Do slumped shoulders really indicate a relapse waiting to happen? Does the body language speak to something bigger than being tired or defeated? Does it suggest shame?.

Shame is the poisonous glue that binds addiction. It’s toxic for all. Whether in active recovery or active addiction. Its far different than guilt. Guilt can be a healthy indicator that we’ve crossed a line or have an amends to make.

Guilt says – I made a mistake.

Shame says – I am a mistake.

Addiction loves shame. And it’s always looking for thoughts to feast on. Perhaps it’s past abuse issues, relationships ending, a harsh word, an unkind gesture, an imagined criticism, etc. This is why it’s absolutely crucial, in early recovery, to develop the skill set to “tell” on your thoughts.
For example, “My wife’s nagging me again. She doesn’t trust me. She wants to know where I am every second of the day.”

Through a twelve step program, this person would learn to look at his or her part in this
situation, not to use it as another excuse to drink  And it is for this reason why no addict or alcoholic can successfully sober up on their own. I don’t mean dry up, I mean sober up. There’s a big difference.

Drying up – is simply putting the plug in the jug but all the behaviors are still the same. The person most often lives in rigidity, black and white thinking, my way or the highway. Family relationships  tend to remain strained. Sometimes this person is more difficult to live with dry than when they were drinking. The ego of a dry alcoholic can be unbearable to put it mildly. There is a sense of entitlement and arrogance. Without the ability to self medicate the dry addict becomes miserable. And you know what they say about misery… It likes company.

Sobering up – starts with putting the plug in the jug. The easiest part of this process by the way. But it involves much more than being dry. To be sober is to be humble ( teachable) to be flexible, to have empathy, to be honest, respectful, to have integrity and to give back. To make amends for past behaviors, to admit your part and let go of the rest. Sobriety promotes vulnerability. This is necessary for safe and healthy family homes. Sobering up means you’re a work in progress. One who is willing to look,  not only at character assets, but defects as well. It isn’t  just a physical transformation taking place, but an emotional, spiritual and mental one too.  You feel different. You think different. You behave different. You are different.

Sobriety – its like two lives – in one body.

So perhaps slumped shoulders is a predictor. Maybe the person is experiencing shame. Shame lives in isolation and secrecy. So does addiction. To become well, we need to take the covers off, exposing whats on the inside. It’s a little like when you’re nauseous with the flu. It has to come out. The relief is instantaneous and it becomes like breathing. One thought, one feeling, one behavior, one day at a time, you begin moving away from the arms of addiction.

You’re only as sick as your secrets. And big mouths get better faster. Shame diminishes the more you talk about it. It also becomes bigger, the more you keep it secret.

Personally I don’t think its shame and stooped shoulders so much that indicate a relapse. Let’s face it, most of us with this illness harbor some form or shape of it. More the refusal to acknowledge it would be the detriment as I see it.

For me the real indicator starts with two words. These two words describe a very dangerous attitude. The words “I know.” Because the truth is “You don’t.”  And when you think you do – you’re fixed. You don’t need help. You don’t need to surrender. you don’t need to listen or follow suggestions.

In my clinical experience, “I know” is a prelude to relapse. One that leaves the individual relying on the very thinking that got him/her into this mess in the first place.

And then?

We’re back to square one.


(c) 2014 Jagged Little Edges All Rights Reserved

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