Relapse is one of the greatest fears that people in recovery have, and understandably so. So many drug addicts and alcoholics suffer the insanity and hell that characterizes a terrible using spree, and it becomes such a horrible experience that when they finally get sober, naturally there would be a fear surrounding going back out and using again. And yet relapse is so common. Everyone in recovery asks themselves the same question at some point, or even throughout their recovery. How do I prevent relapsing?
Though not the only way of seeking long term abstinence from drugs and alcohol, one tried and tested approach to getting sober and staying sober is following the principles outlined in the first 164 pages of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, and working through the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous to experience a psychic change as the result of having a spiritual experience unique to each individual. This is the most common way to get sober.
Staying sober and preventing relapse is also outlined in the Big Book. The program outlined there is one of constant action, and it is generally the case that those who consistently follow the guidelines of the 12 Steps, and continue to take action on a daily basis, stay sober. What does that action look like? Establishing and maintaining a connection to a power greater than oneself, whether they choose to refer to this power as God, Creator of the Universe, or something else, is key. Deciding what to believe in can be challenging, particularly for those that have had religious opinions and views inflicted upon them throughout their lives, but a careful and sincere approach to spirituality is a powerful gateway to having a spiritual experience. Maintaining this connection requires action, whether it be meditating to seek guidance on personal matters or praying to establish open dialogue with one’s higher power.
Another form of action that prevents relapse is constantly looking to help others, particularly alcoholics. It is said that “Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics.” (Alcoholics Anonymous 89). Constantly finding ways to combat the idea that what we as individuals want is the most important thing has the effect of replacing ego with enlightened self-interest. It is true that we get gratitude from helping others, and that is the purest form of self love. This action will prevent a relapse when all other options fail.
The greatest gifts that sobriety gives addicts and alcoholics is that they have the privilege of helping others after leading a life that was consumed with selfishness, and the grace that comes with establishing and maintaining a connection with a higher power of their own understanding. Through these tools, as well as practicing the principles outlined in the 12 Steps, one can expect to stay sober, and life a full life.