Series Three: Blog Twelve
Fred has been a recovering sex addict for 5 years. Sexual acting out used to be an organizing principle in his life. He woke up every day thinking of numbing out with porn and hooking up with whoever he could find on the internet. It nearly cost him his family, his job, even his life. One day an escort and her pimp robbed him of everything he had. At gunpoint they forced him to go to his bank and withdraw $10,000 from his account. He was told that there was a gun pointed to his head throughout the entire bank transaction and would be killed if he did not bring them the exact amount. This was hitting bottom for Fred. He promised that if he escaped this predicament alive, he would seek help and change his entire lifestyle. And he did. He sought out a certified sex addiction therapist. He began going to 12- step meetings, worked the steps, changed his life and experienced healing within and in his marriage and family. That was 5 years ago!
Moving forward he managed sexual addiction cravings with the tools that he had learned in therapy and 12-step groups. Things were headed in the right direction. Then COVID hit. He was laid off his work and had to scramble, doing anything to pay the bills. There was a lot of stress and anxiety that persisted throughout the 2 years since the COVID lockdown. Eventually fatigue, stress, and anxiety wore him down. One night while driving home he pulled into the parking lot of a strip club, drank, and paid for several lap dances. The next morning he woke up with a hangover not only from the alcohol but from the reality that he surrendered all the vestiges of meaningful sobriety and serenity that he had accumulated in his recovery program the 5 years before. He was sick to his stomach, dulled with brain fog, and profound loneliness and emptiness. The emotional pain was indescribable. Alone, he screamed in despair. He was suffering from the hangover of relapse behavior.
Hangovers suck! Hangovers always deliver what they promise—headaches, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, irritability and a host of other symptoms. Most people associate hangovers with drinking too much or other drug abuse. But, hangovers are the result of many behaviors. Other than its relationship to chemical abuse, the dictionary defines a hangover as something that remains from what is past. It’s the letdown that follows great effort and excitement. Hangovers follow every act out and trigger further use of a substance or process.
Every addict knows the pain of a hangover that follows an addictive act out. Addicts who succumb to relapse are highly susceptible to repeating the destructive behavior until the old addictive lifestyle is once again in place. It happens amazingly fast! Hangovers play a significant role toward reconstitution in addiction. Surprised by the relapse, addicts fall victim to the power of shame and the staggering emotional pain that is part of hangover aftermath.
Most addicts relapse in their attempts to gain control of their addiction. Listed below are suggestions to consider in working through the hangover that accompanies relapse behavior.
The loneliness and emptiness that is core to the experience of relapse hangover paralyzes many addicts who have relapsed. The way through the hangover is to fix your eyes on re-centering your vision of recovery. Move through relapse behavior by anchoring your heart with actions of recovery practice. The hangover will wear off provided you do the necessary self-care.
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