Published On: December 3, 20211474 words7.4 min read

The 5 Rules of Recovery

Have you ever thought about reaching out to others to prevent relapsing? I have spoken to a few people lately about relapsing and how it sneaks up on the one who thinks they are safely in recovery.

The simple fact of life is that if you are in recovery, keep it simple. The simple fact is: you are no longer drinking. Make the best of what IS.

According to Steven M. Melemis in his paper on Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery, recovery is within your control. All you must do is change your life, be completely honest, ask for help, practice self-care, and don’t bend the rules.

Recovery means creating a whole new life to avoid the triggers that made you drink. The factors that contributed to your drinking will always be there UNLESS you change your life completely! There is a silver lining of having an addiction and this is that you are forced to re-evaluate your life and change it! Remember that you are not alone in your addiction, but you are unique because you had the guts to change your life.

Did you lie when you drank? Did you hide the alcohol, lie to your partner or friends and children about the drinking? Did you hide how much you drank, how much you spent on alcohol and how bad you felt physically and mentally? This dishonesty can be dispelled when you are in recovery. “It is often said that recovering individuals are as sick as their secrets,” says Melemis.

If you start to slip down that slippery slope again, you need to watch out. Be completely honest with yourself and others about your drinking and your recovery needs.  Say NO to things that could trigger you or that make you uncomfortable.

Ask For Help

Dealing with guilt and shame are often the causes of relapse. People who drink and then stop are also addicts in some form or another, and can relapse. Joining a group helps a lot and talking about the guilt and shame is part of being honest – admit that you have a problem and reach out for help. Many people who drink do not consider themselves alcoholics or that they suffer from alcohol-use disorder. But hey, we did drink too much, and we needed to stop. That in itself means that we had a problem, and we are grey area drinkers. I say we because I include me.

Once you have reached out for help, focus on your needs and what you need to do for your own recovery. Research shows that mind-body relaxation helps people stay away from the substance they needed. Many triggers revolve around stress and tension – at work, at home, with family and in situations. Avoid these and practice self-care which includes meditation and calmness in your life. Yoga, hiking, being in nature, taking time to just sit and read, all those things we don’t do in our busy lives. Appreciate!

Finding loopholes in your recovery is the start to falling down the rabbit hole of relapsing. Don’t bend the rules in any way. Stick to the new life, the new plan, the self-care and the connection with a group. People who give up drinking forever are those who have made a pact to have a new life and never touch that substance again. They WORK on their new life, they MAKE a new life and they LIVE that new life. Those who try to find loopholes and want to have a drink to celebrate recovery (yes, it does happen!), are the deniers. Do you want to be a denier or a real recovery angel?

3 Stages to Relapse

Says Melemis: “There are three stages to relapse: emotional, mental, and physical. The common denominator of emotional relapse is poor self-care. If individuals do not practice sufficient self-care, eventually they will start to feel uncomfortable in their own skin and look for ways to escape, relax, or reward themselves…  Most relapses can be explained in terms of a few basic rules. Understanding these rules can help clients focus on what is important: 1) change your life; 2) be completely honest; 3) ask for help; 4) practice self-care; and 5) don’t bend the rules.

I want to now look at the stages of relapse and what you can do about it. Melemis has broken relapse down into three stages: emotional, mental, and physical relapse. It creeps up on the person in recovery. If you have recently relapsed, maybe you missed these signs? The common theme in all stages of relapse is that your self-care is neglected!

Signs of emotional relapse are all the signs that show that you are not sticking to your recovery plan:

  • You are not connecting with groups or other sober people
  • You are not going to meetings that you signed up for or that you need (e.g. some people should go to the AA)
  • You are not seeing people or family but are isolating
  • You are bottling up your emotions, not talking about how you are feeling
  • You are focusing too much on other people and not your own needs
  • You are eating and sleeping badly

Self-care includes quiet time, fun time, special time – for YOU.

Signs of mental relapse are that you are having a huge argument in your head between all the negative voices and false beliefs. It is fine to have just one drink, says one voice, because you have been so good lately. It is fine to have just one drink because it is Christmas and everyone else is drinking. And so on. Your friends can also convince you to relax and have just one but they do not know you and they do not have your problems!

These are the signs of mental relapse:

  • You start craving a drink
  • You start thinking about those people you drank with and the places where you drank together
  • You start to think you were not SUCH a big drinker and you will be fine now and you did NOT really have a problem
  • You start to bargain with yourself and others about drinking or having just one drink
  • You start lying and thinking of schemes where you can have a drink but do not have the same outcomes or issues
  • You start to look for an opportunity to have a drink and planning that drink – a relapse in the making.

The physical relapse is that stage when you physically buy a bottle of booze, pour some into a glass and drink it. What then? What now? Was it worth it? That terrible taste, that terrible outcome? One minute of so-called enjoyment, for what? Now you are back to square one, intoxicated, poisoned and ashamed all over again?

Making Excuses Now Means Relapse Later

Have you made any of these excuses when you are in recovery but are considering drinking again:

  • My problem is because of other people
  • I don’t think I can handle life without a drink
  • Maybe I can just have a drink once in a while
  • Life won’t be fun/I won’t be fun without a drink
  • I am worried I will turn into someone I don’t like
  • I can’t make the changes/I can’t change my friends
  • I don’t want to abandon my family
  • Recovery is too much work
  • The cravings are overwhelming, and I cannot handle them
  • It’s not worth it.

Well then you may be heading for relapse. Which brings to me to the second part of this blog: reaching out to assist others is a known remedy for drinkers. Remove yourself from your victim mode and not being able to stop a bad habit. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes for a change.

Have you noticed all the homeless people walking the streets? Have you noticed the stats about how many women and children are being abused daily? Have you noticed how many poor schools there are, lacking resources? Have you noticed that there are countless charities in your area that need volunteers?

Make a list of volunteering opportunities – for you and for them: animals, children old people, good kitchens, homeless people, environmental organisations and more. Get involved! Reach out and help others. If you are brave enough, help others to stop drinking! If you want to avoid relapse, get out there and be part of a community. Connection is the opposite of addiction.

Did you Know?

The global Dry January movement is around the corner! Join the Tribe Sober January Challenge and donate your money to a good cause. The Earthchild project works with children and teachers – “our educational programmes focus on the environment, health and life-skills. We teach practical skills such as yoga, mindfulness & organic gardening to over 3500 children and 300 teachers.”

You got this!


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