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Are You Destined to Relapse?

March 31, 2017 Early Recovery
woman having a cocktail

For those who are in recovery for drug or alcohol abuse, the possibility of eventually relapsing may be a thought that is continually present. This may be especially true for you if you are newly sober. In early sobriety, you may feel sure that you can’t possibly stay sober for a day or two, let alone forever. You may feel shaken up when you hear in meetings that some people have addiction relapse after putting several years of sobriety together, or that others relapse repeatedly and aren’t ever able to understand how to live a sober life. Hearing stories about relapse probably makes you feel uneasy.

In movies or television shows, too often recovering alcoholics or addicts frequently seem to end up drinking or turning to drugs again after a short period of sobriety. When you see people in meetings or in movies lose their way and stray from the path of recovery, you may begin to wonder whether there is any hope of staying sober and whether you are destined to relapse.

Fear of Relapse

The more examples you see and hear of others who relapse, the more you may wonder whether there is any hope you will be able to stay sober, and you might begin to feel a lot of fear of relapse. You may believe with all your heart that if you pick up a drink or a drug, a whole lot of bad things might happen to you. You may even begin to have horrible nightmares about some of the possible consequences. Visions play out in your head of losing your job or your marriage or of having one DUI after another. You imagine losing all the money you ever thought you might have. You know that you have a disease that has you by the throat and you are terrified that you won’t be able to keep away from mind-altering chemicals.

The problem is that if you are living in constant fear of having a relapse, you are focusing on the wrong thing. Focusing on a problem makes it bigger. In recovery and in life, a simple rule of thumb is that what you focus on expands. The more you dwell on the possibility of relapse and the power that alcohol or drugs has over you, the more you may be setting yourself up for a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Relapse in Recovery

For anyone who has been physically or emotionally dependent on substances, starting a new life that is completely free of drugs feels very unnatural. Turning back to what’s familiar feels more natural and might happen in a split second. You are accustomed to reaching for a drink or a drug, and that’s what you do if you are faced with stress or any kind of emotional distress.

Recovery doesn’t mean you wake up sober and live happily ever after. Before you fully grasp what you need to do to stay sober, you may end up taking several steps forward and one or two steps backward for a while. Although relapse doesn’t have to be part of recovery, some people do relapse at first. Some may even find that relapse enhances their recovery by letting them know clearly what their triggers are or what their breaking point might be. Don’t beat yourself up if you relapse. Get back to another meeting, call a sober friend and try again. Just because you gave in to what comes naturally to you and what you have always done in similar circumstances doesn’t mean you won’t ever be able to learn to stay sober.

What It Takes to Stay Sober

You don’t have to be destined to relapse just because you are an alcoholic or addict. Just because others may not believe you can stay away from a drink or a drug doesn’t mean you are doomed to inevitably relapse. While some people may learn important lessons from a relapse, it isn’t a step you have to take on your recovery journey.

A healthier decision is to do whatever you can to stay sober one day at a time, and to believe that it’s possible to recover. Go to as many meetings as you can and get to know the people who have a good grasp on what it takes to be sober. Get in the habit of asking for help when you are feeling vulnerable. Most likely you will not be able to stay sober alone. Having a support network that you can count on makes it less likely that you will relapse.

Instead of focusing on the possibility of relapse, focus on the possibility of a much better life than you have ever had, a life in which you can really comprehend what serenity is, a life in which you can have self-respect and true freedom from the prison that is addiction.

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