People relapse at an alarming rate. Why is that? Why do people relapse when using drugs or drinking has caused so much pain and suffering in their lives. The reason has to do with addiction and the brain.
Creatures Of Habit
People are creatures of habit. Habit forms much of our lives. We eat the same foods for breakfast most of the time. We go through the same rituals in the morning to start the day. We drive the same roads to get to places. We shop at the same stores all the time.
When we do simple ordinary things by habit, we do not have to worry about them. They are automatic and free us up to think about more important things. Habits save us energy. Not having to think about simple activities reduces the energy involved in having to concentrate.
Addiction Is Deeply Ingrained
Addiction is a deep seated habit. That is why there are so many relapses. When you quit using drugs or drinking, you do not get rid of the habit itself. You use your willpower to overcome the habit. You stop using by the power of faith and your new sober community. But the habit is still there.
Moderation Is A Habit
People who are not alcoholics can go to a bar and have a couple of drinks and go home and not drink again for weeks on months or years. They have a beer here and a glass of wine there. They can do this because this was their habit. They habitually, just had a couple and that was it. Moderation has been one of their habits.
The Habit Of Excess
When the addict drinks or uses, it is always to excess. So, when the recovering addict was addicted, the habit that they formed was one of excess. This is the key to understanding relapses.
The alcoholic cannot have just one drink because that one drink triggers the deeply seated habit of drinking to excess. That powerful habit takes over almost always. The impulse to drink to excess is so powerful that it overwhelms recovering addicts and sinks them right back into their full addiction. We see this every day in our lives or through accounts of celebrities that are addicts.
A Relapse Can Happen Any Time
Relapses happen at any stage of recovery and even after many many years. The habit, deeply seated in the mind, never really goes away. That is why they say, once an addict, always an addict. They only way to combat addiction that is proven to be effective is full abstinence.
When you are young, it is hard to give up part of what was your life. Younger addicts are more prone to relapse because of the temptation is strong. But full abstinence and constant vigil are the foundations for recovery.