Relapse Isn’t Part of Recovery. It’s Part Of Addiction.

Alicia Gilbert
8 min readJan 16, 2020

We hear this a lot in the recovery community, but is it accurate? At the core of this message is an admission that for many of us, recovery doesn’t happen in a straight line.

We progress, then we fall back. We try, and we fail. (I’m certainly guilty of it.) Basically a lot of us screw up before we get it right. But is it really part of the process?

There was a conversation happening online a while back amongst my beloved #recoveryposse on Twitter about the whole “relapse is part of recovery” thing.

I can’t remember who said it, but the response was and indignant NO. It’s not. We should stop saying so. Relapse isn’t part of recovery. It’s part of addiction.


Relapse Cycles

You see it all the time. I’ve certainly been guilty of it. We get it in our heads that we’re going to quit drinking, using, smoking, eating McDonald’s three times per week, what have you.

And that declaration is so packed with hope that the adrenaline kicks in. You’re giddy with excitement about this new life that you think you want.

Sometimes it’s enough to propel you into the first week or two without too much headache. You feel transformed.

Until you don’t. Inevitably something will happen to test your resolve. And if all you’ve done is blissfully ride the adrenaline wave for a week or so, chances are you haven’t prepared for this moment.

It’s what takes so many of us out.

Photo by Yuris Alhumaydy on Unsplash

“But I was doing so good!”

Spend any amount of time in the online (or offline) sobriety world and you’ll hear this over and over. Someone will say, “I drank. I don’t understand. I had 13 days and was doing so good!”

I have been this person. Maybe you have too.

And sometimes the commonality of this experience dulls the severity of it.

If 60% of the people in your community are screwing up every couple of weeks, it takes the edge off your own relapses and THAT is dangerous.

Why do we do it?



Alicia Gilbert

Alicia is the founder of Soberish, a website that focuses on recovery, mental health, and wellness. Read more at