great chat over a few hours and as well as talking about some of the life issues I was working through she was able to help me identify that I wasn't working towards anything. I had no goals. I was just treading water...........and nearly drowning. I'd achieved a lot up until that point. I had a few years recovery up, had changed careers, got the job I was after and then got a promotion. But then I had nothing to work towards and for me that's a dangerous space to hold. Thank goodness for good friends.

    Anyhoo........I've never really shared that with many people because I still hold some shame about it. I'm sure I've said it on the forums somewhere but there aren't many people in my life that actually know about it. I'm really open about 98% of my experiences but there's still some stuff I keep to myself. From there I was able to reset, set some goals and check in with my friend who helped keep me on track. I had to get busy again because I'd stopped seeing mates, was being consumed by working two jobs and wasn't exercising. So I set some goals, got exercising and started to prioritise time with friends. I backed off my second job for a few weeks to give myself a break and got honest with myself about what was happening in my life. I also wrote down what I had to lose if I continued down that path which was pretty bloody confronting.

    Someone once shared at a meeting I went to that if they lapsed on the booze one night there is a great chance that it would lead to a bender. That wouldn't be enough so the baggies would be next and when another high was needed there'd be more money blown on hookers. I really identified with that. My next drink could lead me to the bender to end all benders and money and self respect I've built for myself could be gone in a matter of hours.

    But I don't view that relapse as a failure..............................I view it as a difficult time that I learnt some big lessons and although I gambled I'll be forever grateful that I avoided the bender to end all benders and that I had a great friend to help me identify a pathway forwards.

    My advice is to get honest. Acknowledge the issues before they lead to lapse and talk to whoever you need to. Get busy doing the things that work and stop doing the things that don't. It's all such simple stuff but that's the stuff we stop doing. Simplify and survive.
    2 x
    Peer Worker
    Posts: 334
    Joined: Tue Jun 01, 2021 3:14 pm

    Re: Let's Talk!: Lapse and relapse

    Thu Sep 30, 2021 8:28 pm

    Just as an addition to my post above…………the biggest lesson I learnt through that lapse was this………..I learnt to ask myself “What is it that’s sitting so uncomfortably in my life that I’m looking for an external solution to an internal problem?”

    If I can answer that and work through the issue………..or issues………..then I won’t need to drink, drug, gamble or lapse/relapse in any other way
    2 x
    Posts: 60
    Joined: Thu Aug 19, 2021 9:02 am

    Re: Let's Talk!: Lapse and relapse

    Thu Oct 07, 2021 12:11 pm

    Thanks for this topic @Peace Dove.

    I just looked at the dates - I joined the forum on 20 August 2021. I've come to terms that I have a dependency issue. And I started reading up, finding resources and so on.

    I was very diligent in using this community here to keep me on the right track. I was going about it a day at a time. Then things got busy at work, a work crisis happened, and that becomes the easy rationale / exit ramp for drug use.

    And it was building for some time - alcohol intake was increasing, caffeine intake was increasing and I was trying to stave it off by going to the gym more to distract myself - even up to 2x a day!

    What @PnorkelPW talked about - the Yes/No arguments in my head, the justifications and so on.

    I'm not sure what is short - but I guess 2 days could be considered short? So maybe it was a lapse, but then I lapsed again 2 weeks later.

    What I learnt is that being home alone at the start of the week is really a big trigger.

    @PnorkelPW asked the question “What is it that’s sitting so uncomfortably in my life that I’m looking for an external solution to an internal problem?”

    I'm not sure I can answer that? I love my life 90% of the time but sometimes I want to run away for a day? Maybe I need to work on that.
    1 x
    Peer Worker
    Posts: 334
    Joined: Tue Jun 01, 2021 3:14 pm

    Re: Let's Talk!: Lapse and relapse

    Mon Oct 11, 2021 9:37 pm

    @initae89 I would probably say that you’ve had a couple of lapses. What’s important is that you’ve caught them before they turned into a relapse and been able to identify some of your triggers along the way.

    You can detox from most substances within 7 days……….so if that’s the case then you should be able to just walk out of detox “fixed” right??? Wrong!!! It’s when the life issues come up that we get triggered and then the urges kick off. It was drilled through my head by one of my counsellors that addiction is 15% chemical and 85% life issues. I would encourage you to look at what’s happening for you on those days where you feel like running away.

    These answers aren’t always easy to uncover and the solutions can be harder to come up with. Early recovery is filled with trial and error as we figure out what all this means for us…………because for each of us the triggers and solutions can differ. Take your time with this and go easy if things don’t always work out. As long as you keep trying………..that’s what’s important. From reading a couple of your posts I can identify that you’re pretty self aware and have begun to get a good understanding of what sets you off. These things can vary at times too so we get better at recognising when urges might be building without us realising until it’s too late. Keep working on identifying what sets you off.

    We all have days where we feel like running away and that’s totally cool………..you can find an escape from your problems without using.
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