Why Do We Relapse?

Addiction recovery is a process, one that for many of us takes the rest of our lives to uphold. Sobriety, or abstinence, or being “clean” are not finite destinations, single points in time and space that we reach and our problems are erased. Recovering from our addictions is not a one-time thing, where we go to treatment and then are magically all healed. For many of us, our addictions took years to develop. They took over our lives and built themselves upon a solid foundation of trauma, fear, pain and isolation. Healing means addressing all of these factors and working to create new systems to cope with the very real difficulties in our lives.

Many of us relapse because it takes time, and sometimes trial and error, to learn what works for us, what coping strategies help, what triggers us, what people and places to avoid. We relapse because the pain we’ve been numbing ourselves to doesn’t suddenly disappear. The wounds inside us are still there. The unhealthy relationships are still there. The temptations are still there.

What grows with time are our resilience, our ability to make better decisions for ourselves, our sense of discernment, and our willpower. As we continue to learn more about ourselves and our addictions, we deepen our understanding of who we are, of human nature, of the ways in which we’ve been handling our pain. We uncover more layers of ourselves that we are forced to confront. We heal on deeper levels than we thought possible.

As we venture deeper into the recovery process and face ourselves with more courage and clarity, we strengthen ourselves and increase our chances of staying the course, but this takes time, and it is a process. This process inevitably contains what we view as failures – falling off the wagon, succumbing to the pressure, the longing, the pain.

Relapsing, however, doesn’t have to be seen as a failure. While it’s true we feel we have let ourselves and the people around us down, and we often default to feelings of shame, remorse and regret, we could choose to see our relapses differently – as renewed opportunities to show up for ourselves, to have faith in ourselves and our healing. Our relapses are calls to action, to ask for help, to put ourselves first. They are our chance to pick ourselves back up again and prove to ourselves that we can do it, that our pasts do not have to dictate our futures, and that our addictions don’t have to define or shape us.

Please reach out to us for information on how we can help. Call (800) 871-5440.