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Why do People in Long Term Recovery Relapse?

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When people enter a recovery program there are endless possibilities on offer and they are full of hope that these will counter the misery which is the daily experience in the life of an addict. In the early days people are highly motivated and are looking forward to living a healthier, more balanced life.  However, the longer a person is clean, the less desperate for recovery they become and over time they start to lose motivation.

There are a number of ways that recovery occurs and people are constantly attending meetings, sharing their thoughts, fears and dreams and hanging out together.  What is rarely discussed is how to avoid falling into habits that increase the risk of a relapse sometimes years after the initial recovery.

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The Art of Self Sabotage

One of the key personality characteristics that are found in addicted persons is the ability to self-sabotage.  It may come from starting a commitment that is unreasonable, planning an impossible event, or just worrying constantly about things outside of our own control, Whatever it is, it is well known that addicted persons often defeat themselves and that it can happen multiple times.


What to Avoid

Just because someone is in recovery everyday life does not stop; all of the usual challenges and complexities will still exist so it is hard to know what to do about these most of the time.  Focusing on things to avoid to reduce the risk of relapse is probably a better option.  There are 5 key things to look out for that can trap people in recovery and encourage a relapse:

As addiction is often about escaping from painful emotions and circumstances addicts tend to focus on the negative by default.  Instead of falling into this old habit it is better to face up to things head on.

It is always helpful to remember that everyone has their own problems, they all have things they cannot influence and control but the main thing is to stay focused on the good things in life and not to obsess about the bad.

Most people have someone in their life who always seems to have everything up together and organized.  They don’t.  They have their own struggles to deal with they just appear more clever, confident or more stable in their own recovery.

Don’t put yourself down – compare you against yourself not other people.  If you are better today than yesterday, that’s a positive.  Everyone has their own strengths and their own weaknesses and we all have our mountains to climb.

Sorry, but life doesn’t work that way!  You have to be prepared to carry on with consistent effort if you are to reap the benefits of your actions.  If you have attended any of the meetings offered by AA or NA you will have heard this said many times.   This can be another reason that people in long term recovery may relapse.

Think of recovery like an exercise plan:  If you only go to the gym once a month you are not going to see much improvement. It is exactly the same when it comes to achieving and maintaining your clean lifestyle. Nothing happens overnight – you will need to put in the time and effort consistently and make sure you don’t let one bad day or a mood swing divert your efforts.

There is nothing wrong with planning but if you constantly think about what is going to happen it can increase anxiety levels and lead to a life of worry.  You can’t do anything about tomorrow and you can’t relive yesterday, so try to focus more on the present.  Plan ahead, but be clear in you mind that life is what is happening right now.

Once you start feeling all the benefits of recovery you will feel good.  Sadly, for many of us we interpret that as the end of the road and that we will never need any help again.  We are likely to forget how bad things were when we were at the height of our addiction and how much we needed and relied on the support of those who were clean and sober.  This feeling of self-reliance can lead you back into addiction. This is another reason Why People in Long-term Recovery might Relapse.


How to Stay Sober

Once you have found what works – stick with it!  Keep on task because you don’t get the rewards without the effort.

Addiction is a disease that is hard to overcome and recovery is especially hard to maintain as the desperation of the early days fades.  Your task is to reaffirm your commitment daily – staying sober is not an easy path but the benefits of sticking to the plan outweigh the prospect of starting from the beginning again.

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