When we learn to drive a car, the instructor tells us about the pedals, gears, that impossible thing called parallel parking, and loads of other stuff. But not once do I recall the driving instructor telling me that getting in a crash was part of the driving process.

Yet that’s exactly the same kind of “instruction” I’ve heard more than once in recovery circles. People have said they’ve been told that relapse is an inevitable part of the recovery process – maybe even pointing out that it happens right here, when they’re about X amount of days into their recovery.


Sure, relapse happens. Just like car crashes happen. But not every driver is destined to crash, and not every person is recovery is destined to relapse.

Thinking that relapse is an inevitable part of the recovery process is a dangerous thought indeed. Here’s why.

It plants the idea of an easy-out option

When I entered recovery in 1999, it was drummed into my head that you don’t drink NO MATTER WHAT. It doesn’t matter if your house is on fire, your hair is on fire or you haven’t slept in four whole days because you’re going through alcohol withdrawal.

You don’t drink. You call someone. You pray. You read recovery literature. You run around the block until your legs give out. You scream into a pillow. But you don’t drink, no matter what. The idea of drinking is NOT even part of the equation.

If you’re told relapse is inevitable, it not only becomes part of the equation, but it becomes a feasible solution to any type of tragedy or discomfort. The point of recovery is to learn to live through tragedy or discomfort WITHOUT a drink or drug. Not with a relapse.

It can hinder you from giving recovery your all

If you knew you were going to get in a car crash, would you really care if your car got dinged up, scratched up or dented in the back bumper when you backed into a light pole? Probably not, since you’re figuring the entire car is destined to get messed up in a crash anyway.

The same idea holds true for recovery. Why bother taking extra precautions and extra care if all you’re going to do is go out and drink or use anyway, right? Right.

It can become a self-fulfilling prophecy

You know when you wake up and say, “This is going to be a crummy day” – and then you have a crummy day? The same thing can happen with thoughts of relapse. Think that you’ll relapse, and you have a good chance of doing so. Think that you won’t drink or drug NO MATTER WHAT, and you have a good chance of finding other tools to use to get through life’s turbulence, strangeness and pain.

relapse begins in the mind

Relapse begins in the mind

Regardless of what events or excuses people may claim led to their relapse, the truth is that relapse starts in the mind. And it’s more likely to start if the brain thinks it’s not only OK to relapse, but actually EXPECTED.

If relapse does happen, it doesn’t make people bad or evil. In fact, some of the wisest folks I have met in recovery have been through a relapse. It taught them things they may not have otherwise learned. And it also made them dive into a recovery program even harder and deeper than some others.

The best course of action to take is to treat relapse as something that can and does happen – but not something that MUST and will happen. Keep that same mindset for car crashes, and you might just have a spotless driving record, too.

Stay strong. Stay sober. And schedule a free consultation if you want help with it.

I help amazingly creative souls who want more out of life than sleep-work-sleep get their dazzle back so they rock their world.

Rynski 3-Minute Share: Is relapse part of recovery?

Podcast: Is relapse part of recovery?

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