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Written by Lisa Wells, Counseling Director at NewDay Center

As one pursues a life of freedom – a life free of addiction and filled with God’s provision, peace and purpose- it is also important to be aware of situations one may encounter that will tempt them to return to a lifestyle of using. Although this list is not all-inclusive, here are eight major reasons people return to use:


False Sobriety.

Some people relapse because their season of sobriety was forced and/or mainly external. In other words, they never had a genuine internal desire to change. This is critical because what people believe and really want is much more powerful behaviors they feel are forced on them.


Unresolved Issues.

Abusing a substance is like the tip of an iceberg. There are usually deeper issues, such as anxiety, depression, unresolved trauma, grief, family conflict, job loss, or anger that are also present. Some mistakenly think that getting “cleaned up” will solve everything. However, returning to use is a serious risk if one has never confronted and dealt with these issues.


Sobriety feels Dull.

The feeling of being high, the excitement associated with obtaining an illegal substance, and the social interaction of drinking or drug friends become a person’s new definition of normal When those activities are missing, life can feel dull. To get back to a higher level of activity and excitement, return to use becomes a real risk.


Pain Forgetfulness.

After a season of sobriety, it is tempting and easy to forget about all the pain and problems that addictive behavior produced. At times, this is because the drugs or alcohol prevented you from experiencing or comprehending the full impact of the behavior.


Exaggerated Pleasure Memories.

It is very common to look back at a season of alcohol or drug use and exaggerate how good it was. This is what occasionally happens when those in recovery begin telling, “war stories” about their use. What was really dangerous, deadly, and painful is converted into exciting stories that become a real temptation to return to using.


Fear of the Unknown.

Addiction has become a lifestyle for many people. For them, sobriety feels like moving to a foreign country – it’s a new and different culture, which leads to a certain level of fear about how they may adapt or handle it.


Physical/Neurological Adaptation.

Alcohol and drug use change the way a person’s body and brain chemistry function. In some cases, it alters the normal production of dopamine and can affect the production of serotonin or endorphins. As use is prolonged, the body “forgets” how to produce a natural balance of these chemicals, enhancing the desire for the drug or alcohol to achieve the desired feeling.


Social Pressure.

Many who return to using drugs or alcohol do so because their social network is made up of other people who also drink or abuse substances. It is extremely difficult to go against peer pressure. Even those who don’t want to use sometimes do just to avoid the social stigma of no longer fitting into the group.

Adapted from “Living Safe and Avoiding Relapse” which is part of the NewDay curriculum by Dan Johnson. If you or someone you love is struggling with a substance use disorder (SUD) and would like help or would like to pursue therapy to help deal with unresolved trauma or grief as mentioned above, please feel free to contact our office at 217-291-1967 or visit our website for more information.