In the Atlanta area Sunrise Detox center, a recent conversation turned to relapse, and the “just one drink” question.

Suddenly it seems totally logical. It won’t hurt to have one. Of whatever. You’ve been working so hard to abstain from substances or behaviors that are detrimental to you, yet suddenly it seems rational to the point of thinking, “Why didn’t I realize this before?”

Relapse Reasons: There are Many

It’s likely that two things have happened. You have changed circumstances, such as getting a job where everyone goes out together for happy hour or running into an old friend you used with, and hanging out. Maybe you’ve been listening to someone who takes their own relapse lightly and doesn’t admit to the pain it has brought him/her. Or you may have tapped into resentment or rage. You may, for example, feel self-pitying, jealous or vengeful. Perhaps you’ve skipped a meal and your blood sugar is low. Whatever has happened, has created in you a change of perspective. Your thought process shifts. What seemed like anathema before, now seems like your birthright, suddenly revealed.

The first step reminds us that going back is not an option.

The First Step: We Need to move Forward

But I said two things have happened and the other is that a reservation has been nurtured deep inside and today is it’s day. A justification, a loss of perspective, and a treasured belief immersed in the the shadowy recesses of your consciousness: the perfect storm is born. Supporting relapse.

Just One Drink can lead to Relapse

That one pill, toke, beer, scratch-off ticket or chocolate cake ala mode immediately activates the brain’s addictive response. You may never know exactly when the relapse began but you can be sure of the moment it became official. Your thinking may be that just once is worth a little discomfort and after that one time, you’ll stop. It’s a hard way to learn about powerlessness but once the addiction is triggered you can’t possibly predict where the relapse will end.

Figuring Out Why is the Key to Success

If you’ve gone to the trouble of working your recovery with the Step-work, the meetings, the lifestyle changes and more, there must be a very good reason. You were motivated to change because it finally became (clearly) more painful to continue with your addiction than to stop. At some point you must have become aware that you could not do this on your own, that it was too great a battle, this fight with yourself. You had to have help because, whether you used that word or not, you were powerless. You were beaten.

If You’re Not Moving Forward, Are you Moving Backwards?

A reservation can’t exist in the same mind that is firmly convinced it is powerless over the outcome of any sort of acting out that you might do. You may have heard in the rooms of AA, NA, OA or whatever A you attend, that if you’re not moving forward in your recovery, you’re moving backward. There is no standing still. If you begin to believe that using one of anything that you are addictively drawn to is OK and that you are not powerless over your activated addiction, you simply can’t be moving forward.

Your First Recovery is a Gift

It’s worth remembering, too, something else you’ve heard in the 12-Step rooms. That the first time you’re in recovery it is a gift. After that, after you relapse, you have to do the work to get back into recovery

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