Tag Archives: relapse

The Problem with Christmas

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All the meetings I have been going lately have shown to prove that this time of year is incredibly stressful. Thoughts of past Christmas’, struggles with expenses and family can really trigger us to want to use. This is the time to be thankful, to be selfless and to spread love, not scream ‘fuck it’ and get wasted. We need to be there for our families, for each other and for ourselves.” -Happy Christmas Eve, Robyn

Presents

Most people know the holidays can be a period of emotional highs and lows. Loneliness,
anxiety, happiness and sadness are common feelings, sometimes experienced in startling succession. The bad news is the holiday blues can trigger relapse for people recovering from alcoholism and other drug addiction. The good news is the blues can be remedied by planning ahead.

Why do the blues hit during this otherwise festive season? Doing too much or too little and being separated from loved ones at this special time can lead to sadness during the holiday season. Many recovering people associate the holidays with memories of overindulgence, perhaps of big benders that resulted in relationship problems or great personal losses.

People experience feelings of melancholy, sadness and grief tied to holiday recollections. Unlike clinical depression, which is more severe and can last for months or years, those feelings are temporary.   Anyone experiencing major symptoms of depression, such as persistent sadness, anxiety, guilt or helplessness; changes in sleep patterns; and a reduction in energy and libido, should seek help from a mental health professional.

Whether you’re in recovery or not, developing a holiday plan to help prevent the blues, one that will confront unpleasant memories before they threaten your holiday experience. Your plan should include improved self-care, enhanced support from others, and healthy ways to celebrate. Here are a few suggestions to achieve a happy, sober holiday season:

Good self-care is vital. Remember to slow down. Take some quiet time each day and work on an attitude of gratitude. Plan relaxation and meditation into your day, even for a few minutes, no matter how busy you are. Relax your standards and reduce overwhelming demands and responsibilities.

Don’t overindulge. Go easy on the holiday sweets and follow a balanced diet. Monitor your intake of caffeine, nicotine and sugar. Exercise regularly to help maintain your energy level amid a busier schedule. Don’t try to do too much. Get plenty of sleep. Fatigue is a stressor. Maintain some kind of schedule and plan ahead; don’t wait until the last minute to purchase gifts or prepare to entertain.

Enhance your support system. Holidays are a good time to reach out more frequently to your therapist, sponsor, spiritual advisor, or support group. If you’re in recovery, spend time with fellow recovering people. Let others help you realize your personal limits. Learn to say “no” in a way that is comfortable for you.

Find new ways to celebrate. Create some new symbols and rituals that will help redefine a joyful holiday season. You might host a holiday gathering for special recovering friends and/or attend celebrations of your Twelve Step group. Avoid isolation and spend time with people you like who are not substance users. Don’t expose yourself to unnecessary temptations, such as gatherings where alcohol is the center of entertainment. If there are people who have a negative influence on you, avoid them.

Focus on your recovery program. Holidays are also an important time to focus on your recovery program. For example, ask, “What am I working on in my program now?” Discuss this with your sponsor.

Release your resentments. Resentment has been described as allowing a person you dislike to live in your head, rent-free. Resentments that gain steam during the holidays can be disastrous for anyone, especially recovering people. The Big Book of “Alcoholics Anonymous” refers to resentment as the No. 1 offender, or the most common factor in failed sobriety.

Holidays may also be a time to evaluate your spirituality and find a personal way to draw support from the spirit of the season. Return the holidays to a spiritual base, and stress the power of unselfish giving.

Recovery is serious work, but it is also important to have fun. Laugh a little and a little more. Start seeing the humor in those things that annoy you. Take from the holiday season what is important for you and leave the rest.

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Take Eleven: The 90th Day

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(A recollection of my last relapse)

This is the perfect time, she thought. The party her parents had thrown was winding down and there was only one guest left standing. Her dad was drunk, that was obvious. Her step-mom might have been a little tipsy…
Its been hard for her to find the perfect moments to steal booze from their butlers pantry for a while. Every time she took some, she took it from another bottle, switching off, hoping no one would notice. Sure enough, no one did. But this time she could get away with not only enough for tonight, but enough for the nights to follow. She took her first chance to grab the largest coffee mug and fill it to the brim with vodka. She made her way upstairs unnoticed. She rolled her eyes when she saw the new meds she had got prescribed earlier sitting on her dresser. She picked up the sample packet and read: “Do not consume with alcohol. May cause dizziness and poor concentration.” That doesn’t sound so bad. So she popped the pill in her mouth and held the mug to her lips. It went down her throat, burning, as she gulped down what she assumed was about 4 shots.
She made her way downstairs, making pleasant conversation, laughing, joking and flaunting her best wit. Then she dismissed herself to her room where she lay on her bed typing away.
It was well into the night and as she was journalling about her latest relapse. She cocked her head up and thought, if I’m going to relapse, I want to relapse on something hard. Something worth relapsing over. She got up, stumbling and made her way down the hall, tip-toeing and jumping from carpet to carpet. When she reached her parents room, she glanced in cautiously and then took a bolt to the medicine cabinet. She reach in pulling out an old dusty green basket. She slid each prescription up and read the fine print. Blah blah-pin, blah blah-izon, Vicodin! She opened it and examined one of the oval pills. Classic, she thought, I replaced these all with generic Aspirin… She shoved the bottle back in with the rest. But then, there it was; Tylonal 3’s with Codine. Codine, Codine, I know about Codine… She took the bottle and placed the basket carefully back on the shelf.
With the bottle on her desk, she lay her head on her folded arms, gazing dreamily at the pills. She smiled and knocked down every last one. She knew they were old, so they probably weren’t very strong and she knew she had a tolerance for opiates at this point.
The night went fast as she sat there embracing the tingling in her body. Her parents had gone to bed and after a few hours, all her symptoms had run out. She was bored. Not tired. Her mouth was dry. What now? She searched her own medicine cabinet and found a box of Benedryl and an unopened bottle. She never thought it would resort to this but she was desperate for a high. Her friend had told her about how hard he tripped once and she was intrigued. She had tried it once but it only knocked her out. She figured she didn’t take enough that time. So she quietly ripped of the aluminum seals and collected the pink pills in a pile on her bed. 20 pills. She went and got some water, forgetting about the alcohol sitting on her nightstand and swallowed them all at once. She wrote again:

20131203-174703.jpgEntry 17: August 25th, 4:45am

I feel it kicking in. First noises, are they real? Now flickering lights. O wee, I’m in for a trip! I took a shower and brushed my teeth. Put on some fresh clothes. Now i lie in bed waiting for the right moment to get up. Maybe daylight. Im kinda scared! Paranoid… Noises all over :S no one is up im sure. Ill type again if it becomes foo much. Ill pay attention to the time. It took about 50 min to feel this little feeling. Im parched and my lips are dry. We will see, we will see.

 

7am. So i saw my sheets fiddle about. Left for a bike ride. Everything spinning, beautifulllll, strrangegege. Things take form, illuminatingggg and all appears as something its not… It paints my reality in a stop-motion patterns >><<<>>>. Im so thirsty! Some nausea, shaking, memory loss. Zoning out….

20131203-174710.jpgThat all she has left of that day. That day she now sees as the one that changed her life. The day when she decided to give it all up and really try to get clean. She remembers lying in bed for another hour, her blood vessels in her legs were dancing, she thought they were going to shoot out through her skin. She got up and looked in the mirror. Her eyes were dilated so big she could only see a sliver of her iris’ blue outline. She looked closer at herself, her skin had dots all over it, was it peeling? She reached up and scratched it.. It was falling off! Her jaw dropped, her tongue huge with large pimples glowing. Her teeth looked yellow and decayed. Then, there was someone behind her. Her heart jumped as she spun herself around quickly… No one was there. She began to cry. Now the feeling that was in her legs was all over her body. Her blood wanted out. She was so afraid. She ran to her phone and called her mom as quickly as possible. Delirious, she sobbed quietly, begging her to not get mad. Begging her to listen and too please, please not get mad. She explained to her what she had done. She asked her to drive her to the hospital. Her blood was going to explode, she just knew it. Her mom hung up; shocked, pissed, but on her way. The girl ran to her parents bedroom. “Guys, guys, wake up. moms coming to get me—don’t get mad— I was stupid, Im so stupid. I took a bunch of pills. Moms coming to get me…” They were frazzled, sitting up in their bed blinking up at her. What? What was going on? “Okay honey…” was all her step-mom could think of.
She ran down the stairs and lazily fell into her moms car. They were silent. When she walked into the hospital they placed her on a bed in a room with no windows, chairs, nothing. Her mom sat there in silence. The doctors came in and out asking if she was suicidal. She promised she wasn’t, “I just wanted to get high.” After her mom had a long talk with one of the doctors she signed some papers and two buff looking women stepped in. They brought a gurney to the left side of the bed where she was resting and picked her up. Her mom came to her side and explained to her what was going to happen, “There taking you to a psych ward.”

 

The Pink Cloud

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Many people like to criticize a person who is in early recovery and flying high on their ‘pink cloud.’ This is a word used to describe that possessive positive feeling when your in the first months of  recovery. I know a lot of people say I am sitting on a pink cloud. They like to remind me that relapse is possible— as though they don’t think I know that! I absolutely hate when I am in a meeting, smiling wide and so excited about my bright future in sobriety and someone glares me down, rolling their eyes at my optimism. I understand they’ve most likely ‘been there and done that’ but whats wrong with being happy for me and encouraging more excitement?  Is too much positivity a bad thing?” -Robyn

pink cloud The Joy of Recovery

Getting free of drugs or alcohol is something to celebrate. Addiction destroys lives and escaping this hell is certainly a wonderful achievement. Enjoying the freedom and newness of early recovery is to be encouraged. It is a time for waking up to the possibilities of life and benefiting from improved relationships with friends and family. The nightmare is over so there is plenty to smile about. Sometimes though, the newly sober person can feel so good that it becomes dangerous.

People may feel exceptionally good for weeks, or even months, in early sobriety. This pink cloud period is undoubtedly enjoyable, but it can also be risky. Some will come back down to reality with a bang, and that can be painful. It can also lead to overconfidence which could put people at increased risk of relapse. The individual is feeling so good that they fail to do the things they need to do to stay on track.

The Pink Cloud Defined

Early recovery is often referred to as a rollercoaster ride because it involves a mixture of great highs and great lows. Emotions that have been anesthetized with alcohol and drugs suddenly awaken, and feelings can be particularly intense. As the body and mind adjusts to this new life, there can be rapid changes in mood. There will usually come a time though, when the individual hits a smooth patch. Life will feel wonderful and the future exceptionally bright. Staying free of addiction now feels effortless and the individual may wonder what all the fuss was about.

The term pink cloud tends to be used negatively to describe people who are too high on life. They are individuals who have lost touch with reality and are now living in a fantasy land. The emotions that this person is experiencing do not properly reflect their actual situation. The pink cloud syndrome in addiction recovery was first described by Alcoholics Anonymous.

The Dangers of the Pink Cloud

It might seem odd to claim that there would be any disadvantages to feeling good. The addict may have spent decades battling their problem so it seems reasonable that they should get to feel great now. While it is true that life in recovery should be about enjoying life, there can be problems if people become too confident and complacent. They may conclude that their problems are over, and that there is no need to do anything more to maintain their sobriety. There is also the risk that when the pink cloud period ends, it will lead to huge disappointment.

Relapse is most likely to occur during the first few years of recovery. It is particularly likely to happen during the first few months after leaving rehab. The most usual reason why it occurs is that the individual stops putting enough effort into staying free of addiction. They start ignoring their problems and stop asking for help. The relapse process describes how people begin the road back to addiction as soon as they hit a point in recovery that they fail to get beyond. The risk then is that those who are on a pink cloud may feel so confident that they become stuck.

If an individual experiences a particularly pleasant period in recovery, then it can be disappointing when it ends. Life is full of ups and downs, and nobody can stay up forever. Emotions eventually settle down as the body adjusts to recovery, and the highs and lows become less intense. The individual can respond to the end of the pink cloud by assuming that they have done something wrong. They can begin to lose faith in those tools that have been keeping them away from alcohol and drugs. They may even start to question if recovery is that worthwhile after all. People can feel cheated when the super highs of early recovery are replaced by more modest emotions.

Criticisms of Pink Cloud Syndrome

There is no denying that people in early recovery do tend to experience periods when they are emotionally high. There are undoubtedly risks associated with feeling overly confident, and the comedown can be harsh. The main criticism against pink cloud syndrome is that it can be used negatively to describe people in much the same way as dry drunk is used. This could mean that the individual feels guilty about experiencing positive emotional states. The problem is not feeling good in recovery, but with staying on track.

Bulletproof by La Roux

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For some of us, this isn’t our first time at sobriety. We’ve put down the drugs or drinks over and over again, promising it was our last. We’ve been in and out of rehabs so much that the counselors have become like family. We’ve collected so many key tags and coins that we could probably supply a whole room full of newly recovery addicts… But this time it’s different. We can’t exactly tell why at the moment, but we know. This time, we’re bulletproof.

Lyrics:

Been there, done that messed around
I’m having fun, don’t put me down
I’ll never let you sweep me off my feet

I won’t let you win again
The messages I tried to send
My information’s just not going in

Burning bridges shore to shore
I break away from something more
I’m not turned on to love until it’s cheap

Been there, done that messed around
I’m having fun, don’t put me down
I’ll never let you sweep me off my feet

This time, baby, I’ll be bulletproof
This time, baby, I’ll be bulletproof

I won’t let you turn around
And tell me now, I’m much too proud
To walk away from something when it’s dead

Do, do, do your dirty words
Come out to play when you are hurt?
There’s certain things that should be left unsaid

Tick, tick, tick, tick on the watch
And life’s too short for me to stop
Oh baby, your time is running out

I won’t let you turn around
And tell me now I’m much too proud
All you do is fill me up with doubt

This time, baby, I’ll be bulletproof (repeat)

Take Five

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Take Five

Sure enough(she really should’ve known) when it came to going up, she would come down. This rapid cycling has been going on for about two weeks now. Today she spent the whole day laying in her bed crying. Going over all the insanity she had experienced six months prior when she was in India. Every time she managed to stop, she burst end out in tears again. She decided to make some calls. After several failed attempts she finally reached a girl she had met in rehab.

Amy had been a good friend from the start. At the age of 19, with it being her first time in rehab, she had more in common than most of the other girls. They spoke about their dreams of travel and made up a master scheme to backpack around the US with all the money they would save in sobriety. But those dreams were about to be shattered… 

The moment she picked up her words formed in an endless stream, overwhelming Amy on the other line, “Hi! How are you!? I’m terrible, I don’t know what’s going on I’ve been crying non-stop and I just don’t know why I think its a bipolar flare up or something I know you don’t have bipolar but I just thought I’d see how you were doing I just need to talk to someone! How are you?! What are you doing?!” 

It didn’t take long for Amy to come out with her guilty truths. She had relapsed and judging on her tone and lack of inspiration, she wasn’t coming back just yet. She explained how she had ODed… 

Amy listened as she began to cry for her. “Oh! No! I feel like I want to relapse now! How could you? What’s going on? What made you relapse?!” 

Amy immediately replied, “No! Don’t relapse too, be strong! It’s just tough for me, so many things have been going on, I just can’t control…”

Ahh, but there lies the problem. Amy thought she had to control this. But that’s not it. Give it to your higher power. That’s what I’ve learned in NA and AA. It took her another phone call to a member of NA, Ryan, before she realized this. After that call she had prayed so hard she though God would get annoyed.

Ultimately it took her a long walk, a couple more calls before she was able to calm herself down. One girl, Tay, told her firmly that everything passes. Tay may not struggle with bipolar disorder but if there is anything she knows how to do, its lift people up when their down. When she hung up with her she felt empowered enough to get out of the house and keep her mind busy. Though that was another faulty idea, as her sister, Jacquelyn, pointed out. 

“You need to face your thoughts, not just dismiss them and burry them in your heart. You can’t escape from yourself or you disorder. You have to learn to live with it. It may not be who you are but it will always be apart of you.” Jacquelyn told her.

She found all of these people so gracious and understanding. She knew again– because she needed reminding– that she was loved and not alone

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