Defending Against “Pre-Lapse”: Moving from Complacency to Commitment

thin-ice-17996_1280“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil.

He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”

1 Peter 5:8

Time and time again, I have watched the sprint of early recovery dissipate into a stroll of complacency. Initial passion, often fueled by crisis or catastrophe, pushes people powerfully forward. Yet, unless this momentum is maintained, addicts will gradually revert to a risky state of inactivity. Patrick Carnes, PhD, leading expert in the field of sexual addiction recovery, points out this pattern of heightened acting out behavior in the SECOND 6 months of recovery. Whether it is early on or years down the road, it is clear that regardless of the intensity of early recovery commitments, anyone can wane in their resolve. This half-hearted, mindless, and dangerous state that precedes relapse is best described as “pre-lapse”.

The above scene from the movie “The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies” provides a meaningful metaphor for “pre-lapse”. In the first 20 seconds of this clip, it appears as though the long-fought adversary is vanquished. Thorin fought ferociously for that victorious moment. Then, his stunned opponent re-surfaced below the sheet of ice. Seconds slid by as Thorin peered down, staring from a safe distance, seemingly caught in daze of complacency. Even after his enemy’s eyes closed, he stayed still. His lack of action precipitated a sword swiftly stabbed through his shoe. Then the battle was fiercely re-engaged. He eventually killed his nemesis, but not without serious personal cost. Much pain was avoidable, had Thorin only seen the signs and acted accordingly.

As these images settle in your mind’s eye, I urge you to consider the following questions regarding your own recovery or serious life commitments:

In what ways am I complacent, in a state of “pre-lapse”?

Have I become lazy in practicing the necessary self-care for maintaining my recovery?

What am I doing well in my recovery?

Am I practicing patterns of disconnection in my relationships with God, myself, and with my support network?

In what ways am I walking on “thin ice” in my recovery?

What are my current blind-spots in my recovery journey?

In what ways am I lying to myself about my current commitment to the long-road of recovery?

What growth am I resisting in my recovery?

What are the next bold steps in my recovery?

Am I committed to taking the necessary action steps that stem from this new awareness of my progress or lack thereof?

Consider re-visiting these honest questions on a regular basis. You do not need to relapse to take time for this necessary self-examination. Right now may be the best time to seek awareness and consider action steps, before complacency leads to casualties. Remember too that the state of “pre-lapse” can be extremely triggering for partners of addicts, signaling lack of safety.

Proactively defending against “pre-lapse” will take continual effort. But those who courageously wrestle forward will experience both victory and the satisfaction of knowing they battled fervently (2 Timothy 4:7) and did not give up. This is the heroic journey of successful recovery.

-Written by Forest Benedict, MA, SATP-C, LMFT, Clinical Director of LifeSTAR of the Central Valley

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