Bottle ToothbrushIts true. There is only one reason why addicts relapse: To change the way they feel. That’s the only reason. There are no other reasons.

Its kind of like plaque and bacteria building up on our teeth. That’s the only reason we get cavities. Brush the teeth, prevent the cavities. So it is with addiction. Address the uncomfortable feelings, prevent the relapse. Just like tooth decay, it is a gradual process that can be intervened on and interrupted at any point.

Its normal to have bacteria on teeth. Having bacteria does not mean you have a cavity. And its normal to have uncomfortable feelings. The presence of uncomfortable feelings does not signal a relapse. But you will not have a cavity without plaque and bacteria buildup. And you will not have a relapse without uncomfortable feelings buildup.

Therefore relapse prevention will require that alternative ways of coping with emotional challenges be learned and practiced.

Successful recovery will mean we become experts at knowing what we are feeling and developing sober strategies for addressing our uncomfortable feelings. Like that plaque on our unbrushed teeth we do not want the uncomfortable feelings building up over time eventually leading to the devastating emotional and spiritual cavities we call relapse.

There is one big, or shall we say HUGE, difference between the two. Unlike bacteria, it is not the feeling itself that causes a relapse – as if relapse is like some magical force or phenomenon of science. Rather it is the addicted person who chooses to cope with the uncomfortable feeling by returning to the addiction. We will discuss this distinction in our next PsychCentral article. Stay Tuned!

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