12 Steps to a Relapse
The 12 step model for addiction recovery have long been accepted by the addiction treatment community as a way to stay clean and sober in the long term. Another commonly held idea in addiction treatment is that relapse starts long before you ever pick up a drink or a drug. These two ideas come together in the 12 steps to a relapse.
The Alcoholics Anonymous: Big Book says, “What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.” (pg.85) This means that even if we have worked all 12 steps, we can still relapse if we do not maintain our spiritual condition. If we become comfortable in our recovery and “rest on our laurels” we run the risk of relapse.
Sometimes old patterns of behavior begin to come back. This is where we may start to see a relapse begin. We may start working the 12 steps in reverse. This is what is known as the 12 steps to a relapse.
It begins when we get too busy to carry the message. Maybe we have replaced recovery with work, gym or a relationship. We get overconfident. We have less contact with other recovering alcoholics and meeting attendance starts to decline. This is the first step in the 12 steps to a relapse.
Next we may stop praying or meditating. We no longer seek conscious contact with a higher power. It may be subtle at first. But over time, we no longer pray or meditate at all.
The next step in the 12 steps to a relapse is the unworking of steps 10-4. We stop taking inventory and we stop making amends. Our character defects come back, and we are unwilling to have a higher power remove them. We lose sight of the moral inventory we once made and begin to repeat the same behavior we exhibited during addiction.
The 12 steps to a relapse continue when we take our will back. Not just a little, as we may have done in the past, but the whole thing. We start to try to run the show. The power we once believed could restore us to sanity is now out the window. We begin believe we can do it ourselves. We believe we now have the power, and we can manage our own lives. These are unworking steps three, two, and one in the 12 steps to a relapse. At this point, we are likely to pick up a drug or drink. We likely feel irritable, restless, and discontent. The “hole in the soul” has come back, and we seek other things to fill it.
The 12 steps to a relapse can be avoided if we are constantly moving forward and growing in our program. This is why it is especially important to have a home group and get to know the people in it. Others can sometimes recognize when we have become lacking in our program or when we have begun to work the 12 steps to a relapse. They may be able to catch it before it is too late.