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Relapse Prevention
with John Leadem, LCSW & Shawn Leadem, LCSW

There Is Only ONE Reason Why Addicts Relapse

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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There Is Only ONE Reason Why Addicts Relapse

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.

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APA Reference
Shawn Leadem, J. (2017). There Is Only ONE Reason Why Addicts Relapse. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 26, 2019, from


Last updated: 22 Jun 2017
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 22 Jun 2017
Published on All rights reserved.