Be Aware of High-Risk Situations
High-risk situations have gone beyond the trigger point. These are situations in which relapse is imminent unless immediate steps are taken to protect one's recovery. You will recall that addictions are often a means of dealing with painful emotions, stress, and mental health problems. High-risk situations might be those instances in which painful emotions are on the surface.
A wife announces she wants a divorce, a parent has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, one's best friend is killed in war, or a beloved child has been hit by a car. These are 911 situations, and for a recovering addict, the magnitude of these horrendous life circumstances may be overwhelming. As in any emergency situation, the recovering addict needs to call in all resources to help him cope with the tragedy and maintain recovery.
Chronic relapse occurs when the recovering addict repeatedly returns to his addictive behaviors and lifestyle. It is damaging and discouraging to both the addict and his family. Chronic relapse may be due to isolation from support, returning to living and social situations where addictive lifestyles are ongoing, or other stressful situations the recovering addict was not prepared to manage.
Life and death emergencies are not the only high-risk situations a recovering addict might encounter. There may be an exacerbation of mental or physical illness, such as a manic episode for someone with bipolar illness. A person with schizophrenia might experience a psychotic episode. Someone suffering from PTSD might be having a particularly difficult time with flashbacks. A cancer patient may discover another lump that is malignant and require further surgery. These situations may be strong pulls to self-medicate with the old addictions.
It is common to experience strong emotions such as anger, self-pity, resentment, bitterness, and grief when catastrophic life circumstances occur. Hanging on to these intense emotions is dangerous for the recovering addict. Get help! Contact a spiritual leader, a therapist, or a trusted friend or family member for help to work through these understandable, but potentially destructive, emotions.
The loss of a job, a car accident, or the trauma of weather disasters requiring costly repairs are further high-risk situations. Although these may seem like extreme circumstances that always happen to someone else, in truth, they are common life events that are displayed daily on the news. One cannot go through life and not experience these things oneself or see loved ones going through trying times.
The recovering addict cannot afford to manage this type of situation by relapsing and returning to his addiction. One must remember that the addiction didn't make life better before, and it won't make life better again.