Home » Blogs » Relapse Prevention » If You Reserve the Right to Relapse, You Will
Relapse Prevention
with John Leadem, LCSW & Shawn Leadem, LCSW

If You Reserve the Right to Relapse, You Will

Progress not Perfection“Progress not perfection”

We love this slogan. But we do not always love how some people apply it. Many will unfortunately use this slogan to justify that sometimes relapse just happens. “We do not need to be perfect,” they insist, “we just need to not be as bad as we used to be.”

We think this is a dangerous position for anyone trying to get a solid foothold into successful recovery.

But why? Some would (and many do) argue that the idea of “progress not perfection” supports the idea that it is not perfect sobriety we are looking for, and that sometimes relapse just happens. While we believe that relapse can happen when one has not developed sufficient emotional and spiritual tools for coping with life’s challenges, we do not believe that it should be expected or that one should reserve his or her right to “fall” from time to time.

Nor do we believe that the common self-help programs available for addiction recovery agree with the idea that relapse is to be expected. Quite the contrary, in fact. We have found the original 12-Step programs, designed for alcoholics, to be very clear that when an alcoholic first establishes sobriety “there must be no reservation of any kind, nor any lurking notion” of drinking again in the future (words in quotes are from the book Alcoholics Anonymous page 33).

It is true, none of us is perfect. To that we agree. Being imperfect is part of being human. We are not suggesting otherwise.

However… our abstinence must be perfect. Our commitment to sobriety, or our “First Step” if you will, must be taken without reservation or qualification. Because if you reserve the right to relapse, then you will.


If You Reserve the Right to Relapse, You Will

John Leadem, MSW, LCSW and Shawn Leadem, MSW, LCSW

Both John and Shawn Leadem are Licensed Clinical Social Workers in private practice in Toms River, New Jersey.

John has recently celebrated his 45th year in recovery and believes that “service to others is the cornerstone of spiritual maturity.” His professional service to addicted individuals and their families has included the development and direction of addiction treatment services in a full array of modalities from half-way houses to large residential treatment facilities over the past 44 years.

Shawn's lifelong exposure to the recovery culture and his personal recovery experience has left him with a deep personal empathy for the social and emotional suffering endured by others and a strong faith in a person’s ability to change. He has received his certification as a Sexual Addiction Therapist and as a Multiple Addictions Therapist by the International Institute for Trauma & Addiction Professionals.

Together, John and Shawn have co-authored and brought their unique treatment model of relapse prevention, An Ounce of Prevention: A Course in Relapse Prevention, to residential treatment centers across the United States, they have trained therapists at numerous national and international conferences, and most recently have trained many EAP programs associated with many State Unions.

6 comments: View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
Shawn Leadem, J. (2017). If You Reserve the Right to Relapse, You Will. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 23, 2019, from


Last updated: 22 Jun 2017
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.