Understanding Relapse

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Understanding Relapse

Chemically dependent individuals can demonstrate relapse behaviors at any time throughout their recovery process, but are especially prone during the early stages of recovery. The relapse process starts when a person falls into old patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving.

  • Self-pity
  • Complacent with partial efforts
  • Decreased self-care
  • Increased denial, rationalizations, justifications, and minimizing
  • Increased excuses and exceptions
  • Inability to receive correction or advice from others
  • Lack of willingness to be held accountable
  • Isolation and avoidance behavior increases
  • Unrealistic goals are set, and emotional reactions intensify
  • Not taking responsibility for one’s own thoughts and actions. Instead, there is an increased blame of others

​The sooner you seek help, the greater your chances are for long-term recovery. As an addict hits bottom and makes the monumental and life-changing choice to seek treatment, motivation is extremely high. “I’ll do whatever it takes to keep my family, spouse, home, job, and money.” Sometimes, as things improve, motivation levels slip and can quickly become: “How little can I do and still get by? Can I go to fewer meetings? Can I drink sometimes?” This change in motivation is often a glaring sign that old destructive patterns are right around the corner.

Responding to the Signs

Most people do not like to be pushed into treatment, often becoming resistant, oppositional, and defiant. It is obviously difficult to get anything out of treatment when you spend time resisting it. The same is true in the progression of your recovery. Acceptance is the key. Become an astute observer of even subtle changes in your motivation. Be ruthlessly honest with any slips or changes in your goals, thought life, mood, and behaviors. Confide in a trusted, supportive friend, sponsor, or treatment professional. You can get better, become more responsible, increase your self-esteem, and cope with problems more effectively. Having a positive attitude is a necessary first step in maintaining recovery and decreasing relapse potential.


Recovery is a journey. Enjoy the ride!