Keeping the Bad Behavior at Bay
You have made it a week, a month, three months, and it seems as though your bad behavior is gone, but suddenly you have a setback. It can hurt far worse than the continual setbacks that you experienced with the bad behaviors. You may believe ‘this is just who you are, who are you fooling; you are never going to overcome this bad behavior.’ Whatever it may be, overeating, an addiction, over drinking, impulse buying, gambling, smoking, sexual issues, you have fallen when you thought the war was over. You had convinced yourself that if you could just get months of success, get past the withdraws of the behavior, it would become a thing of the past. However, this just is not true, and you were telling yourself a lie.
What the mental-health professionals have found is those who have given up a bad behavior, sixty-six percent return to their bad behavior within that first three months. However, those who have been successful for over six months, have a much higher success rate. Nevertheless, you are to never let your guard down, it is those innocent appearing situations that will get you once you believe it is finally over.
It could be that your bad behavior was what you did to bring relief when very weighty stresses were in your life. For example, maybe you lose your job because of cutbacks within the company, so you go out and buy a cart full of junk food and drown your sorrows in bad calories. Or maybe, you have had a few months of a relatively stress-free life, so the need for the behaviors was diminished. Then, all of a sudden, the stress is back. Thus, the behavior is back. The only recourse against this kind of setback is knowledge of it, and being overly cautious when stress enters your life. Other factors that can contribute to setbacks are boredom and loneliness. More factors might be a stressful social environment, encounters with difficult people, negative emotions, and innocent appearing situations where temptation comes out of nowhere.
One of the main difficulties with a recovery of any sort is that sufferers feel that they are cured after some time passes. However, this just is not the case, so the tools that placed you on the path of recovery, are to remain an integral part of your life. The tools that you have learned can be something that you call on daily for everything, or they can be something that you revive, as you need them, such as when you have a crisis or tragedy enter your life.
If you have journals that you kept over the recovery process, you should never throw those away. It should be like an old photo album that is worn from opening it often. You need to pull out the notes from time to time, which will help you keep vigil about maintaining certain tools. Maybe you set up some kind of reward system, for certain successes in your road to recovery; if so, you should adjust that system, to maintain your success, and not fall into a setback. If you had friends and family involved, let them know your indicators that take place before a relapse so they can warn you if they see them.
If you do experience a relapse, it will likely feel like the end of the world, but it is not. You do not want any number of relapses to defeat you. Tomorrow, the sun comes up again, and it is a new day. Fight the fight, until you are back on the path. You have to learn to recognize a good measure of guilt, as opposed to extreme guilt that can cripple you mentally. You might start judging yourself as not worth the effort. You may start negative self-talking yourself into the belief that you have a weak personality, and success will never be yours. You may believe that life is cruel, and it only plays jokes on you, by letting you succeed for a moment, so then the crash would hurt so much more! This is where you must follow the steps above, staying with your tools. Never let extreme guilt get a foot in the door, shut it before it gets in, and if it is in, remove it immediately.
Moreover, most are not aware of a pattern of letting guilt be your excuse to engage more in the bad behaviors. Guilt is supposed to wake you up to the reality that something is very wrong. However, if you let guilt become your punishment, you make get into the pattern of believing you have been punished, and so your hands are clean to go back yet again. You would be amazed at how the imperfect mind can rationalize anything to feed the fleshly desires.