Yesterday, I was researching and writing blog copy for a client that offers drug and alcohol addiction treatment services. The topic of the post I was working on was RELAPSE.

RELAPSE: to fall or slip back into a former state, practice; to fall back into illness after convalescence or apparent recovery; to fall back into vice, wrongdoing, or error; backslide.

We all have patterns and habits that do not serve us. I believe an addiction is something that we do or think or consume regularly and repeatedly that does not serve us. It applies to far more than only drugs or alcohol.

Addictions do not only happen to “them.” They affect all of us. You, too.

The decision to take a new path, to leave the addiction behind, to recover from the pain and suffering we have caused ourselves (not to mention others), is not one to be taken lightly. It requires commitment, and support and often a different way of living in the every day. Making this change away from what may have been comfortable or usual into something new and different and unknown is brave as hell. It is also hard as hell. I’d venture to say most people never even attempt such changes.

Once the decision has been made and change is underway, well, then, the “fun” is just beginning. And by “fun,” I mean the really hard part. All sorts of temptations will reveal themselves to you. Old triggers are around more than ever. Whether the addiction you are recovering from is food-related, people-related, substance-related or emotional-pattern-related (to name but a few), suddenly it is all over the freakin’ place.

You are cutting sugar out of your life, and suddenly your boss is bringing in a dozen Dunkin Donuts every morning. And Boston Kremes are so your favorite.

You quit smoking but every situation seems perfect for that comforting and relaxing cigarette in your hand. Just one puff and you won’t inhale too deeply.

You are distancing yourself from the toxic person who sucks the life out of you, but she is reaching out to you more than ever. It is obvious she really needs your help and advice.

You keep finding yourself in conversation with the person who has been verbally abusive to you for years. This time he will talk to you respectfully and rationally.

And so on....

Relapse is common. It is to be expected. It is understandable. Almost inevitable. 

Relapse makes perfectionists (ahem) angry. Because it makes things decidedly not nice and neat and resolved. We may not expect it, so it floors us. Because we were sure this time was different. That this time we won’t be tempted. This time we’ll know what to do or say. This time the outcome will be different. This time I am different.

What we do with the relapse, after the relapse, is the true measure of how far we have come.

Do we beat ourselves up about it?

Do we try our hand at returning to the pre-relapse life, despite knowing it doesn’t work, it will never work?

Do we forgive — them, ourselves, everyone?

Do we fall back into that old pattern, believing that it will turn out differently, better this time?

Do we relapse, emphasis on the “re,” again and again?

Do we dig deeper, and realize there is so much more to let go?

Do we consider this to be another chance for a new lesson? A better lesson? The lesson we really need right now?

Do we see it as a reminder not that we are fucked up and mistake-prone but perfect and on the right path?


Ultimately, the relapse, perhaps even more so than the original decision, is the place where the real healing will happen. Sometimes, it is only in the relapse that these possibilities exist.

No one said it was easy. Or instant. Or the more well-traveled road.

But it ends up tasting way better than that Boston Kreme.