I Keep Slipping In My Recovery. What Can I Do?

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It is an unfortunate and sometimes devastating experience, but slips and relapses do happen. For some of us in recovery, they are part of our story — but they do not need to be. Some people find recovery without relapse. Some people never make it back from a relapse. For each of us, our recovery story may be a little different. If slipping is part of your story, like it is for so many of us, there are things we did that worked. They will likely work for you, too.

Those in recovery can overcome slips and relapses. They do not need to be a permanent part of your story. No matter how many times you have stumbled before now, you can take action and put a stop to this vicious cycle.

A Slip Versus a Relapse

The fundamental differences between a slip and a relapse are the length of time and involvement in recovery. If we tried the 12-Step program of recovery and then abruptly stopped, then drank or used again for a good long while, that’s a relapse. If we never tried the 12-Steps or stopped doing them, then drank or used them again once before longing to get back into the program, that’s a slip. Either or both of these can be a part of our journey. Some people have extensive experience with them, while others have never known them.

Whether we have fallen a lot or a little doesn’t matter. We can start right now, right where we are, and change our whole experience in recovery. Lasting recovery is possible for anyone at any time. The book Alcoholics Anonymous has much to say about relapse, relapse prevention, and how to bounce back from a slip. It also contains the 12-Step program of recovery in its entirety, which is designed to help alcoholics and addicts find lasting freedom.

Start At the Beginning

For those who have trouble with relapses and slips, it can feel difficult to understand the cause of our problem. The best thing we can do is take a step back and start at the very beginning. How did we get here? Sometimes it is an unclear understanding of our condition that leaves us open to relapse. Maybe we know that we’re an alcoholic or addict, but we’re not clear on what that really means for us and our lives. So we go back to the beginning — we pick up the book Alcoholics Anonymous, and we read it. Then we read it again with someone in recovery, maybe even our sponsor. Educating ourselves about our disease and how it really affects our lives can be the beginning of the end of relapse.

Now that we’re reading the Big Book with our sponsor or someone stable in recovery, it’s time to look at the start of the 12-Steps. Maybe we’re already familiar with the 12-Steps, but our focus is simply on stopping the relapse cycle. Our best bet at ending chronic relapse is the 12-Step program, leading us to lasting recovery. So we go all the way back to 1st-Step.

The 1st-step is crucial. It’s the one step that all the others depend on. If we don’t do a thorough and honest 1st-Step, it’s unlikely that we’ll do the rest of the 12-Steps — and that means it’s highly unlikely that we’ll stop relapsing. At Jaywalker Lodge, we firmly believe in educating others about the 1st-Step to reduce and prevent relapse. We focus intensely on the 1st-Step, and we don’t ever leave it far from our minds. Knowing our disease helps us believe in the solution and gives us constant motivation to keep ourselves active in the 12-Step program. To end the vicious cycle of relapse, we will need the book Alcoholics Anonymous and someone in recovery who can read it with us. Going over the 1st-Step thoroughly with someone who fully understands it can help us tremendously.

Working All 12 Steps

This might seem to go without saying, but an active engagement with the 12-Step recovery program as a way of life is the best way to reduce and prevent relapse. So after we truly understand the 1st-Step as best we can, we’re going to want to lock in a sponsor and continue working the rest of the 12-Steps. We are also asked to fellowship with other alcoholics and addicts in recovery and do our best to be of service to others. This means that we will want to begin attending regular recovery meetings and stay on the lookout for people who may need our help. If we want to stop relapsing, or just stop drinking or using at all, we’re going to need to work the 12-Steps.

The Importance of Meetings

We just glanced at this one: meetings. If we’re able to, when the thought of drinking or using comes over us, we should quickly get to a meeting. Sharing how we feel with others in recovery will likely provide a lot of well-timed advice, understanding, and practical help. Before and after meetings there are also opportunities for fellowship, which can be another form of relapse prevention.

Reach Out

Sometimes our minds change so quickly that there is no chance for us to do the right thing. This mental condition can only be addressed by steady and active engagement with the 12-Step program. Over time, the obsession will leave us if we stay in the 12-Steps. But if we are thinking about relapse and we’re able to pick up the phone, it’s a good idea to call our sponsor or a friend in recovery. Just to reach out, ask how they are, and admit how we’re feeling. Sometimes just this simple act can save our lives.

Alcoholism and addiction are a disease made up of the mental obsession, the physical allergy, and the spiritual malady. The mental obsession is often what causes relapses or slips. The 12-Step program of spiritual action is designed to produce the necessary psychic change and vital spiritual experience that can bring about freedom and recovery by relieving the mental obsession, preventing future triggering of the physical allergy, and easing the spiritual malady. Working on the 12-Step program and adopting the 12-Step way of life is truly the best option to prevent relapse. At Jaywalker Lodge, we believe wholeheartedly in thorough and personal education of the 1st-Step, so we can fully understand our unique disease and all the ways it affects us. If we truly see how alcoholism and addiction rule our lives, we may find ourselves motivated to engage in the 12-Step solution. Here at Jaywalker Lodge, we also find 1st-Step education to be one of the biggest factors in ending the vicious cycle of relapse. No matter how many times you’ve slipped before, lasting recovery is possible for anyone. Call Jaywalker Lodge now at (866) 529-9255.

author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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