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Avoiding relapse through self awareness

Addiction as a Mirror: Avoiding Relapse Through Self Awareness and Compassion

As humans, we are naturally afraid of failure. When you add addiction and relapse into the mix, this feeling is often compounded. There are good reasons to worry about relapse, including health consequences, relational challenges, the fact that the success rates in many recovery programs are dismal. But by finding the right program that offers real results, you can overcome your addiction without worry of relapse.

Preventing Relapse By Looking in the Mirror

addiction and self reflection and self awareness

At The Clearing we teach our graduates how to avoid a slip. By focusing on the idea that our addictions are our mirrors, we can learn from them. We don’t have to be afraid of them, instead we have to be willing to learn from them and willing to look at the issues that they reveal in our lives. The principles of spiritual psychology say that all of life is for learning. This means that a slip or a relapse is part of that learning experience and can be used for growth. All of your experiences are for learning and growth. None of them are wasted or meaningless.

Another one of the principles of spiritual psychology is that all of our struggles point to unresolved underlying problems. If you slip back into your old habits and have a relapse, chances are that you were in a place of upset that triggered it. If you can find the underlying issue that triggered the slip, you can work to heal that issue, which in turn prevents that situation from happening again.

Removing the Stigma of Addiction

It is important to destigmatize having mental health issues and addictions. If we’re struggling with alcoholism and drug addiction, we are accustomed to labeling that as bad. We can and should understand that the consequences can be extremely negative. But if you look at the unresolved issues beneath, they aren’t necessarily bad. Often, there are things like loneliness, despair, and trauma that simply need to be healed with love, care, and attention.

Addictions are like a hungry baby crying. The screaming doesn’t mean the baby is bad, it means they have an unmet need. Similarly, addiction is a signal of a deep unmet need. The solution is not to put tape over the baby’s mouth, to ignore your addictions or turn a blind eye. The solution is to discover what that need is and to meet the underlying need.

Healing Addiction Through Reflection

In our program we talk about “stackers.” Stackers are recurring issues that come up over and over again in our lives. For some people the stacker is drug misuse. For other people it can be patterns of negative relationships. Once again, it’s important to not approach issues from a place of judgment, but rather as opportunities for self-reflection. You need to be curious, rather than judgmental and defensive. Even the aspects of ourselves that we most dislike and we push away are there for a reason, and they have an original purpose that may be positive. That pattern might not be serving you now, but at some point in the past it did serve you. You are responding to an old hurt and you’re bringing it forward into the current moment where it doesn’t belong.

The way to resolve these issues is not to simply power through. Willpower alone doesn’t work here. It’s necessary to explore and figure out what is underneath. To do this, you really need to find a trained counselor and get a professional to help you deal with these strong emotions. The process begins by centering yourself. That means getting to a place where you’re calm, peaceful, and able to tap into a feeling of unconditional love.

Once you have reached this centered state, you can engage authentically with the issue. Often, this is done by speaking directly to that traumatized part of yourself, or interacting directly with an aspect of yourself that isn’t positively contributing to your life. You listen to what this part of you has to say and negotiate a new role in your life moving forward. It can be a challenge to create this internal safe place.. Your internal voices may be saying, “I’m too broken” or, “I’m not broken enough.” But neither of these are true. Anyone can do this and benefit from it.

Self-Awareness In The Healing Process

Healing is not starting at point A, moving to point B and never looking back. It is more like an upward-rising spiral. You continue encountering similar issues again and again, but as you encounter them, each time you’re at a different level. Your stacker may come up again. You may be in a relationship where you find yourself going into victim mode yet again, or you may relapse, but each time that you encounter this pattern, you encounter it at a different level of consciousness and awareness.

self-awareness in the healing processIn meditation the first step is taking some deep breaths. Once you can do that, the next task is to simply to be aware of your thoughts. After you have become aware of your thoughts, worries, and concerns, the next step is to have compassion for yourself. Often, we try to leap directly to the compassion step because we want to be forgiving people, but we risk skipping the awareness step. We skip the ability to just sit and witness the way our minds work, the truth of how we’ve been hurt and how we’ve hurt ourselves.

Healing Yourself Through Compassion

Witnessing and being aware is half the battle. But often, we beat ourselves up and feel worse when we finally notice the pattern. This is because we are layering judgment on top of awareness. This can be extremely discouraging. But the truth is, you are further along than you were back in the day where you didn’t even know you had a problem. But that doesn’t mean we are done. We still need to learn to be compassionate with ourselves.

The interdependent elements of self-awareness and compassion work together, facilitating lasting change. Reflection and self-awareness exposes the underlying core issues that are fueling relapse. Compassion and self-love is the catalyst for healing. So, if you are struggling with relapse, consider how to increase self-awareness and compassion in your life.

Addiction as a Mirror: Avoiding Relapse Through Self Awareness and Compassion

Joe Koelzer

Joe Koelzer is a co-founder and CEO of The Clearing. He has years of counseling experience and a master’s degree in Spiritual Psychology from the University of Santa Monica.

After observing how depression and substance abuse impacted his wife Betsy’s life, Joe realized how broken our current system is for addiction and related mental health treatment.

He witnessed firsthand how an evidence-based approach coupled with Spiritual Psychology saved Betsy and enabled her to gain control of her life.

In co-founding The Clearing, Joe realized his dream of creating and sharing this innovative approach with others in a structured clinical setting.

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APA Reference
, . (2019). Addiction as a Mirror: Avoiding Relapse Through Self Awareness and Compassion. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 9, 2020, from


Last updated: 28 Feb 2019
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