I think one of the main reasons people relapse is they stop working their program of recovery. In my years as an addictions counselor I have heard it over and over again when I ask what led up to a relapse…”I quit working the program.”

There are many ways you can quit working the program. We are all different and what leads to relapse might be different. At least, the details are different, but, there are some definite consistent themes. I am going to list them here. See if you can relate to any of these.

1. After a period of sobriety you begin to think you might be able to return to “social drinking” or “using.” I have known a handful of people over the years who did return to “social” use and did not have problems. But, of all the people I have known in this field I can count the one who successfully went back to social use without any substance related problem on one hand. And the truth is even with those few they may have returned to problematic use down the road after I moved away, or whatever.

The bottom line is this: if your use was causing you problems then you will probably start having problems again if you start using again. I have seen this over and over again.

2. People stop going to meetings. Or, they stop going to as many meetings. Or, they stop going to their “home group” where people know them and hold them accountable. It’s true, after a good period of sobriety you may not need to go to “as many meetings” as you did at first, but I recommend everyone to continue going to their home group, I think it is essential.

3. People stop learning about themselves, their addiction, what triggers their cravings. They stop reading program literature—Big Book or the NA Basic Text. Behind this is the idea they already know all the answers. For me, the me I learn the more I realize how little I really know. We have to keep growing. Get involved in a Step Study meeting.

4. People either never get a sponsor or they stop talking with them or stop working with them to help continue their recovery. I don’t know how many times I have spoken with people in their first year of sobriety about phone numbers they have gotten at meetings. Most of them have collected many numbers but the problem is they have never called the people. If you don’t phone a person (sponsor or other) and get in the habit of “checking in with them” or just talking it is very unlikely you will call that number that has been sitting in your wallet for 6 months when you are struggling and really need to talk with someone. I recommend you get numbers and start calling the people at least one time a week just to say “I have your number and I might need to call you if I start craving.” That is why they gave you the number in the first place.

Of course calling someone who gave you their number is not the same as “working with a sponsor.” Working with a sponsor goes much deeper. You will be working with them on the 12 Steps and probably should call them daily or at least every other day in early recovery. Later on you might only call them one or two times a week but that should come much later. So, that leads to the next and last thing.

5. People don’t work the Steps or they don’t work them all. Working the Steps is hard work—physically and emotionally. Working the Steps makes you dig deep down into the “real you.” The you that people don’t usually see. The real thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs… not to mention the things you have done that no one knows about. But, I believe working the Steps is essential to getting the full benefit of working the program.

The Steps are the foundation of your recovery. Thoroughly working all of the Steps is the path to healthy recovery. Many of the people I have worked with have stopped working the Steps (usually around Step 4 or 5) because they are difficult and possibly they don’t feel comfortable with how honest they must be—honest with themselves and others.

So, There they are…the top 5 reasons people don’t work the program. This is what I have observed over and over again with the clients I have worked with. Did you find yourself in any of these?

So, how do you Work the Program?

* Don’t drink or use ever again, no matter what.
* Go to meetings, especially you home group.
* Read your manual (Big Book or Basic Text) and other literature about recovery.
* Get and use a sponsor.
* Work the Steps with your sponsor.

I hope you have found something in this that encourages you to work the program.


Author's Bio: 

Tim has a masters degree in Mental Health Counseling and is a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor. He has 20 years of experience as a therapist working with mental health, addictions, and co-occurring disorders.

Tim states, "I am very passionate about living a balanced, healthy life in recovery since I know the benefits in my life and struggles with additive behaviors."