Tracking Relapse Warning Signs

It’s important this holiday season to take a little extra care of your sobriety.  With all the hustle and bustle, gifts to buy, family gatherings, etc. it can be easy to stray away some of the things that have grounded us to our sobriety.  Some of those little things you adopted to help you become a happier and more productive person.

Part of my recovery has included taking a 16-week relapse prevention group at my local treatment center.  One of the biggest take-aways from the group was learning how to track my “mooring lines” or relapse warning signs.

The term mooring refers to a permanent structure that a ship is secured to.  Mooring lines are the ropes which hold the ship to the structure.  We related these mooring lines to the activities or behaviors we have developed to maintain our sobriety.  These behaviors have tied us to our permanent structure, our sobriety.  The longer these ropes stretch, the more stress is put on them until they eventually break and we are left adrift at sea.  Make sense?

Now, how do we identify and track our relapse warning signs?  It’s pretty simple.  Below is an example of the worksheet we were given in our group.  As you can see, there are two elements to track.  First is the behaviors which help you stay sober, called mooring line behaviors on the worksheet.  Second is the behaviors you are avoiding because they could lead to relapse.

I was able to identify several behaviors for each section.  My mooring line behaviors include journaling, mindfulness/meditation, meetings (therapy & case management appointments in my case), recovery research (working on Sober Friends Club), exercise, diet, sleep and others.  My activities or behaviors to avoid include drinking alcohol, taking benzos, smoking, gambling, going to the bar and drinking too much caffeine.  Then, you simply mark down which activities you practiced or avoided each day.  A sample of one of my past worksheets is below.  As you can see, I added some rows and columns to the worksheet and wrote in the margins.  You don’t have to stay within the confines of the table on the worksheet.  In fact, I ended up creating a spreadsheet on my computer that allowed me to add and track more activities easily.  That’s part of the purpose of OWN Sobriety…take what you need from existing sources and then make it your own.  

This may seem like a basic activity but it has really helped me recognize when I’m drifting off course in my recovery.  Early in recovery I tracked these behaviors each day.  As I grew more confident and comfortable in my sobriety, I switched to tracking these behaviors a couple times per week.  I don’t always remember but when I do, it’s a good way to see just which behaviors are slipping and to get motivated to pick them back up.  Life gets busy.  It’s going to happen, especially as you get further into your recovery.  Just simply being aware of the behaviors that are good for your sobriety and the ones that are bad for it is a huge step.  Then it’s up to you to find that motivation to maintain those habits.

Because I get bored with things easily I have to change these behaviors up and get more creative to keep them challenging for me.  Whether it’s finding new journal prompts to write about, find new or revisiting old hobbies, playing basketball instead of just going for a run… it’s important to add some variety to my routines.  You may not need to switch things up as much as I do, but it is important to identify and keep track of your mooring lines to prevent relapse drift.