How to Avoid Chronic Relapse

by Patrick Meninga

chronic-relapse-240pxOne of the problems for people who leave alcoholism treatment is the possibility of relapse. Not only this, but many people in early recovery are prone to chronic relapse. That is, they just keep relapsing over and over again in spite of their best efforts.

Once you find yourself in a pattern of chronic relapse it can be very difficult to break free from this. Because now that has become “your story,” that is what you do. You sober up, try again, and then you relapse. It is almost like you are expecting to relapse, or you have somehow given yourself permission to relapse because that is what always happens to you anyway.

Well, there has to be a way to break out of this pattern if you ever want to enjoy a better life in recovery. And in order to break free from this cycle of chronic relapse you are going to have to surrender.

First and by far the most important: Surrender to win!

The problem with the concept of surrender is that you cannot seem to force it on yourself. It is a completely binary state of being. It is like a light switch that is either “on” or “off.” You are either in a state of total and complete surrender, or you are not. It is as simple as that. There is absolutely nothing in between the two.

If you are not yet in the state of surrender, it is very possible that you are still being pushed into recovery for other reasons. Perhaps your family or your spouse encourages you to go to rehab in order to get help for your problem. You admit that you have a drinking problem so you agree to go to rehab. Does this mean that you are in a state of total and complete surrender? Not necessarily.

Unfortunately there is a gap. The gap is this:

Some alcoholics will become willing to seek treatment or get help, but at the same time they may not be in a state of total and complete surrender. So they are in between. At least they are willing to get help, and this is a good start. But ultimately they will not remain sober if they are not at the turning point, if they have not hit bottom, if they are not in total surrender.

So how do you know when you are in a state of total and complete surrender?

For one thing, you almost never know it if you are not there yet. So if you are not in a state of surrender then you will be clueless. You will hope that you are in a state of surrender, but you almost certainly will not be. If you have to wonder about it, then you are not at your bottom. If you think you might be at surrender, maybe, then you are probably not.

On the other hand, if you have hit bottom and you are in state of true surrender, you will know it for sure. See the difference? So if you are not in surrender you will wonder and be unsure of yourself. But if you are at a state of true surrender then you will know it right down to your bones.

This is because the state of true surrender is almost like an ego death. You will throw caution to the wind and become willing to face your greatest fears in order to escape the misery and pain of addiction. This is a big deal. In a way it feels almost like a suicide of sorts, because you have essentially killed your ego. When you finally reach this state of being, you will know it. It will become obvious to you that you have finally surrendered.

How to follow through and take action in early recovery

Chronic relapse is a red flag. It means that you aren’t doing something right in your recovery.

Recovery is nothing if not positive change and positive action. Of course to achieve that ideal you have to follow through and actually listen to new ideas. You have to take advice from other people and put those new concepts into action.

Many people in early recovery fail to do this. They fail to do this in many different ways and on many different levels. So they fail to follow through, they fail to take action, they fail to make the necessary changes in order to put their life back on course.

A great example of this can be seen post-treatment. The people in treatment make certain recommendations to you so that you don’t just walk out of rehab and then fall flat on your face. They want you to succeed so they try to encourage you to seek out support. So they tell you things such as: “Go to AA meetings every day, get a sponsor and call them every day, call your peers in recovery, work the steps, go to outpatient therapy, get a counselor or therapist,” and so on.

Now, some people who get out of rehab start taking these suggestions and they implement them in their life. They work hard at it and they take action. These are the people who generally get decent results. These are the people who “make it.”

I can tell you that the people who are successful are taking massive action. They are not just getting out of treatment. They are following through, they are taking all of the suggestions, and they are pushing themselves to make positive changes. They go to meetings, they go to therapy, they follow through in every way. Those are the people who are generally successful.

You want to be one of those people who “makes it.” So follow through.

What are you missing if you keep relapsing?

If you continue to relapse then you are either not fully surrendered or you are not doing the work. It is one of the two. Either you have the wrong attitude (not surrendered) or you have the wrong action (not doing the work). It is always going to be one of those two elements that is holding you back.

Surrender completely and then commit to doing the work. This is the path to continuous growth.


Excerpted and reprinted by kind permission of the author. The complete article and more of his writings on recovery can be found at

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Renascent Alumni
Members of Renascent's alumni community carry the message by sharing their experiences and perspectives on addiction and recovery. To contribute your alumni perspective, please email