The Number One Cause of Relapse
Let’s talk relapse. It’s been a persistent guest in my addiction treatment center lately — so let’s pay it the respect it deserves.
There are endless reasons why people relapse.
Sometimes we’re in the wrong place (bar) at the wrong time (hangry/sleep deprived) and can’t bear the weight of drinking cues. Sometimes we want to feel like we’re “a part of” the crew again. Sometimes we go stir-crazy and are desperate for relief from our boredom. Sometimes we fall in love with the romance of euphoric recall and block out the bad times. Sometimes we get a surprise prescription after dental work.
But far and away the “number one offender” for relapse — in my experience and many in the rooms of recovery — is resentment.
Resentments are like cancer. They eat away at us from the inside. They are a silent, invisible force dragging us to the dark side. They’re the devil on our shoulder telling us others are out to get us. They seductively convince us we’re victims of an unjust world, and we might as well just tie one on.
When I was drinking heavily, resentments ruled my life. I lived in a livid state of being — brimming with anger and hypervigilant for any interpersonal slight, no matter how small.
The alcoholic inside is a resentment-seeking missile — always activated and dead-set on self-destruction.
Didn’t snap the lid on my ice coffee closed? You’re unprofessional, disrespectful and trying to shit on my day before it’s begun.
Text me during a meeting? You’re always interrupting so I can’t focus and get anything done.
Walking too slow on the sidewalk? Send me a reminder email? Bring the wrong order to my table? Talk over me? Can’t read the tea leaves and predict what I never said I want? GRRRR…
It’s a common narrative in recovery. We have a million and one reasons to simmer in a pressure cooker of resentment.
Any honest person in recovery would admit they can hijack any “what” into a reason to pick up a bottle.