Why do so many people relapse when they get out of residential treatment programs? Why do so many people relapse even though they are actively going to AA or NA meetings daily and working with a sponsor on the 12 steps? Why do so many people relapse after years of being clean and sober? What is this all about? Why does it happen?
When an individual first decides to change the trajectory of his life and become clean and sober he tends to feel good in the beginning of his detoxification. The body is slowly healing and the negative impact of drugs and alcohol has lessened or even ceased. The individual is starting to heal and feel better physically and as some even report, emotionally as well.
However, at some point the depressed and anxious feelings start to surface again. As the days pass, the individual begins to eventually feel the way that they felt prior to or during his active addiction to drugs and alcohol. The tendency of many individuals is to return to how they attempted to resolve or manage the situation in the past, to use drugs or alcohol.
It is my opinion that the individual who eventually relapses has not dealt with the true or root cause of his addiction to drugs and alcohol. While the recovery movement makes mention that resolution to drug and alcohol addiction requires a transformation of thought and attitude, I do not believe that the underlying, causal thinking and thought patterns have been adequately transformed.
Many individuals that are in the process of relapsing share about how they are feeling during this experience. With their sharing of depressed and anxious feelings there is little if any insight into the thinking or thoughts that created the emotional space that the individual has entered. For many there is little or no insight into what is truly happening or causing the experience only the urge or need to use.
It is my belief that both the treatment industry and the recovery movement in general do not adequately address the true or root cause of addiction. It is my belief that what is missed and even ignored in some cases is not how the individual is feeling but rather what thoughts and beliefs they are having or experiencing that are driving or causing their emotions and ultimately their behavior to use drugs and alcohol.
Dr. Harry Henshaw