What advice would I give to somebody stuck in a relapse cycle?
The first piece of advice I would give to somebody who finds themselves stuck in a pattern of relapse is to just hit pause and stop for a moment.
Generally, if we keep repeatedly doing the same things then we will get the same results back. When we hit pause, we can have a look and we can take stock of what those patterns are and start to think carefully about what the triggers are for our relapse. What are the obstacles that we are faced with which are preventing us from progressing and moving forward with our recovery journey?
That can be challenging for some people but I believe, partly, what happens when we get caught in that relapse cycle is that the shame and sense of failure that we have, increases time after time and we are left feeling really hopeless and as if things are never going to change. We have to just draw a line under that and forgive ourselves for being unwell and recognise that we’re doing the best we can with the resources that we have. The only way for things to change is to resource ourselves; to empower ourselves to make a difference.
One of the things you may find beneficial is to make lists.
This could be a list of all the books that you have which you feel are helpful or books that you want to get, along with online resources that you find inspiring. Also, think about the people you have a relationship with that you feel empower and support you.
So many people write in and make enquiries to the clinic about how much bad and conflicting advice they have been given which leaves them completely confused. Those people have tended to ignore all the advice previously given completely or have just taken bits of it and ended up in a pattern where they are half doing something, not having much confidence and resulting in that cycle of relapse. When they draw a line under everything and take control back by saying “I’m going to do this for myself”, “I’m going to put some faith in myself”, “I’m going to take stock of the resources that I’ve got”, “I’m going to move forward with my life”, that’s when change becomes possible. Those patterns begin to change. As soon as we start doing something different, the pattern and the frequency we’re on, changes. It can only stay the same if we stay the same.
Forgive yourself. If you’re relapsing then it’s because you’re not well.
When people have a bad day in clinic then we call it a bad day, that’s all it is. We do not use the word “relapse” as it is completely unhelpful. People can be doing really well and have a bad day/week/month but it doesn’t mean they’re not doing really well any more. It means they are having a bad day and we all do at times, don’t we! When we can see those times as just experiences which we can learn from, then we don’t hold the weight of the sense of relapse, of feeling a failure and that you have gone backwards. Instead, think about the patterns you are in, the obstacles that are in your way and the triggers that you’ve got and start to change them. When you do that, that relapse cycle will begin to change.
If we can look at adversity as an opportunity to challenge ourselves and to be reflective then we can start to move forward.
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