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Amy Jo SmithAmy Jo Smith
Amy Jo has been exposed to addiction in many forms during her life, ultimately resulting in the everyday struggle of conquering her own demons. Amy Jo is not a mental health professional. Rather, she speaks from her experience.

Do or Die: Confronting Potential Relapse

Amy Jo Smith Updated: Feb 13th 2012

Today, no…more like JUST now…I realized something: I am having addiction issues today.

finding the answerI had a bad day yesterday and that's when it started. The feeling of my body telling me something's not right, I need to calm it; I need to numb it. I didn't realize it, but it was building. This voice…except it wasn't using words like, "Hey, you know you want to go get drunk." It built, slowly, subtly. I felt so out of control and angry, emotionally…so much so that I finally had to ask myself (a few moments ago): What's going on here? What is this anger about and what are these feelings really about? Yes, I know the events of a bad day, the day before, upset me, but what drove it to this level of intensity?

I thought about how I'm feeling physically: heart racing, thoughts racing, hands shaking and a headache coming on. And how am I feeling emotionally? Intense anger (at things that are simply not worth being angry about)-it wasn't the normal annoyances one might feel…it was dark. Sad…yes, Amy…you have to admit this to yourself: you are sad and hurt and THAT'S why you're so angry. I felt out of control, like I wanted to be reckless and throw everything away…just make the most self destructive choices I could think of. That general attitude of: F**K IT. OK…so what would stop this? What would make me feel better? And that's when I knew what my body wanted.

What would stop this? What would take my mind off of it? I know the answer to my own question…and that answer is: alcohol. I want a beer. I just don't want to feel this way so I want to self medicate and my DOC (drug of choice) is beer. A beer would stop my hands shaking (at least for a little while) and my heart would stop racing because I would be more relaxed. And seriously, how much harm could one beer do? It's got to be better than feeling these intense emotions. I can't take the emotions. I can't take feeling like I'm not even me right now. I can't take this I JUST DON'T CARE attitude.

There it was. My old friend alcohol was calling me back. It was saying, "I can fix all of your problems. You know I can make you feel better." And the addict in my brain agrees--would beg for that momentary sense of relief. It would be so easy and I'd feel better.

Luckily, though, there's another side to my brain; the one who reminds me how far I've come, the one who reminds me to stop and think and try to identify what's really going on, the logical self. The brain I trained to recognize the sensations and pay attention to them…to question them. I can say, whew. For this very moment, I feel a little better.

I still feel bad emotionally. I still feel upset. But I know why I'm upset and I can now process those feelings. I can acknowledge them. But that's the point…I can do it…without the alcohol. I can talk myself down and reason with myself. I don't have to run away from it. I can accept that yes, it's painful…but that's OK because pain is a part of life. It is something one has to learn to live with. I can realize, too, that because of how my mind was processing, I might have the entire situation wrong. I am lacking in information, but jumping to conclusions. In short, having an anxiety/panic/paranoia attack triggered from similar situations in the past. And, as in the past, my way to cope was to numb myself.

It's a funny circular thing, the way the mind works and how the addict's mind manages to find an excuse to use. Not to mention the whole reason one feels the need to use is because one is hurting so much and feels overwhelmed by it. The problem is: addicts have low coping skills. We don't know how to handle or process our feelings. This is how we turn to our drug(s) of choice. Another thing is addicts have low impulse control as well, so we don't (or didn't, depending on the situation) think it through-we simply DO and react…we forget, at that moment, all potential consequences and what's more, we just don't care because the drug is so much more powerful.

My body gave me several cues that I was in danger. I was lucky and was able to catch it…this time. This is what an addict in recovery has to do every single time life catches us off guard. It takes the willingness to learn to watch one's own cues and internal warning signs. Knowing the triggers (and mine, as an example) is too much intense emotion. If lucky, one can catch it before it is too late while holding on tightly to that sobriety. For me, today (so far) is such a day. But an addict doesn't ever know which might be the moment he or she slips. And that is the scary part. And that is what it's like during that moment when the potential for relapse is very real and one MUST confront it…it's a 'do or die' situation for the addict.

Additional Resources:

Dealing with Reward-Motivated Behavior: Relapse Prevention
Mark Dombeck, Ph.D. and Jolyn Wells-Moran, Ph.D.

Medications for Alcohol and Substance Abuse Symptom and Relapse Reduction
Mark Dombeck, Ph.D

Methods for Changing Behavior and Thoughts
Mark Dombeck, Ph.D. and Jolyn Wells-Moran, Ph.D.


Amy Jo Smith

Amy Jo has been exposed to addiction in many forms during her life, ultimately resulting in the everyday struggle of conquering her own demons. Though Amy Jo's learning has been more from the 'school of life' as opposed to formal training in the addiction, she considers herself quite in tune with addiction causes, ways to beat them and how to help others. In terms of education, she attended Southern College in Orlando, FL double-majoring in Legal Investigations and Paralegalism. You can visit her personal blog, Serious Social Issues for more information on her other interests in things that she feels we as a society need to be addressing, ranging from mental health to violent crime.

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