We’re fortunate enough to have Marc, a SMART Recovery Australia peer, volunteering with us at head office over the coming months. He kindly offered to contribute a blog post based on his own lived experience, and how the SMART tools that are part and parcel of our meetings help those who are returning from a lapse in their recovery. As George Harrison once said, all things must pass – including any and all obstacles to your recovery. – Liam

Trying to control any addiction, whether it be decreasing the amount of the substance we use or abstaining from it altogether, requires a mental and physical effort that cannot be taken for granted.  It requires, discipline, inner strength, fortitude, and sacrifice, so for anyone undergoing this you should be commended and realise that what you are endeavouring to achieve is not for the faint hearted.

Despite popular misconception, lapse can be a beneficial part of the process of recovery. Here are some thoughts that we’d like to recommend to you if this has or is happening to you to enable you to get back on track and maintain motivation.

  1. The lapse is part of the journey. The fact you’ve had a lapse means that you have already had some degree of control over your addiction and you have already developed some tools to control and overcome this, so please don’t forget this.
  2. Focus on the here and now. Here at SMART Recovery Australia, we believe in focusing on what is happening in the present via reviewing what went on in the last seven days and what you want to achieve in the next seven days. Your emotions might be running amok if you had a lapse, but by focusing on the present and going back to meetings you can focus on what needs to be done right here, right now. That’s the only way to get back on track.

  3. During this time, like any difficult situation, it’s important to reach out and speak to someone about how you are feeling.  You can go to your local SMART Recovery meeting for support, or you can reach out to another person who is in the process of recovery. Getting out of your own head and expressing your feelings often helps to put things in perspective, and give you the motivation to get back to where you want to be.
  4. Maintaining good habits. Keep motivated by doing the activities you have previously done that have aided in your recovery. This could be going to the gym, taking walks in nature, meditating, or learning an instrument or language.  Whatever activity you have undertaken that has kept your mind off the problematic behaviour and motivated you in your path to recovery, keep doing it. It worked once already – why not give it another go?

  5. Recognise your emotions. Emotions may be high at this moment and you may be feeling depressed and anxious.  Recognise these emotions for what they are and don’t try to fight or suppress them. Your emotions are a part of you, and they’re every bit as real as you are. Once you have done this, take the necessary steps in order to commit to your purpose so that your chances of lapsing again are minimised.  For example, you could take note of the situations or people where you are likely to use again and do your best to avoid this. Remember, you and your goals are what is most important.

Lapses can occur at different stages of your recovery.  It could be after two weeks, one month, six months or a couple of years and there may be more than one.  The skills you build between these and recognising it as a stage in recovery are critical to keeping you focused on your ultimate goal. By looking at what you have accomplished instead of what you may deem as a setback will assist you in using the strengths you have required to stick to your goals regarding recovery in the long term.