The key problem with addiction is that except for the discomfort—and it can be extreme—of withdrawal, stopping isn’t that hard. Most addicts go to great lengths to clean up once in a while. The real problem is staying stopped. Without help, the addict has no idea how to prevent relapse, and picking up is merely a matter of time.
A good treatment program does a lot more than simply interrupt the continuity of addiction. The goal of treatment is to prepare an addict to live—after treatment—free from drugs and alcohol. If you are an addict, your odds for success in treatment are directly proportional to your willingness to participate—to listen with an open mind and take actions as suggested. This is still the case when treatment is completed: continuing recovery is contingent on maintaining the attitude and actions we learn during treatment, and on building on that foundation on an ongoing basis.
The chief culprits that lead to relapse are fear, resentment, expectations, and boredom. The first three or closely related. We have expectations about people or circumstances, and when they are not met we feel frustrated and resentful. Underneath it all is a pervasive fear that we won’t get our way, coupled with the false belief that our way is the correct and only acceptable one. Recovery from addiction involves a re-education about the way the world works and our place in it. Treatment offers tools in dealing with fear, resentment, and expectations. The key to avoiding relapse is to utilize these tools—to make habits out of them so that they become, eventually, second nature.
Boredom can be a killer—it can make picking up seem like the only viable alternative. Involvement in a support group and willingness to take helpful action is a meaningful cure for boredom. Showing up early and making coffee for your group may seem like a chore, but it’s a choice for recovery. We may not have a choice to pick up or not, but every fork in the road can be viewed as a choice to remain on the recovery path or to veer off into old behavior and eventual relapse.