Recovery is self-care
Relapse occurs when an addict’s life becomes unbalanced. In obvious crisis situations, such as the death of a loved one or loss of employment, addicts are often (but not always) able to recognize that they need to focus more on recovery. But more often an addict’s life becomes unbalanced slowly over time as things pile up. Typically, a relapse begins with preoccupation, then lapse behavior, and finally full blown relapse.
If you’re experiencing cravings, your life is out of balance and your sobriety is at risk. If you’re feeling resentful because you can’t have what you want, if you’re thinking, “What the hell,” “I deserve it,” or “I’ll only do ______,” those are all signs that your life has become unbalanced. Being preoccupied with sexual thoughts and desires is not a normal state of sobriety. It is a sign that you are not taking care of yourself, which triggers your addictive behaviors. Relapse begins here with obsession and preoccupation. Euphoric recall, fantasy, and impaired thinking are signs that you are no longer on solid recovery ground. You are circling a black hole.
If you are testing or teasing yourself by cruising, contacting old acting out partners “just to see how they’re doing,” scrolling through Craigslist, Your behaviors are close enough to your acting out behaviors that it’s unlikely that you will be able to stop your downward descent. You’re not quite in the zone but you’re feeling a definite sexual buzz. Although you haven’t technically relapsed you’re very, very close to crossing the line. The “sobriety” you have now is uncomfortable at best, both your mind and body are charged with sexual energy. Most likely you no longer want to stop, but you’re fairly certain you’re in control.
These lapse behaviors must be disclosed to your therapist and sponsor. In my opinion the person who is in an intimate relationship with you also has the right to know the the truth. You do not have the right to manipulate a loved one into staying in a dangerous or unhealthy relationship. Beyond being an expression of genuine love for your partner, disclosure at this point is therapeutic for you, the addict. That being said, doing that has been excruciatingly scary and painful. I needed help to have the courage to treat my loved one with respect and honesty and I have not gone on to complete relapse.
You’ve acted out and you’ll need to reset your sobriety date. You may be tempted to change your bottom line or inner circle to “legalize” your behavior. If you’re in SA or SRA you may decide that pornography without masturbation is “legal.” You feel like shit and are ashamed of yourself. You’re overwhelmed with the hopelessness of the whole situation and know that you’re never going to get better. Since you’ve already blown it, it’s almost a relief to give in to the inevitable. You’re going to surpass your old bottom.