Part of the work we do in recovery is understanding the reasons why we relapse, especially when we’re committed to our recovery and the last thing we want to do is let ourselves and our loved ones down. Our addictions are much more complicated than the substance use and behaviors we associate with them. Our addictive drugs and behaviors of choice are like the surface symptoms of an illness that we can see, but our addictions are made up of complex layers of that illness, many of which are things below the surface that we can’t see. Understanding why we relapse is about understanding why we suffer from addiction in the first place. It goes much deeper than thinking that we simply weren’t strong enough to face an addictive urge, that we were weak in the face of temptation. What underlying issues are causing our self-sabotage and self-destructive tendencies in the first place? Learning about the reasons why we relapse helps us to learn more about ourselves and our addictions so that we can prevent ourselves from relapsing.
A major reason why we relapse is because we simply don’t believe in ourselves. We believe we’re destined to fail and that we’re not strong enough to make changes in our lives. We believe that our mistakes are evidence of our inadequacy. Deep down we feel like we’ll never be good enough. Our fear of failure becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Mentally and emotionally we chip away at our resolve and our willpower until we’re doing the things we were afraid we would do. We were afraid that we would start back up with that unhealthy relationship or go back to drinking, and we apply so much energy to that fear that the fear becomes our reality. The limiting beliefs we believe about ourselves become our truth. We’ve been so afraid of failure that we’ve been directing our fear towards that failure until failure becomes our reality. We are manifesting from a place of fear rather than faith. All the self-deprecating thoughts we’ve been perpetually thinking for years become our beliefs. Imagine if you were living with a voice inside you constantly telling you that you weren’t good enough, that you don’t measure up, that you will fail. It Eventually you would start to believe that voice, and it would start to inform how you feel about yourself and how you operate in your life. That is exactly what happens when we allow our inner critic to go unchecked, when we don’t monitor our self-talk and correct ourselves. A major reason why we relapse is because we haven’t learned how to be at peace with ourselves and how to make our inner voice work for us rather than against us. Our belief system is encouraging our demise rather than our success. We are subconsciously self-sabotaging at every turn – the choices we make, the relationships we allow in our lives, our daily habits, our mental and emotional health. We give ourselves a fighting chance for recovery when we align our inner voice and our belief systems with our goals rather than our fears.
Another reason why we relapse is because we haven’t been taking the time to prepare ourselves for how we will navigate the challenges that arise in our sobriety. We want to believe that once we’ve learned to abstain from our drug of choice, the hardest part is over and the rest will be smooth sailing. The truth is our work has just begun. The more we prepare ourselves for the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual challenges of recovery, the more we can prevent ourselves from relapse. For example, what exactly will we do when we’re faced with temptation and hit with an addictive urge? What will we do when we feel powerless not to go back to the abusive partner or go to the liquor store or call our drug dealer? What steps will we take keep ourselves on track? We often relapse because we haven’t asked ourselves these important questions. We’ve been naïve enough to think that recovery is easy, but change only happens when we implement it. We have to take actionable steps towards healing. We have to know ourselves inside and out. We have to be prepared. We have to know what helps us calm our anxiety, what helps us take our mind off our addictive urges, and what gives us the strength and the sense of empowerment to make it through those urges without letting them overtake us. For example, we might have a go-to guided meditation that makes us feel stronger, that reminds us just how resilient we are and just how far we’ve already come in our journey. We might have a trusted confidant such as a sponsor or recovery coach whose words of wisdom help us to stay on track. We might have a breathing exercise that helps us cope with anxiety and panic attacks. When we relapse it’s often because we haven’t taken the time to know ourselves well enough, to know what works for us in our recovery, what things we can include in our wellness toolbox to prevent relapse.
Another reason we commonly relapse is because we haven’t made the necessary changes to our lifestyles to encourage sobriety. We’re still spending time with people struggling with addiction who aren’t yet committed to their own recovery. We’re still frequenting the places that encourage us to use. We’re still engaging in the day-to-day habits that contribute to our unwellness and make us turn to our addictions. We haven’t done a total overhaul of our lifestyles in order to support recovery. We think that abstinence without changing all the other elements of our lives will magically cure us, not realizing that we have to tackle every layer of our illness if we want to stay sober. Understanding the reasons why we relapse and what our individual challenges are when it comes to sobriety are so important for preventing relapse and keeping ourselves on track with our sobriety goals.
For us, recovery is personal. The community at Riverside Recovery has firsthand experience with addiction and recovery, and we use our experience and expertise to help people succeed in their recovery. Call (800) 871-5440 today for more information.