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Moving On From Falling Off The Wagon...
And Getting Back On It

No Contact is not an easy process and it's likely why you're at this juncture; because you've already tried and struggled or because you've been afraid to try it, out of fear of your own strength to persevere through this situation even though it feels incredibly uncomfortable. You may even be fighting guilt at being 'mean'.

I'm not going to pretend that falling off the wagon isn't a possibility, which is why I want to get this subject out in the open because it is the rather annoying white elephant in the room. If it's happened then it's all about focusing on what happens next as opposed to hurling yourself into the decision in an, Eff it, I've started so I might as well continue mentality, because you don't want to admit that you've made an error in judgement likely borne out of a moment of weakness, distorted thinking, or even being under the influence of alcohol.

Why does falling off the wagon happen?

The primary reason is because you make the wrong associations between feelings and what you think they mean. If you feel terrible, you may assume that it's proportionate to the amount of love you feel or the 'rightness' of the situation. You may think that because you're hurting that it means that you should soothe yourself by reaching out to them. You might think pain means 'get in touch'. You might think the feeling of rejection means, Do something as quickly as possible to relieve it. You may believe that suffering is love.

The next big pitfall is feeling that much stronger and confident as time passes that you may feel like you don't 'need' to do NC and that it's safe to interact with them and 'make friends'. You may feel that you're in a better emotional position to listen to whatever they have to say. You may make the dangerous assumption that you've done a lot of work, are feeling enlightened, matured and even calmer, that surely they must have done too. You might believe that you may be able to handle them better.

The other pitfall is avoidance and control. You have a crappy day or a week, you get nostalgic and to escape this other painful aspect, you go back to another pain source as a distraction. I hear from people who've been made redundant and have put on weight out of stress, who then become obsessed with breaking NC and getting in touch with their exes - this happens because while trying to avoid these painful experiences they're also trying to feel in control of their ex so that they don't have to deal with another 'failure'. Actually, they'd be better off job hunting, being kind to themselves and easing up on the bingeing. This can also tie into the wrong associations aspect, because if you are rejection sensitive then you're going to try to stem the loss and the feeling of rejection by seeking attention, which in turn will open you up to further rejection.

Let me tell you right now - you could fall off the wagon a thousand times but you will never have control of this person or another, because the only person you can control is you, so don't even waste your time trying to have the last word or trying to get them to make you feel better about the pain that they have contributed to.

It's like being sexually harassed by your boss, making the complaint to them instead of to their boss or human resources, and then expecting the boss to make you feel better about their crappy behaviour and its effect on you. Not gonna happen.

I don't advocate falling off the wagon and I highly recommend that you spend more of your thoughts and energy focusing on how you're going to deal with NC as opposed to thinking about how you're going to fail at NC and questioning your strength to do it, but if you do fall off the wagon (and try to make it the once or as few times as possible), it brings you closer to respecting the original decision to do NC and why your relationship isn't working.

Invariably falling off the wagon ends up teaching you that it's better on the wagon than off of it.

Obviously if you keep falling off the wagon then you're not NC but if you have a hiccup or few but you finally bite the bullet and genuinely grow out of each experience, great. You're human and you have an ego. Eventually you have to stick to your word though - each and every time you engage, it not only undermines your credibility but it also means that you have added fresh new pain onto an old wound that you could have been letting heal.

So what should you do if you fall off the wagon?

Don't turn it into an episode of mass proportions. You can make this as big or as small as you want this to be and I suggest you opt for the latter. Don't dramatise this because you'll end up letting it impact you far more than it needs to. If you fall off the wagon, you get right back on it. Don't doom yourself and assume that because you've fallen off that you must resign you to a poor relationship. Falling off the wagon does not mean your previous efforts have been wasted, that you're screwed, weak or whatever - what it does mean though is that you need to recommit to NC, revisit your reasons for doing it, and stop participating in any dishonesty that is putting illusions around this whole relationship and process.

Do make sure you assess what it was that triggered the 'fall'. Were you bored? Were you being nostalgic? Had you had a confrontation with someone else that left you vulnerable? Had you slid back into denial temporarily and got really hopeful about them? Whatever it was, identify it and have a plan of action for how to deal with next time round. Keep a Feelings Diary or use the day tracker sheets from the course page plus use the information from this wagon episode to aid your NC plan.

Remember that you now know that the fire still burns. Next time you're having a wobble, remember the burn of the fire. All of the things that bother you about this fall off the wagon, make a note of them so that the next time you're so much as tempted, you can remind yourself of the reality. Note what happened, how you feel, what you hope for, the reality of who they are and remind yourself of why things haven't changed and it cannot be the relationship you want. Remember this feeling. Write it down and do not forget what you have felt in the aftermath of the fall.

Strengthen up the barriers to communication. Block their number, filter their emails, cross the other side of the road, return their stuff, and basically do whatever you need to do to shut them out. Neutralise the cues and triggers where you feel tempted to respond by removing the temptation. It's either that, or you have to be your own barrier. Take your pick - block out communication so that you don't have to deal with it, or decide in advance that you can and will be strong - put your energy on the right intentions, which is planning for success and keeping your feet in reality. If you're going to daydream about anything, daydream about successfully dealing with these situations, not dropping your pants or being paralysed.

Don't feel like they got one over you and have had the last word. The last word is action because the next time they come slinking around expecting you to be there, you won't be.

If you have to work with this person, remember what I've said before - polite and professional is your limit. You can be professional without being bosom buddies. Keep any and all interactions strictly about work and the moment they're not, cut them off. Don't explain, don't justify - just end the conversation, ignore that aspect of the email, or walk away.

If they're the parent of your child, you can either lay down and reiterate the ground rules or just be resolute in how you will deal with them the next time they approach you. You know what caught you out here - make a note of it so that you start to recognise the dynamic between you both and where you may be vulnerable or where they're exploiting a 'loophole'. If you end up talking, do not get into a discussion about what happened - say you want to draw a line under it and switch topic. If you participate in the discussion, they'll use it as a negotiation point and an opportunity to press the Reset Button.

Use this time to remind you of exactly why you're NC and renew your commitment to yourself.

Focus on your own life and make sure that you are filling it with things to do, places to be, friends, family, work, and other things that you can draw pleasure from. Probably best not to let yourself get too bored at the moment as you're likely to let you mind wander and give yourself a hard time. Which brings me to...

Don't be too hard on yourself. You're human, you make mistakes, and you want to believe that your ex can experience the same level of growth or miss you, or feel some remorse or something. Forgive yourself and remember that relationships serve to teach us about ourselves. Learn the lesson from this and move on. What can I do next time? How can I learn from this? Find the positive lessons, find the growth. The lesson is not that you're weak or a bad person. Keep thinking that and you'll be falling off the wagon again, not because you are weak or bad, but because who the hell has the strength to do very much when they're mentally running themselves down?

Accept that it is normal to have urges to be back in the relationship that's not working for you or to crave the person. It's not abnormal; it's a natural part of the process. Acknowledge these urges but don't chase them, and if anything take a few moments and do an awareness check. What else is happening in my life that is causing me to react in this way? What am I avoiding? What is reminding me of this person or triggering the urge? Then find ways to manage these triggers. It may be stress, it may be seeing the same coloured car. When you realise what is triggering the urge, it loses its power because you see that it's not some divine intervention telling you to go back to the relationship.

Remember that the urge passes - you won't get to discover this if you knee-jerk into making contact. Ride it out and each time you do, the urge will last for shorter and shorter periods.

Mentally pull over and come back to earth. When you feel compelled to break NC, it's important to do the mental equivalent of pulling over on the roadside and refocusing your thoughts. Where are you? What is the reasoning behind your desire to break NC? Based on previous experiences and what you know of this person, what do you know is likely to happen? When you get hurt, can you deal with the medium term repercussions? How will you feel after you have reacted? Think about it. What's the choice here? You don't have to choose the path of least resistance. You are in control of you and behind the wheel of your choices. It's not your ex or the urge to break NC so make sure that you choose the right path for you.

Be powerful in your own mind. All of the people who I've come across on the NC course are bright, intelligent people who are strong in other areas of their lives but deem this other person as all powerful. STOP. They are not better than you and they do not have the power over you that you think that they do. You are powerful, you can do this; believe it. Willing NC to work is not enough - you have to do the actions to support the process and also support those actions with the thoughts to back them up. Don't hope you'll be able to do NC, plan to be able to do NC and do the work to make it happen.

Remember that you're not striving for 'perfect NC'. Anything that goes well or doesn't, is feedback that will help you to move through this process and make decisions that treat you with love, care, trust, and respect. Trust you and trust the process. Don't trust the insecurity.