commitment

A 5 Tool Relapse Recovery Plan: Tool #4

Coroners do autopsies when they think it is important to determine the cause of death. Autopsies can be very sophisticated and detailed. They determine the cause of death, the time the individual died, and a host of other specifics that are important. Sometimes performing an autopsy gives resolution and sanity to love ones while they grapple with the unknown. Answers to questions like “What and why did this happen” are often clarified from the results of a thorough autopsy. Science uses autopsy results to assist in the cure of disease. Healthcare workers utilize autopsy results to create protocols to keep others safe from toxic and high-risk infectious diseases. 

Millions of people suffer from the disease of addiction. Admitting that your life is powerless and unmanageable because of your drug of choice is a tough step to take. However, admitting relapse failure after getting into treatment is also difficult. Most addicts who relapse either don’t tell anyone or admit it to support people and try to distance themselves from the painful relapse as quickly as possible.

A lapse autopsy around addictive relapse is crucial to long-term sobriety. Admitting the relapse and moving forward with determination to abstain without insight into the build-up behaviors that triggered relapse is a guarantee to repeating destructive behavior. A lapse autopsy is a powerful tool to identify what happened that created relapse and what needs to change to avoid chronic failure. Consider the following steps toward completing a lapse autopsy. 

  1. Write out or tell someone what happened in complete detail. It is important to turn over every stone of your relapse behavior to help you see clearly what happened. When you minimize and gloss over thoughts and behaviors leading to and engaging in relapse behavior, you will miss what is needed to establish a strong intervention.
  1. Identify environmental influences. The environment you live in makes a big difference toward relapse prevention. Think about the relationship conflicts, stress factors, and physical experiences that contributed to your vulnerability to relapse. Unresolved tension in a partner relationship can trigger mistaken beliefs that lead to relapse. Stress build-up from relational, financial, sexual, physical, and parental struggles all influence the possibility of relapse. Take stock of the environment that encompassed you leading up to and including the time you relapsed. Assess the experience of deprivation that fuels entitlement. What were you deprived of? Were there successes that you experienced that were uncomfortable and triggered undeserving thoughts of self-sabotage? You will need to go slow and carefully examine the environment to learn of its influence toward your relapse.
  1. Examine your thoughts leading up to the time you relapsed. What you think about expands. It is critical to examine the mistaken beliefs that marinated in your mind before acting out. If you tell yourself that you are not enough or that you are a failure etc, then in time you will create the data to support that belief, which will convince you to produce more of the same behavior to support your inner thoughts. This is why it is crucial to be aware of negative cognitions so that you can change your thoughts which will help you change your life. 
  1. Be aware of the progression of thoughts and behaviors that lead you to acting out. When you anticipate someone rejecting you it triggers a victim-posture attitude. A mask is needed to hide your shameful thoughts and you seek to emotionally isolate to avoid the uncomfortable build-up. Fantasy helps you vacate discomfort which eventually triggers inappropriate addictive fantasy. Optimistically you begin to select a strategy to pursue your addiction while grooming yourself and others in ways that enable you to pursue your secret desires. After you relapse you tell yourself that you need to stop and misplace the responsibility for acting out on some person or force outside of your control. You then reconstitute with behaviors that would indicate to others and yourself that you are not the kind of person who would addictively act out. These steps toward relapse can happen as quickly as the snap of a finger. It is necessary to utilize the lapse autopsy to slow your thinking and to be aware of the negative progression of behaviors that gave birth to relapse. 

Map out what you will commit to doing differently to avoid relapse. This includes consideration at every level of activity. Some people think that it is necessary to go back and do all the steps again or to attend 90 meetings in 90 days because of their relapse. Maybe so. However, a lapse autopsy will help you clarify where you got off track so that you can specifically target interventions that will help you return to the space of relapse prevention. 

After you complete your lapse autopsy it is helpful to sit down and review each misstep with your sponsor or support friend and clarify what you will commit to do differently with each misstep. 

The lapse autopsy is necessary to create clarity in the presence of chaotic relapse behavior. It helps to create grounding and bring you back to center to continue your recovery journey. 

Essentially, a lapse autopsy is what every sports team does when they study film from a previous game. This is the way they learn and improve. It is true for businesses that take time for quarterly and yearly reviews. The lapse autopsy has proven to be an excellent tool for long-term sobriety.