The 4 Most Common Causes of Addiction Relapse

In working for years with both the family and their loved ones' substance abuse issues, I have concluded that even though there are a myriad of reasons for relapse, there are four basic ones that can become an easy switch to flip.
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In working for years with both the family and their loved ones' substance abuse issues, I have concluded that even though there are a myriad of reasons for relapse, there are four basic ones that can become an easy switch to flip.

They are expectations, boredom, fear and resentment. This blog will explore boredom and fear, the following week we'll look at expectations and resentments.

All of these represent emotional challenges for the alcoholic/addict and might present kryptonite to some people in recovery, regardless of how long they've been sober or how strong their program. In addition, remember that maybe one or more of these dispositions might have been a major contributor to their original route to addiction in the first place.


As the statement goes, "An idle mind is the devil's playground." This is true for both the "healthy" individual and the alcoholic/addict, but boredom can be a major contributing factor in addiction and relapse.

Many people find themselves eating too much, gambling, shopping to excess or indulging in other vices out of boredom. Therefore, routine and concrete scheduling can be a lifesaver for the alcoholic/addict. Knowing where to be and when to be there, as well as being accountable to someone or something else, provides a safe framework for the person who is new in recovery.

A lackluster disposition and attitude along with "making plans to make plans" can indicate that a person may have an issue with boredom. They might find themselves sluggish or having gotten used to putting off goals and dreams to another time, another day. It takes a lot of effort and persistence to shake the alcoholic/addict out of their comfort zone of boredom, for it has often been a big part of the person's lifestyle for many years.

Boredom is a state of mind. They may shut out the world by sleeping, vegging in front of the television or computer or just hanging out listening to music. If they get bored of being bored, drugs or alcohol are an easy (not much effort required) place to go for relief. They need to snap themselves out of boredom, and this takes effort and commitment.

A schedule, coupled with passion for a new hobby or sporting activity, allows the alcoholic/addict to successfully and happily break the cycle of boredom. Though you don't want to have to cajole them out of boredom and then babysit your efforts, you can entertain some options toward a common hobby or event.

Maybe plan a trip and enlist your loved one to aid you in these plans. If your loved one shows a propensity for classic cars or hot rods, buy an old one and refurbish it together. Direction, commitment and interest could help stimulate your loved one away from this state of boredom.


Is the fear imagined or real? Is the fear based in reality (a head-on car collision) or rooted in the unknown? Whether an alcoholic/addict or not, most fear that anyone experiences is imagined. In fearing the unknown, we distrust an outcome and fear not being in control of what may or may not happen.

The alcoholic/addict might find solace in reverting to their history of fears, whether it stems from childhood, adolescence or beyond. They may be fearful of stepping outside their comfort zone as they see their results as negative or unsatisfying. This can surely impair their effort to make important changes in life.

History is a teacher, so it makes sense that if for so long the alcoholic/addict has been fearful to take chances, make uncomfortable decisions or really face life on life's terms, then relapsing to a familiar place may be more soothing than finding themselves in a death grip of fear. They may feel that relapse and the relief of self-medicating is their only option. Sometimes the fear of better days and how to handle them or if they will be able to handle them can take the disguise of sabotage.

Unlike boredom, where the family and others can participate in assisting their loved one into a routine, fear is lodged personally in the caverns of the alcoholic/addict. Sure, the family can help dispel those fears, encourage the alcoholic/addict that there is nothing to fear and that even failure will be worth the learning experience.

But hopefully, as our loved one continues to have victories, small or large, they will grow to trust that the outcome is not as fearful as they might have once thought.

Please check back next week when I explore the other two main dispositions of relapse: expectations and resentments.

If I can be of service, please visit my website, and I invite you to explore my new book "Reclaim Your Life -- You and the Alcoholic/Addict" at"

I will be offering a special holiday counseling session focused on "Are your boundaries wrapped up tight for the holidays?" More information on my website.

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