Is relapse really a part of recovery?

Found this online, and thought it could be relevant to the conversations that happen here, as I’ve seen the phrase “relapse is a part of recovery” from time to time since joining here in 2018. I’m definitely not trying to stir shit up, just looking for people’s opinions and hoping to get some healthy conversation started.

For me, and my journey that began 8 years ago, I think the times I tried sobering up, only to drink again, was proof that I wasn’t committed to myself and my recovery, and not something that “needed to happen” to get me where I am today.


It doesn’t have to be, but it often is. I don’t like when it’s used in the context of being an excuse for a relapse, that’s just lazy.


From a clinical standpoint I absolutely agree with the main points of the article. I often see my client’s relapse (after extended periods of sobriety) and often times the consequences are quite harsh and immediate. I had a guy who was kicked out sober living and is now on the streets and actively using again as a result of one failed drug test. It’s the dead of winter in one of the coldest places in the Eastern US. As a result of his lost housing he has been unable to stay engaged in any meaningful services (Mental Health and job training). One failed drug test has caused my client’s life to spiral out of control. He has lost any semblance of recovery. He has lost basically everything in less than a month as a result of one slip. The chances of him becoming re-engaged are low. Unfortunately he will eventually slip through the cracks and be lost to all services. I am currently the only support system he has. In short time he will also lose his food stamps and other public benefits as a result of being homeless and being out of compliance with program requirements. I am sure if you were to ask my client he would be very hard pressed to tell you how this relapse is part of his recovery.

I can share about 12 other stories all with similar circumstances and outcomes.


I personally think that each time I hit that reset it was another lesson to be learned. I’m disappointed in myself that I “gave up” for 8 months before hitting my rock bottom. That wake up call lead me to this point. I’m in day 4 and committed. I feel if I didnt go through those lessons (even if I stayed sober for a year plus), I wouldnt have learned anything at all and would eventually fall back into the endless drinking routine again. That may not be everyone’s view, but that’s how I feel about relapses during recovery.


For me my only relapse occurred at around 90 days in and was like a second confirmation/wake up call of why I don’t use that drug because I didn’t obviously didn’t get it at first… I should have but I didn’t fully learn what I had to do… I found some that I had his in a purse from when I was using rather than throwing it away out of fear of getting caught with it I forgot about it but amazing enough it was the first thing that I ran to on that bad day, which was setting myself up for future failure and it did because I held on to it… I learned from it… I’m now 655 days past that… It also has given me the ability to say no thank you when it’s been offered to me in these days that I’m building and is giving me knowledge of who I shouldn’t be spending unsupervised time with because I didn’t need to be around that on a bad day… Now… It’s nothing I think about using… It’s nothing I ever want again… Not even on my worst day… That’s just me… I think it’s fair to say that no one person is the same in their ability to learn, we all learn in different ways and no two people are even the same in circumstances… :blush:


I agree with the article and I feel like relapses are part of our illness. After being sober for 3 years I relapsed to my addiction and a new DoC because I was/am still ill.

I fully believe that when a person is dealing with every tiny aspect of their physical health, mental health and spiritual health that sobriety with out relapse is possible. I also believe that this is when we are really healing. It may take some of us longer to get there and it may take different way to get there but with hard work and awareness it is possible.

Just my opinion though if course. :slightly_smiling_face:


To me it’s like saying that dying is a part of having cancer. Lots of people get cancer and lots of people don’t die.

Now, I have seen many people on here say that they relapse because they heard that relapse is a part of recovery. Bullocks! They relapsed because the wanted an excuse and so they found one.

Relapse is part of MANY of our stories. And that’s just fine. Shit happens and it takes what it takes. But just because this is true, it does not make relapse a part of recovery. There are no absolutes. That would be like saying that Happiness is part of recovery. It might happen, but it might not.


Relapse is not a part of recovery…that is saying that all people on their journey to recovery MUST relapse otherwise they won’t fully attain recovery. BS

Relapse is a part of some people’s journey to recovery. Absolute truth. I relapsed a few times. I am stronger because of those relapses. But did I need to relapse? NO. Do I wish I had never relapsed? HELL YES!!

edit: I replied without reading the link…but I’m about to read it now. I just felt I had to respond based on the “phrase”.


I believe at the beginning of any journey it’s not all steps forward there has and always will be 2steps bk


It’s not a requirement. But it does happen. It’s not a mistake if you learn from it.


From the paper…

“Relapse is part of recovery” offers the person seeking recovery an
invitation and excuse for continued use.

100% agree with this one…because it is what I did. I read over and over that “relapse is a part of recovery” so when I had my first temptation I thought “well, everyone else does it so it’s okay if I do too”.

The phrase is a dangerous phrase to throw around. Especially since you never know which relapse will be the one that leads to death!!


I liked it when I heard someone say: Relapse is not a part of recovery, it’s a part of addiction. I relapsed a lot…I was still in an addict state of mind. once I managed to change my mindset to recovery…surprise surprise, I haven’t relapsed. What I mean with this change of mindset is simply Step one. Admitted that I was powerless over alcohol and that my life had truly become unmanageable.
Another way I look at it is that I changed my mindset from “alcohol does me some good” to the truth…alcohol will never give me anything positive


This. So This.

A relapse is not part of the recovery process. It is an INTENTIONAL interruption of the recovery process.


Im going to a old timers discussion meeting tonight ill bring this question up most of the guys there are all over 30 years sober say what their thoughts are ,cant ask the guys in the grave yard who thought that giving it another go was apart of recovery ,


Me…I did this…

And yep…this is exactly it. But I LET the previous phrase allow me to use it as an excuse. I wonder if people would say it differently might my mindset have also been a bit different.

But ultimately, I, like everyone else, relapsed because I let myself relapse…or because I wasn’t really ready to quit…I don’t know. It’s impossible to know what might have been. All I know is that I am here right now.


if you have relapsed and carried on to achieve long term sobriety then obviously it must be part of your recovery bc it happened. Thats like asking is an apple part of an apple pie. It went through a process and the final result is a better version of
itself. ( custard optional).


So much this. I relapsed after over a year. But I know I had not really gotten to the point I WANTED to be sober. I was an active addict who wasn’t currently using, but i was very much still an addict. Relapse wasn’t in recovery.

I’m 41 days into sobriety again and the difference in this time and last time feels like a different person experienced it. I truly, truly want it this time. I am, for the first time ever, truly IN recovery.


Nice I’m glad you see it for what it is

I think that once we have admitted that we have a problem and start to actively seek sobriety then yes there will be some false starts. It’s only natural, we don’t know what’s involved. Baby steps. We learn from each time, or we should. Until, one day it sticks.
Imho it should in no way be treated as casually as some would write it.
It’s not what the aim is at all.
Just my thoughts.