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Flirting with Relapse

Jamie Thompson
| November 11, 2017

I recently woke up from a dream in which I used again. When I woke up, I still had the feeling of relief from using in my dream and was left with an intense craving to use. For a couple of days, I romanticized the idea of getting high. On the third day, I logged on to websites that I once specifically used to find people to party with.

A sick, burning feeling in my gut accompanied these thoughts and cravings, but I was ignoring what my body told me. While I was surfing the websites, I finally allowed the tape to play all the way. The feeling in my gut turned into a hot flash followed by a dripping cold sweat.

I began to think about what in my life could have invited these cravings and thoughts into my being. I was overwhelmed with a full-time course load at school, 50 hours a week of work, being in a new town, letting go of a toxic relationship, and worrying about money. Life had started to smother me. Stress was boiling up just like I was in a pressure cooker and the dream and relapse was the release valve.

Tapping into the reality of my situation was key. Only then, I was able to recognize what needed to change. Working 50 hours a week and going to school full-time was too much, so I found a roommate and reduced my work hours. Organizing the school assignments on a calendar helped to relieve some of the intense feelings of falling behind. I was feeling quite lonely, so I called a friend back home that I hadn’t talked with in a few months. I began to assess things that I do and do not want in a relationship. I also worked on accepting my own learning experiences.

I made time to go to a SMART recovery meeting that I had been unable to attend in two months. At the meeting, I shared about wanting to get loaded and what I had done so far to change that. Just the fact that I sat in a meeting boosted my initiative to stay clean.

Relapse is a process (not an event) that goes through three stages: emotional, mental, and physical. My emotional relapse began to manifest as anxiety, anger, not going to meetings, and poor eating habits.

Within that manifestation, my body was reacting with persistent fatigue and an upset stomach for about two months. During that stage, I did some of the work to prevent relapse by ending a toxic relationship, reducing the number of hours I worked, and let go of being a “straight A” student. The momentum of the emotional stage slowed, but the momentum, nevertheless, kept going.

The mental relapse started with the dream and riding that wave of wanting to escape. I began to think about how good it would feel and lied to myself about the what would happen after about the first 20 seconds of getting high. By logging on to those websites, I was trying to plan a way to get high without suffering the consequences. I considered searching Facebook for my old dealer, which I thought was safe because he is 1000 miles away.

STOP! I finally listened to my body and the sane voice in my head, and allowed the using idea to play all the way through what might happen and what follows. It was time to take a day off and do some self-care. I allowed myself to sleep in, go to my favorite restaurant for lunch, work on a story about recovery, and go to that SMART recovery meeting. By making my way through that, I did not reach the final stage of physically relapsing.

I am grateful for those “stupid” relapse prevention plans that I created during my few stays in treatment. Looking back at the past few months, I realize that I have been following those plans all along. It is just hard to see that when in the midst of the struggle.

Relapse is a reality, but it is also a choice. I choose every day to stay sober and grow in my recovery. Experiencing situations like this only help strengthen me.

There is no weakness in cravings and dreams. It takes bravery to face the monster that is screaming in your ear, “It is okay to get high, you will feel great!” Dear monster: “Screw you! I choose to stay clean today! My sobriety and my life are worth it, no matter what!”

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