Why do most people relapse or do they truly relapse? It seems like all the so called experts indicate that Relapse is just part of the process of reaching Recovery. In fact some express and believe that it is normal and therefore necessary. This concept is built on the observation that most people do seem to return to using drugs and or alcohol at least once prior to achieving lasting sobriety.
A very controversial concept that I teach and believe is that most people do not relapse; simply because they have never begun the process of Recovery. Unfortunately, many addicts and alcoholics who have returned to using or drinking after they have been in one or more detoxes or full treatment programs; label themselves (or are labeled by others) as “Chronic Relapsers.”
How does one fail if they have never run the race? How can one consider themselves a chronic loser when they never got past the start line of the race? To fail you have to enter into the race but if you never cross the start line—it is impossible to lose!
What I strongly believe is that what many people believe to be success in recovery may not be anything but an addict or alcoholic choosing to JUST SAY NO! In other words there has been no change in the way they think, believe or feel. The only reason they are looking good is because they are doing good and they are doing good because they want to. Or in reality they are just doing what they want to do and that is the same exact psychic state or energy that drives their addiction.
There may be a QUANTITATIVE change (clean time) but there is no QUALITATIVE change (ability to challenge and overcome their own impulses). Without qualitative change, they will fail the first day.
They just don’t feel like doing what was keeping them clean and sober.
The measure of power to manage addiction is the ability of the person to challenge themselves and overcome themselves, because it is through self-defiance they build self-reliance. Another way of understanding this is to recognize that if a person is doing what they want to do then they are just simply doing what they want to do! Recovery requires a person to resist doing what they want to do (drugs or alcohol) when the moment of truth occurs and they are obsessed or craving. If they have only been staying clean and sober because they wanted to then they will return to using and drinking when they no longer want to do the things that was keeping them abstinent.
The race or recovery never begins until the person is successfully demonstrating the ability to resist themselves and force themselves to do the right things when they absolutely do not want to! Most addicts stay clean because they want to and not because they have developed the ability to force themselves to do the right things when they absolutely do not want to do those things.
It has been said, “The best time to go to a meeting is when you absolutely don’t want to—that means you are in control of your feelings and they are not controlling you.
- I don’t feel like going to a meeting.
- I don’t feel like calling my sponsor.
- I don’t feel like praying.
- I don’t feel like apologizing.
- I don’t feel I need to go to a halfway house.
- I feel like a drink.
- I don’t feel like I can stay clean.
- I am not happy and I know what will make me feel good!
Your mind must be in control of your feelings because it is feelings that cause failures.
Gerard J. Egan, MSW, LMHC