Twenty-six episodes of 'The A-Files' air throughout Alcohol Awareness Month on YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Alcohologist.com and AddictedMinds.com, among other web and social media sites. Episode R covers relapse.... because alcoholism is a relapsing disease. That doesn't mean a person has to relapse, it just means a set-back on the road to recovery is not uncommon. Nine of ten people who quit drinking will relapse at least once. Similar relapse rates are found in other chronic, progressive and incurable diseases such as cancer or diabetes. Research from Edge Hill University in 2016 notes that even just smelling alcohol can make it harder for people to avoid it.
Alcoholics and non-alcoholics alike drink for the same reason: To relieve stress. Alcoholics, even those in remission, have a higher baseline level of the stress hormone, cortisol, so they are more sensitive to the same stress that so-called 'normal' people would just shake off. The cortisol research is what I used as a basis for the book,Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud, and came from a 2010 University of Liverpool study.
Common stress triggers include HALT… being Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. Triggers also include using food or trying other drugs, like weed or pain killers, to overcome stress instead of drinking… bandaging the stress rather than addressing it. Other triggers stem from revisiting in sobriety the people, places and things we knew during our drinking careers. This book covers grief, guilt, forgiveness and shame as four underlying stressors. A 2013 University of British Columbia study is the first lab work to show that physical manifestations of shame – like slumped shoulders – can directly predict a relapse.
Don't blame the stress though. It's our response to stress: Going back to the old way of doing things, or employing new coping skills. I demonstrate it to non-alcoholics by asking them to fold their arms in front of them, then unfolding them, recrossing them with the bottom arm on top. It feels uncomfortable, and what the alcoholic is learning is how to make the uncomfortable, comfortable. Relapse isn't a required part of recovery, but it isn't the end of the road. It can be part of recovery, or it can be part of death if we pile on the shame rather than encouraging a person to stay clear of their drug of choice, alcohol.
The entire 26 episode HD series is available on disc, along with fact sheets, for helping professions. See the preorder special at tr.im/AFiles