The Lighthouse for Recovery Ministries - A Beacon of Light for the Soul in Need!
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Is Relapse A Normal Part of Recovery?

No….heck ,no…..bull.   Addicts love social service professionals that use this sort of waiting room wisdom because by adopting this type of attitude, accepting relapse as a normal part recovery, especially for chronic relapsers, and letting themselves off the hook is a sure fire recipe for death.  Addicts LOVE this slogan: Relapse is part of recovery. Why?  Because they love knowing that being able to relapse in recovery allows them to use or abuse if they need to.

Recovery by definition is “gradual healing (through rest) after sickness or injury.”  A relapse is to “deteriorate in health.”  So if you look at these definitions you can see that although during a healing process addicts may suffer a relapse, the relapse is actually a part of the sickness, but not the recovery process.  Those are polar opposites.  

Therefore, addiction is not a disease, it is a choice.  The recovery process for any “choice” that a person makes in their lives requires that interruptions are made in their current attitudes, behaviors and thought processes and how to adjust plans to meet future needs.  This is true for addiction, divorce, marriage, children or jobs….we have free will to determine exactly what, where and why we allow good or bad things into our lives or mask or allow control through artificial means.

NO ONE forces an alcoholic to put alcohol into their system – free choice.  NO ONE forces a drug addict to devour illegal or prescription drugs – free choice.  NO ONE forces a gambler to hit the casino at first light- free choice. NO ONE forces a sex addict to step outside the social bounds of relationships or marriage – free choice. Just as having the determination that one is tired of living the life of degradation and deceit and seeking to do whatever is within their power to eliminate all means leading up to active addiction in order to recover their sanity, their lives and their souls.

The tendency to coddle an addict is widespread in the social service profession or psychiatric community, less so in the medical profession which treats the physiological changes that come with addiction with medications or treatment plans or treat others who have been injured, harmed or dying as a result of said addictions to alcohol or drugs (i.e. domestic violence, assault, automobile accidents, etc.). 

We allow the self-pity – poor me, poor me, pour me a drink – mentality to overlook the fact that an addict has to  accept total responsibility for their attitudes, behaviors and consequences of actions in order to understand and accept support systems for their recovery. It gives the individual the excuse to not even try to improve their own situation. It ultimately leads to a form of learned helplessness where the individual becomes completely dependent on other people. Self-pity is easily the most destructive of the non-pharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure and separates the victim from reality.

This refers to the tendency of self-pity to lead people back to their addiction. It provides justification for a relapse because it means the individual can blame other people, their circumstances, or their luck for the decision. The individual may sometimes have good reasons to feel sorry for themselves but indulging in such thinking is a risky and a waste of time. It is going to be far more productive if the individual uses their disappointments as a motivation to improve their life.

In recent empirical studies, what passes as clinical treatment for addiction is psychotherapy, which essentially consists of various forms of conversation or rhetoric. One person, the therapist, tries to influence another person, the patient, to change their values and behavior. While the conversation called therapy can be helpful, most of the conversation that occurs in therapy based on the disease model is potentially harmful. This is because the therapist misleads the patient into believing something that is simply untrue--that addiction is a disease, and, therefore, addicts cannot control their behavior. Preaching this falsehood to patients may encourage them to abandon any attempt to take responsibility for their actions.

I am not a believer in the NA/AA halls of worship by the addiction professionals as a cure-all for the addict – it is a tool in the toolbox for those who feel they need it as part of their recovery.  I have sat in many NA and AA meetings with and without my clients, and topics of discussion are not geared towards recovery or helping others in their recovery by longtime members. 

More often than not, addicts are rehashing their horror stories of drug use and remembering the great times being high and drunk and not discussing how to deal with life on life’s terms as their steps and traditions require.  Emotional sobriety is the ability to face life on life’s terms and it also means not being afraid to feel emotions. It is possible to become physically sober in a matter of hours, but it can take significantly longer in recovery to develop emotional sobriety.

Because emotional sobriety is a very strong issue that I believe in,  the programs and services that I instituted at The Lighthouse for Recovery Ministries are intended to provide for the human needs first (food, clothing, shelter, mental and medical treatment plans, jobs). Then, once our client is ready, we institute the means to eliminate demons of addictions, low self-esteem, mental illnesses and disorders through dedicated programs that enrich the lives of our clients and work towards a self-sufficient, future recovery without the need for addictions to control their lives.

We work with the families, loved ones and support units of the addicts in our Family of Addict Therapy programs in order to overcome co-dependency in parents, spouses and children.  We work with the addict and the family in controlled sessions while they are in our program to eliminate the stressful situations that have separated the boundaries in relationships and forge new and improved communications between all involved.   It is detrimental to the addict and their loved ones to return to the same environment without some form of sustained communications and involvement in realistic terms of what addiction is and how to overcome it. 

As a non-addicted former wife of four years of a chronic drug abuser and chronic alcoholic with 28 relapses prior to our divorce, I know from personal experience that no one can make an addict stop their addictions or enter into “true” recovery other than the addict themselves!  It is the story of Humpty Dumpty – all the recovery programs, NA/AA and rehabs in the world cannot put the addict back together without “the personal choice to stop”  being the glue to holding the broken pieces together again. 

Interestingly, being in recovery creates triggers the same way using creates trigger. This is one of the many reasons treatment centers want patients to stay longer than thirty days. Repeated attendance in group therapy and 12-step meetings results in cue-induced learning related to recovery.

For instance, when an addict hears in group settings, from lots of other addicts, that when they experience a craving to use they immediately call another sober person to ask for help, that individual eventually starts to visualize performing the same action in response to a craving. In so doing, the addict creates a trigger for recovery, and the next time a powerful craving hits he or she will pick up the phone and call a sober friend instead of the local dealer.

Thus, triggering cravings in a setting that’s safe and reassuring—a setting in which the person being triggered is unlikely to relapse—dissipates the anxiety and stress caused by the potential relapse trigger. Over time the addict subconsciously dissociates the cue from the past reward of using and associates it with the new reward of sobriety. Therefore, relapses cannot be part of the recovery process or the addict is just taking vacations in between using – which is a definitive description of chronic relapsers.














Let’s be honest and face facts, addicts are by nature liars, thieves, and master manipulators.  

  • They behave recklessly or put other people in danger.
  • They fail to hold a job, pay bills or keep up with other responsibilities.
  • They lack remorse for wrong-doing, including for hurting others and place value on nonconformity combined with weak commitment to socially valued goals for achievement.
  • They demonstrate impulsive behavior, have a sense of social alienation and tolerance for deviance with a lack of coping skills.

Ultimately in order for someone to succeed in addiction recovery they will need to hold themselves accountable for all the bad behavior that they engaged in while actively addicted, as well as for the choice to continue to stay in addiction while they did. It is also important for the recovering addict to acknowledge that s/he is accountable to all the people around the addict who were affected by the bad behavior and poor choices that tend to go hand in hand with addiction.

Addicts often have no concept of accountability and recovery, and they are often resistant to the accountability part. The problem is, it’s the vital means to the desired end. Without accountability, there is no real recovery.

When I say desired end, I presume that addict really wants to stay sober. This is an important qualification because not all that say they do really want it. What they may want is for things to change, the misery that accompanies active addiction, the money problems, the relationship troubles, and so on, without actually changing anything at all. In fact, most untreated addicts would like to learn how to use and not have any of these problems. Of course, they can’t, but exactly what has to change is still a mystery to them. Sure, they have ideas about what needs to change, but a deep realization that their whole way of dealing with life, and their place in it, has not yet occurred. This is recovery in a nutshell: a process of realization that they must change everything to be sober.

The process of early recovery requires surrender after surrender. It only begins with surrender of substance use. All the surrenders after this are the giving up of many ideas, old and new (from the untreated addict brain) that simply do not work in regards to recovery. This is why accountability and recovery go hand in hand. Addicts want to be left alone by others. They are resistant to doing things any other way than their way. And they will use a myriad of plausible reasons why they should do things their way.


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