Do you Understand Relapse?


There is a definitive pattern in life. Habits are created after using the new thoughts or behaviors for a consistent amount of time. The key is to keep repeating the desired behavior to develop it into a habit.

Relapse is the return to the old ways of life. More importantly relapse is a process.  Relapse begins when you stop the new behavior.  

For example, you stop using drugs, cutting, or over eating for a period of a week or two. During this time, you are learning to cope with the withdrawal, cravings, and other changes that occur when the substance of use is removed. You decide this is not for you and return to using the drug of choice. You have not necessarily relapsed. Many will disagree.  Consider this, how many times have you gone without because you did not have a supply or the money to purchase your drug of choice?

When you develop the habit of living without the old behaviors, including drug and alcohol use, you are creating a healthier life. Living without the “drug” of choice for 90 days and longer helps to establish the changes.  Psychologically, physically, and spiritually you are healthier. Overcoming addiction is a rough path and it can take a great deal of restraint to move beyond using.

By 90 days you have created another way of life, started the path of learning how not to use your drug of choice and replace it with coping skills. Replacing the old way of dealing with stress, disappointment, and celebrating with a healthier attitude and outlook on life. When you revert to thinking and behaving as you did while using, this is the beginning of relapse.

Acting out in anger, lashing out and pushing people away. Finding reasons to end relationships, hanging out in old places and calling friends who use, are patterns in relapse. Letting your recovery life style fade and reclaiming the old life style is relapse. The pattern of relapse occurs long before you pick up your drug of choice.

The drug of choice includes risky behaviors, cutting, overeating, binging and purging, sex, gambling, smoking, drinking (alcohol, sodas, etc), and anything that medicates the way you feel. Addictions are not limited to street drugs and alcohol, cigarettes or tobacco use in general. Addiction is anything you cannot live without, that causes you distress when you cannot or do not have it in your possession any longer. Television, music, video games, and sports activities are as addicting as drugs.

Relapse in the simplest terms is the return to what you were doing or using after establishing a different lifestyle. Addiction interferes with your daily life, causing you to let go of all responsibilities and focusing on the use. Recovering addicts have a saying: “An addict alone is in dangerous company.”

One key to keeping relapse at bay: Talk to someone about your emotions, thoughts, and actions. Take responsibility for your life. Addiction is a cunning companion, one that will own your life. There is a more loving companion to share the journey with. Seek it now.

If you live in the rural areas of San Diego County, such as Dulzura, Potrero, or Tecate, you can call the hotline for Alcoholics Anonymous (1-877-993-2422, 24 hr hotline), Narcotics Anonymous (click to locate a local number by area code), and find a meeting locale or get a number to someone in recovery who will talk with you. The hotlines are designed for those times you absolutely have to talk with someone. One of the ways to help end relapse.

It is completely anonymous, no one will visit your home or should pressure you to attend a meeting. If you feel pressured, tell them. You have the right to choose.


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About Connie

I am a Spiritual Life Coach with 25 years experience working with the 12-steps of Alcoholics & Narcotics Anonymous. 10 years experience as a substance abuse counselor and 23 years working with women seeking recovery from abuse and addictions. Learning to live the spiritual principles and beyond is a day to day process, I am grateful to my sponsors, guides, and coaches.