The term "relapse" is synonymous with failure. Most often it is used to label a situation in which an addict, who had found some measure of recovery, falls back into their old dependence. The addictions are often linked to alcohol or drugs. However, for me, the term relapse is also associated with the resurfacing of old behaviors, utterances, and attitudes that I thought had long ago been vanquished. In my case, this includes battles with spells of jealousy, lust, intense anxiety, self-hate, racist thoughts, anger, and hopelessness among others. I have expended enormous effort to bring these issues under control in my life and it is both frustrating and demoralizing to me when they reappear in force.
It is said that for a multi-lingual person, their true native language is revealed by what language they curse in when they strike their fingers with a hammer. I think that this picture is applicable to me. When I am beset by life's hammer strikes, I think that how I respond reveals the true condition of my heart. Just because I seem to have gotten past certain thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, they still are very much a part of me, even if I have not seen them for a while. Sometimes it feels in moments of personal failure that my responses reveal that my "recovery" from old attitudes was little more than an ill-fitting skin that is far too easily sloughed off. In those moments my relapse seems complete.
My pastor recently told the story of a man who was confessing some unspeakable things that he had said in the heat of an argument. With tears in his heart he declared, "What I said, those words were just not me." But in truth they were. They were very much a part of him, just more deeply buried than other parts. We need to find strategies to more effectively handle these behaviors and comport ourselves when the inevitable relapses do occur.