Risk of Relapse: It Doesn’t Only Happen When You’re Sad

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

One of the greatest feelings in the world is achieving a specific goal one has set out for them self. Whether it’s something that was placed on the infamous bucket list, or it was a personal triumph- there is always some sort of exuberating feeling to accompany said completion. To take a step back and look at your hard work brings about this sense of accomplishment that any person in their half sane mind would enjoy. We as human beings have the capability to achieve any victory we set our minds to. It’s all a learning and growing process, and by that, I am speaking of life. Then we throw recovery and sobriety into the cauldron of life’s ever surprising speed bumps, and this is when things begin to get a little tricky.

For those in recovery, chances are that your usage and debauchery were starting to catch up to you and so some necessary steps were taken to keep the ball of life moving. This usually entails dropping all forms of drugs and alcohol from the table and enrolling ourselves into some sort of anonymous program. Then we get a sponsor, start working the 12 steps, and doing service work. Of course, most of us are all too familiar with the drill. It’s once we start putting in all this action that life begins to turn itself around. We start getting out of bed every day with a smile that is powered by hope instead of desperation. Life starts to become stupendous again and we question why we ever got high and/or drunk in the first place. Some of us float on the pink cloud of new found freedom for as long as we can, but the risk of relapse is still never far for any of us.

Into Action

It doesn’t matter whether the addict or alcoholic has put together 30 days or 30 years, the perilous disease still sits closely in our minds ready for us to slip up and make the simplest of mistakes. Staying clean and sober requires a great deal of action. The smallest bit of complacency can throw our warped thinking back on the tracks to destruction. Surely it doesn’t seem that close when everything in our lives is working out to our advantage, but don’t fool yourself, addiction is always on the back burner ready to go.

A vast majority of alcoholics and addicts make it to the rooms of Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous, but they are still uninformed of how alcoholically our minds think. For starters, relapse is not just the act of getting high, but more so a specific mindset. Relapse starts in the mind for most before the actual act of ingesting chemical intolerants is purveyed. The risk of relapse doesn’t only happen because somebody is depressed or sad. Actually, it can be quite the opposite for some of us. The way our minds think, our addiction/alcoholism confirms that any reason is a great reason to become numb. There’s a birthday party? Let’s get drunk for it. Nervous about an upcoming trip across the country to see family? Alcohol can help take care of that. Life is going really well and you were even promoted at your job? Great, let’s celebrate by getting high. Starting to sound familiar right?

risks ahead

The reality of the disease of addiction is that there will always be that estranged voice in the back of our heads pushing for us to put the bottle to our lips or the needle in our arm. This is a normal occurrence for us- the chemically dependent ones. The big difference is a matter of how strong we allow that echo to be. We must keep in mind that that voice is not THE voice. The good news is that when we start working the 12 steps, things begin to get better. As we start getting through to the other side and feeling good about our accomplishments, that voice of unreason begins to diminish. Yes yes, this is good and all, but that doesn’t mean we are cured. The risk of relapse is always prevalent because there isn’t any cure for addiction or alcoholism, but only treatment methods. After a certain point in time, it stops becoming such an obsession. We go from thinking about substances all day and night, to having it just occasionally pop into our minds.

As mentioned a bit before, for these promises of relinquished obsession to come true, a good deal of work is consistently needed for the rest of life. This may seem a bit overwhelming, but it’s better than the alternatives most of us face: incarceration and/or death. To maintain sobriety and avoid the act of reversion, we as addicts and alcoholics have to stay introspective. Keeping in tune with ourselves and trying to understand our emotions and thought processes is a diligent act that we must always be open to. It comes to a point where we have to try and study or grow from every situation we are put into. It stops becoming about apologizing, but admitting our faults and learning from them so as not to repeat them so frequently. The saying goes, “take care of the self and the senses will follow”. This couldn’t be truer for those of us in the rooms. In the end, it boils down to how badly somebody wants their sobriety. How far is this person willing to go? Laziness is not an option when it comes to recovery. We addicts and alcoholics have to go the additional mile in order to stay ahead of the curve. This doesn’t mean overloading ourselves until we’re under water, but more so just always keeping ourselves in check and recognizing where our wants and needs differ sometimes.

Active or Running the Risk?

In all actuality, there isn’t any risk of relapse if one cannot get away from the substances to begin with. Drugs and alcohol suck us addicts and alcoholics into a whirlwind of chaos that we haven’t the tools to escape. It gets pretty miserable and the consequences continually build up like a failing game of Tetris and eventually enough is enough. If you or a loved one is struggling with chemical dependency and are ready for help, please call 1-844-489-0836 or visit We are ready to give you any suggestions possible and set you or your loved one on a path that we can all be proud of.

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