By far, the most frequent question I am asked how about self-change is, How do I avoid relapse? Virtually everyone can change for a few days, maybe a few weeks, but then they gradually lose momentum and retreat into the old problem.
Begin by understanding the essential difference between a slip (lapse) and a fall (relapse). A slip or a lapse is a single event, a one-time reemergence of an unwanted behavior. A fall or a relapse, by contrast, is a complete abandonment of the goal and a retreat back into your old patterns of behavior.
Here’s a handy checklist to ensure that you are using the research-supported, relapse-busting skills with sufficient frequency. In this way, a slip need not deteriorate into a fall.
Answer the following questions using this 5-point scale: 1 = Never, 2 = Seldom, 3 = Occasionally, 4 = Often, 5 = Repeatedly
I am convinced in my bones that a slip does not constitute a fall
I am minimizing my exposure to triggers that may precipitate a slip
I am practicing saying “no” to requests to regress to my old behavior
I am skillfully and effectively resisting in-the-moment urges
Intense or prolonged cravings lead me to “surf the urge”
I am maintaining a positive outlook, such as attending more to the numerous times I succeed than to the rare the times I slip
If I slip, I condemn the behavior and situation, not me as a person
I am learning from my previous slips which thoughts, behaviors, feelings, and relationships predispose me to slips
I am on the lookout for any “baby steps” that lead me down the slippery path to relapse
I am carrying my Slip Card with me each day
I am reaching out to my change team for support as soon as I need it
I am aware of the negative consequences of my old behavior
If I do slip again, I feel prepared to respond constructively
Your ratings on these items should be at least a 4 (meaning “often”) and preferably higher. In our studies, effective self-changers average close to 4’s. If so, you are skilled in Perseverance, and I congratulate you on your mastery of this step.
If you are not yet scoring 4’s, then you have identified those skills that require more work. Congratulations to you too! Now, go get ‘em done. Please work the respective skills as outlined in Changeology.