Why Do Some People in Recovery Relapse and Others Don't?

Have you ever told yourself things would be different this time, only to end up using again?  Why do some people in recovery relapse over and over again and others don’t? What’s the difference between someone who goes back out and someone who stays clean? While there are so many factors that contribute to why someone will or will not stay sober; having a solid plan can be something that increases the likelihood of success. It can be what keeps you on track when you’re feeling vulnerable to relapse. The best time to make a plan is when the chances of using are lowest and the motivation for sobriety is the highest. For a lot of folks this is the first 30-60 days in recovery. Here are some questions you might want to ask yourself to help with your plan.

1. How will I pay the bills? This is a stressful question and most of us don’t want to think about it. But what’s more stressful? Being homeless. A job gives us purpose, income, and less opportunity to use. Win, win, win.  

2. Would I like to continue my education or learn a new trade? This is more of a long-term question. You probably won’t want to jump right into this without some time under your belt. Your use may have been preventing you from achieving your goals. Now’s the time to begin thinking about what you want to do with your future. Is there something you always wanted to do? Did you start school, but didn’t finish? Anything is possible now.

3. How will I spend my time now that I don't use? So what now? You may have noticed that time slows down when you’re not using. What are you going to do with all this free time? There are only so many meetings you can go to. Make a daily schedule and stick to it.

4. What do I enjoy? What will I do for fun? You may have forgotten what it is that you enjoy doing. What did you like to do when you were a kid? Sports, drawing, reading, music? Even if nothing sounds interesting to you, commit to starting a hobby. It will give you something to focus on when your mind is running wild.

5. What has/has not been working for me so far? Early recovery is a great time to think about what’s not working. Even better, talk about your thoughts with a therapist. Really be honest with yourself and think about where you’re messing up. Hanging around the wrong people? Feeling bored, depressed, anxious? Learn from your relapse and prevent it from happening again.

6. Do I have enough support? You will need help to achieve long-term sobriety. Are you getting support from 12-step groups, a therapist, friends, or family? The more positive supports you have (and use) the more likely you are to maintain sobriety.