It seems that everywhere you turn these days, there’s nothing but bad news: financial collapse, natural disasters, wars, etc. I stopped watching the news a while ago because I realized just how much it wasn’t good for me (because it contributed to my already overactive negative thoughts), but still, some sort of terrifying headline somehow finds its way into my life (I went on YouTube today to find an at-home workout video and my entire front page was swamped with new outlets updating on how awful the world is right now).
With all of this negative fuel and being forced into a constant state of worry by society itself, it’s no wonder that I could probably also start to fall again into my own self-made old ways of thinking regarding my partner's addiction:
“I wonder if he’s really still sober?”
“This seems like a more stressful time to cause him to relapse than times in the past, right?”
“Everyone is saying that relapse rates are high right now with everything going on…” (by the way, who is ‘everyone’?)
“He did seem more tired/agitated/moody/stressed out/down/fill-in-the-blank today…”
Like a rock landing in just the right spot to cause an avalanche, so my thoughts start building up and barreling down the slope.
But this is where some good old-fashioned inner work and mental focus comes in (and it applies to more than just my feelings about my partner’s life choices and the importance of stopping my worry about relapse).
So, to use my first fear as an example: what if he did relapse? Well, in all honesty, it has the same call to action that would be warranted for any number of potential scary news headlines or troublesome life events: stop worrying first. There is literally no amount of negative mental action that would influence the occurrence of any negative event in any way. No amount of worrying, stressing out, trying to sort out every aspect of my life as if it has already happened, overthinking and micromanaging everything to a T just in case, would do anything to help out the situation in a good way. Seriously. I've tried.
Now are there actual plans of action that I would need to do in the event of a relapse (or any of these dreaded situations)? Of course. But the thing is, none of those would actually need to be put into place until the situation actually happened.
Being a recovering chronic-worrier/stresser/dreader/etc causes me to think I actually have some sort of control over these external events and the likelihood of them happening, when in reality all I’m doing is getting myself worked up and irritated over things I have absolutely no influence over in the bigger picture. I might think I can do something grand and fool-proof, but all I do is cause myself to miss out on my life that is happening right now.
So until I actually hear that he’s relapsed, all I can do is live in the moment, focus on being grateful for what I have, and try to live a little more happy, while also focusing on bettering myself and controlling what I can (meaning myself).
Need some tips on where to start? Here are 6 ways to help keep your relapse-worry at bay, and stop it before it begins:
1. Build trust and communication: I found that I actually didn't have to hold everything in all the time like I thought I did. Meaning, while I certainly don't want to dump all of my emotions and fears onto my partner, it's ok to have healthy discussions about my fears regarding relapse, and to keep that line of communication open from both ends. I want my partner to know that he's safe to confide in me with anything I am personally ok with knowing, without him being afraid to upset me, and that if it's something too big to tackle together, we have things in place (like therapy, etc) that we trust each other to use to handle it further.
2. Focus on their progress and what to be grateful for: Is it easy to look at relapse statistics and how many times it happened in the past and feel discouraged? Of course. You'd think it was a favorite hobby of mine with how much I used to do it. But it's not healthy, and it's certainly not going to help you progress in your own recovery. So instead, why not be grateful for what's actually happening right now?
3. Practice self-care: Can't practice self work without self care. Take a break every now and then, relax and find some joy, and trust that as long as you are taking care of yourself first on every level, you will be just fine. You can't accomplish everything all at once, so take a breather, ok?
4. Learn your own relapse triggers: Yes, we have them, too. Notice when you get too deep in the negative thoughts, and what your typical responses are. Learn how to stay on top of and work through them so that you can move forward without going backwards on your progress.
5. Seek support from loved ones: You don't have to go it alone, and even though you may want to keep your fears and experiences hidden away from judgment or opinions, it's ok to have some time with friends and family. They can be a comforting ear, a reminder of something good, or even just a way to keep your spirits up.
6. Celebrate every step of recovery: A connection to #2 on this list, but an important one just the same. Did they make it a day clean and sober? Did they attend a program meeting? Did they meet with a therapist? While we can't base our happiness solely on their progress, we can certainly show our support by celebrating how far they've come, no matter how short the distance may seem right now.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from having a partner with this life-long struggle, it’s this: life is just too darn short to spend it worrying about relapse, his addiction as a whole, or stuff I can do nothing about. All I can do is stay in my lane and keep improving myself, and beyond that, it’s just out of my hands. And I hope that you are able to do this, too, because I promise you, it’s much better than the alternative.