It is difficult to keep up on a blog during the holidays. But I had this cross my mind several times so I thought I would share it.
When an individual is in recovery they will often hear of the terms “slip” or “relapse.” I don’t think it necessary to delve deeply into the meaning of each term, however, each has its own place in one’s recovery. Whatever happens, whether we give it the label of “slip” or “relapse” we need to know its not over. We can pick ourselves up again and deal with the short-term consequences, knowing also that we can successfully navigate the long-term consequences.
The biggest reason that we slip is that our main goal has lost its importance. This is how it was explained to me, as an acronym: S.L.I.P. or Sobriety Loses Its Importance.
I like this because it is simple and to the point. Dissecting it, however, yields a great amount to think upon. Why does sobriety lose its importance? Do we knowingly neglect our sobriety?
There are a few analogies I drew in my mind as I thought about these questions. If you play sports you are probably told to “keep your eye on the ball.” I know this is true in golf. If you don’t keep your eye on that dimpled sphere you are bound to slice that thing into the lake. Despite the want to see the ball’s flight pattern, worry about how much strength to swing with or anxious about every point of the bodily posture, you HAVE to maintain eye-contact. Every worry is expected and a part of the game, however, you must keep your eye on that ball until it is time to worry about the next phase of the game. If you take your eye off of the ball and pull your head up too soon your score will go beyond par for the course. That is why my golf game suffers, that is why sobriety can suffer; we unknowingly take our eye off of the ball too soon. The good news is this can be corrected with practice but will also need to be maintained over time.
We can make come up with analogy after analogy for sobriety’s importance. Analogies, after all, help connect a person’s mind to a certain idea or way of thinking. I have heard a lot of variations like sobriety is a tool that must be sharpened and ready for everyday use. All are good in their own way and can connect with plenty of people everywhere. Find one and make it work for you.
I like the SLIP acronym and any analogy that reminds me to keep my eye on a focal point. SLIP reminds me that addicts typically do not knowingly take their eye off of the importance of sobriety. Confidence, however, can tear a person’s gaze from the important goal of sobriety; the “Pink Cloud” as it is called, comes about for the first nine or so months of one’s recovery. In that time, without harmful substances, the brain starts to work again and a euphoric blend of feelings begins to burst throughout an individual. Confidence is OK when in-check; unchecked it turns to cockiness and the train soon starts to leave the track.
When confidence sets in, the safety net is sometimes removed without intention. This is not a form of self-sabotage. I don’t see many individuals wanting to be their own saboteur, yet, that is exactly what the addicted brain does. Overall, in my experience, I have not known many people who set out to wreak substance abuse havoc while earnestly attempting their recovery. That is why it is important to become informed and work a program. Because that “Pink Cloud” will happen and many are left wondering where the good feelings went. When in wonder, they look back at any other time they felt good and it usually involves a drug of choice. Entertaining that feeling leads to the SLIP or relapse. It is important to recognize and navigate with a personalized recovery program. Recovery, after all, is a lifetime goal to never lose direct sight of; keep your eye on the ball.
When sobriety loses its importance, the inevitable will happen. We will be faced with something, be it a situation or individual, that will test our commitments. If we don’t remind ourselves often of our commitments and strengthen them, we will slip; and likely hit the ground with a full relapse. I will echo what I said earlier. Not all is lost if you slip or relapse, even if you feel otherwise. Pick up where you left off. You can acknowledge a slip without beating yourself up. It is OK to feel bad, that means you care, but care enough to not disparage yourself to the point of giving up.