Avoiding relapse

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The possibility of relapse is something that really scares me. I know the stats; at best only 30% of people who decide to quit drinking will make it to 12 months still sober. And of those only about 35 % will remain sober at 5 years. The message is clear: stopping drinking is the easy part – its maintaining sobriety which is hard.

This scares me for several reasons.

  • First because I have relapsed before. After eight months. And it took me 22 months to get sober again. I’m scared that if I relapse again I will never get the strength to do this again.
  • Second because I have put everything I have into this attempt. I’ve taken it really seriously; adapted my behavior, immersed myself in a sober culture – what if I relapse despite all the efforts I have made?
  • Third, I think I will lose faith in myself if I relapse – almost as though all my worst fears about myself would be confirmed – and I just wont be able to convince myself I’m worth this much effort again.
  • Fourth – I just cant go back to living like that… because something BAD will happen

Now I do know that relapse is NOT a random act, that I would actually have to take an alcoholic drink to my lips and swallow it, and I and only I have control over this act. Its also pretty clear to me that I do not want to relapse, so why on earth am I worried?

I think its because I am aware how easily the little voice, the ‘wine witch’ creeps into your head, convincing you that just one won’t hurt, just tonight, on this special occasion, in this special place, It would be ok to have a drink. I’ve convinced myself of this SO many times in the past that I am concerned that my resolve will slip when I am least expecting it

I do also know that one small slip does not necessarily mean all is lost, but I am afraid that for me, with my rather all or nothing perfectionism, it would trigger a ‘fuck it’ attitude and a consequent lengthy binge… (see point 1 above)

so what can I do about this?.. prevention being better than cure…

I’ve been doing a bit of research. The predictive factors that make a person more likely to be successful in quitting alcohol include being a woman, being over the age of 40 and having a spouse. That’s me then ! Its is also true that medical practitioners tend to do well once they commit to sobriety. The Royal College of psychiatrists  paper about substance addiction in doctors, states that figures from North America suggest that 80–90% of doctors in treatment do well over 1–5 years. That’s significantly better than the general population…

What have I done to guard myself against relapse ?

  • Asked for support – from my partner, from a small online doctors community I am part of, from my BFF.
  • Built / am building a sober network – that’s here, a long running thread for dry people on a website and Soberista’s.
  • largely removed alcohol from the house. Occasionally my partner will bring in a couple of cans, but he then drinks them so there is no alcohol lying around..
  • Pay attention to my diet. Not doing brilliantly here, but I am aware of it.
  • Learn about my craving triggers and how to manage them, I have a mental list of ‘things to do if I’m craving a drink’ It includes; walk the dog, call someone, take a shower, go to bed,
  • Look after my physical health: I have taken up yoga and Pilates
  • Try hard to get enough sleep –  I prioritise this.
  • Writing this blog – as a recovery journal to help me refresh my memories about how bad things were and how far ahead I’ve come.
  • Plan Plan Plan. Think ahead. When I need to do something which involves drinking I plan as much of the evening / event as I can including how I can escape if necessary
  • make sure I have sober treats – small (and some large! ) rewards for myself on a regular basis.
  • Prioritise my sobriety – if I really think I cant face an event without alcohol I just don’t go.
  • Take care of my appearance. I think this boosts my self esteem and a woman who feels self confident is less likley to damage herself
  • I’m trying to work on communication, particularly with my partner – because when all is well between us, I feel stronger.
  • Read books about sobriety. I find them supportive and useful

Any other ideas anyone else employs ?