We often encourage people who we know already have the knowledge and support to just do it! Put down the Sickerettes after relapse and relaunch your Quit Journey - as if nothing has happened - nothing to see - don't look behind you!
Now, for some people that might work. But for those of us with a history of disappointments and cumulative grief, perhaps we need a different path!
Relapse is painful, disappointing, and demoralizing. But in addition to these obvious emotional bruises, relapse can impact us on an unconscious level as well, and leave wounds that are far more psychologically devastating. Recognizing and respecting the loss when we relapse and learning how to overcome them will help us Recover more rapidly and more fully, both psychologically and emotionally, and increase our chances of Success in the future.
Sometimes we have to put the past truly behind us in order to move more freely into the future.
Relapse makes our goal seem tougher. It impacts our unconscious perceptions so that our Success seems further and more out of reach. Relapse makes our abilities seem weaker. Once we relapse we not only see our goals as harder to reach, we perceive ourselves as less capable of reaching them. Again, these are not accurate assessments but natural distortions that occur on an unconscious level. Relapse damages our motivation. Whether we believe we will Succeed or fail has a direct impact on how much and what kind of effort we invest in reaching our goal. When we Fear we are unlikely to Succeed, we unconsciously invest less effort in pursuing our FREEDOM, and consequently, we are indeed less likely to attain it.
Now here's a paradox -
The less confident we are and the more worried we are about failing, the less likely we are to take risks, emotional or otherwise. Ironically, finding a ‘riskier’ solution might be the best and most important avenue for us to pursue. It's risky for some of us to face our Fears! You remember that slogan Smoking is not an Option [SINAO] no matter what? There are definitely times in our Quit Journey when we have to be innovative. We are facing Life on Life's Terms perhaps for the first time in our Lives since we were Teens!
But once we’re hesitant to take risks, we are less likely to even consider them, because Fear limits our ability to think outside the box. Once relapse makes us more averse to risk, it impacts our ability to think more creatively and to find solutions that are ‘outside the box’ because by definition, such solutions mean less certainty and more risk. But since these dynamics are largely unconscious, we often don’t recognize how our thinking has been impacted and instead believe we’ve simply run out of new doable approaches and ideas to pursue.
Relapse makes us feel helpless! When we know we've had the Best of EX, all the knowledge and support, it's easy to think that there must be something wrong with me! Well intentioned messages to "get back up on the horse" can actually exacerbate this feeling. Relapse often makes us feel helpless even though we are not!
Relapse leads us to make incorrect and damaging Generalizations. When we fail we often generalize the experience in sweeping and self-punitive ways, and draw incorrect conclusions about our general intelligence, abilities, capacities, and even about our role in life or what was or wasn’t "meant to be". The only thing we can conclude for sure after a relapse is that we were unsuccessful at that particular quit, in that particular time, in those particular circumstances.
We can learn from and move on from relapse despite the obstacles if we acknowledge the pain we feel!
I'm writing this all out based on my experience as a Serial Quitter and what it took for me to overcome the repeat insanity! I'm not just writing to the Serial Quitter but also to the well meaning Elders who get frustrated with the repeat EXer! It may not apply to you - but maybe it does so take what you find useful and leave the rest! To be helpful is my only goal!
I wrote everything about this down. All of the loss and grief written on a piece of paper and then ritualistically burned the paper with the last Sickerette in my possession. A little bonfire of release from past sense of failure and grief. A chance to start over fresh and to leave the past behind me along with permission to risk Fear and step over it!
First, acknowledge and respect. Then release. Then you can move forward!
It really can be done!