Recognition of Loss of Control. Their denial breaks and they suddenly recognize how severe the problems are, how unmanageable life has become, and how little power and control they have to solve any of the problems. This awareness is very painful and frightening. By this time they have become so isolated that it seems that there is no one to turn to for help. The most common warning signs that occur during this phase are:
Self-Pity. They begin to feel sorry for themselves and may use self-pity to get attention at AA or from family members.
Thoughts of Social Drinking. They realize that drinking or using drugs would help them to feel better and begin to hope that they can drink or use normally again and be able to control it. Sometimes they are able to put these thoughts out of their minds, but often the thoughts are so strong that they can not be stopped. They may begin to feel that drinking is the only alternative to going crazy or committing suicide. Drinking actually looks like a sane and rational alternative.
Conscious Lying. They begin to recognize the lying, denial, and excuses but are unable to interrupt them.
Complete Loss of Self-Confidence. They feel trapped and overwhelmed by the inability to think clearly and take action. This feeling of powerlessness causes the belief that they are useless and incompetent. As a result, they come to believe that they can not manage life.
Option Reduction. During this phase recovering people feel trapped by the pain and inability to manage life. There seem to be only three ways out-insanity, suicide, or addiction use. They no longer believe that anyone or anything can help them. The most common warning signs that occur during this phase are:
Unreasonable Resentment. They feel angry because of the inability to behave the way they want to. Sometimes the anger is with the world in general, sometimes with someone or something in particular, and sometimes with self.
Discontinues All Treatment and AA. They stop attending all AA meetings. If they are taking Antabuse they may forget to take it or deliberately avoid taking it regularly. If a sponsor or helping person is part of treatment, tension and conflict develop and become so severe that the relationship usually ends. They may drop out of professional counseling even though they need help and know it.
Overwhelming Loneliness. Frustration, Anger, and Tension. They feel completely overwhelmed. They believe that there is no way out except drinking, suicide, or insanity. There are intense fears of insanity and feelings of helplessness and desperation.
Loss of Behavioral Control. They experience more and more difficulty in controlling thoughts, emotions, judgments, and behaviors. This progressive and disabling loss of control begins to cause serious problems in all areas of life. It begins to affect health. No matter how hard they try to regain control, they are unable to do so.
Return to "Controlled" Addictive Use. At this point many recovering people are so desperate that they make themselves believe that controlled use is possible. They plan to use chemicals for a short period of time and/or in a controlled fashion. They begin using the chemical with the best of intentions. They believe they have no other choice.
Shame and Guilt. The initial use produces feelings of intense guilt and shame. Guilt is the feeling that is caused by the self-judgment that "I have done something wrong." The recently relapsed persons feel morally responsible for the return to use and believe it would not have happened if they had done "the right things." Shame is the feeling that results from the self-judgment that "I am a defective person." Many recovering people feel that their relapse proves that they are worthless and that they might as well die as an active addict.
Loss of Control. The addictive use spirals out of control. Sometimes that loss of control occurs slowly. At other times the loss of control is very rapid. The person begins using as often and as much as before.
Life and Health Problems. They begin to experience severe problems with their life and health. Marriage, jobs, and friendships are seriously damaged. Eventually their physical health suffers and they become so ill that they need professional treatment.