Why Do Some People Return to Active Addiction?

By: Marilyn L. Davis


“I guess my biggest problem is that I find it easier to return to active addiction than to carry through.” ― S.A. Tawks, Mule


While we’ll get any number of answers from people, the usual excuses for returning to active addiction seem to fit into the following:


“I couldn’t deal with my emotions.”


For most of us, the emotional roller coaster in early recovery is sometimes overwhelming. Our feelings get numbed in our addictions, and then when they return in our recovery, this flood of emotions is stressful. We just want some relief from them. I get that. 

Some solutions that worked for me were:

  1. Keeping a journal
  2. Talking to my sponsor
  3. Sharing in  recovery support meetings

These three simple things helped relieve some of the overwhelming feelings, let me know I wasn’t alone, and didn’t have to relapse over them.  

It’s reassuring when we put out that we’re all over the map with our feelings that others have experienced the same thing and managed not to relapse. The next step is to ask them what they did to deal with their feelings and then follow through on the suggestions.


“I lost my gratitude for what I’d gotten back.”


Early recovery is a time of unrealistic gratitude for many. It’s sometimes called the ‘pink cloud.’ We’re say that we’re open to all experiences telling ourselves that there are lessons here and we’re so grateful for them.

We prattle on about our families loving us again, getting a job, not having probation/parole/DFACS/cops or other agencies hounding us.i am grateful for from addict 2 advocate marilyn l davis gratitude 

There is nothing wrong with gratitude; it’s just a hard attitude to keep up. And that’s the problem; keeping that gratitude. Because one day, we will not feel grateful for much of anything. My sponsor told me never to make a gratitude list when I was ungrateful; that I’d only list the obvious. 

I was to make a gratitude list on a day when I genuinely felt grateful and then pull it out when I wasn't feeling it. Click To Tweet


“I lost my motivation to stay clean.”


Recovery is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. In other words, we’re in this for the long haul. Too many people want to accomplish and repair everything – relationships, careers, education, finances, and health within their first 90 days. This sets up unrealistic expectations of what a person can do in a limited amount of time. With all of those unrealistic expectations, most people run out of steam.

There's also the issue of external and internal motivation. I got clean because I wanted to keep my job - external motivation. Six months into my recovery, I stayed clean because I was worth it - internal motivation. Click To Tweet

One is not necessarily better than the other. I think a lot of us don’t believe we are worth it in early recovery so having some external motivation is okay.

Goals and sub-goals also work to keep us motivated. When you carry out a small goal, it’s okay to feel proud, and that may motivate you to tackle a harder one.


“I don’t like those meetings; everyone is an expert.”


Sure, there are recovery gurus who've set themselves up as the authority. Solution? Don't listen to the messenger, but the message. Click To Tweet

I was always annoyed at a man in one of my first meetings. Granted, he had double-digit years, but I knew he’d been through three divorces, didn’t see his children, filed bankruptcy twice, and thought he was God’s gift to women. 

It was exceedingly difficult to take anything he said about recovery seriously when his life was such a mess. However, he was on Probation, and they screened him twice a week, so unless he was doing something unknown to pass his screens, he was staying clean.

I was still learning to stay clean, and one day, I just decided not to get up and get coffee when he started talking. An amazing thing happened, I actually listened, and he spoke of his daily reading of a meditation book and then made an effort to put the intention into action for the day. 

Whether or not I thought he used the intention in his day didn’t matter, his advice was sound. I started trying it, and it gave me a purpose for each day that was spiritual. That was progress for me.



“No one understands me; I can’t find the right help.” 


Why Do Some People Return to Active Addiction? marilyn l davis from addict 2 advocate

While we are all different, we are all similar as well. It’s essential that we find people who have experienced some of the same issues and problems we’ve faced and ask them how they dealt with them.

I've never been to a meeting where someone was wearing a sign reading I offer help and advice, no, I had to ask for help. Click To Tweet

That’s sometimes the biggest problem, asking others for guidance. I personally had no trouble asking my dope dealer if he had anything better, newer, or quicker. I had to use this same willingness when I got into recovery.

Remember that egotistical man I mentioned? He became a go-to for recovery answers – not coffee, financial advice, or parenting, but a resource for how to stay clean.


The all-time, right every time solution?  


I made a commitment in my early recovery to not pick up regardless of how I felt, whether I was grateful or not, if going to a meeting or seeing my sponsor seemed daunting, or that egotistical guru was telling his story.

I also decided that if someone had one more day than I did, they knew something about staying clean that I didn’t. So far, that’s worked for thirty-one years, all because I didn’t pick up again, learned from others, and share what’s worked for me.

How’s your recovery? What excuses do you have solutions for that would help someone not relapse? That’s the power of sharing; we free up space within us for what we need to learn when we tell others what worked for us.


Writing, and recovery heals the heart




What solutions have you found in your recovery? They just might help someone struggling with their addictions. Consider a guest post and offer help today. 


Leave a Reply

2 thoughts on “Why Do Some People Return to Active Addiction?

  1. One of the hardest things to deal with in early recovery is the wealth of emotions. The emotions that have been bottled up for years sometimes, now there is no substance to help hide from them anymore. It’s like all of a sudden you are this big raw wound of emotion. It’s ok to have emotions though. Allow yourself to cry, allow yourself to fear, allow yourself to laugh at stupid things (maybe even stupid things you did). This is a good thing. Just don’t allow yourself to play the victim card over your emotions. Feel them, embrace them, and wear them openly. And when they seem too much to bear, talk to someone about them, or journal about them if you don’t have any one to talk to. Just don’t hide from them. They are a part of you now, a wonderful part of life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.