Misconception #8: Relapse is failure

From my son, I learned: that relapse happens. It happened often with Jeff. There are countless examples of recovering addicts like Philip Seymour Hoffman, who stay clean for years, relapse, and die. Drugs are powerful and addiction never rests. It bides its time and waits for the right moment to pounce.

My reflection: Through a dozen of my son’s relapses, I suffered. I wondered what I was doing wrong, and what I could/should be doing differently. Every relapse was a red, flashing light that blinded me with a sense of failure. It took me years to understand.

Today’s Promise to consider: Relapse is a gut-punch, instantly dashing hopes and optimism. But the reality is that relapse happens. Each time it did for Jeff, I felt guilt, anger, and betrayal…until one day Dr. MacAfee told me, “Relapse isn’t failure. It’s one step closer to recovery.” I still hold that thinking close in my work with addiction. It buoys me when I hear about recovering people losing their footing. It helps me keep hope alive.


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Tina Kopp
Tina Kopp
5 years ago

I really needed this reminder TODAY! Yesterday was a terrible day, my emotions, my thoughts, nothing but negative. The tears just wouldn’t stop. I guess it’s okay to have a day like that, but it’s now a new day. I’ve heard tears are cleansing. I am feeling cleansed. It’s time to put one foot in front of the other. It’s time to keep looking up, trusting God! That is where my help and hope comes from, I need to stop looking at persons, places, and things for the contentment, joy and peace I desire. I must come to terms with loving an addict and what that looks like for me. Relapse is a reality – “Relapse isn’t failure. It’s one step closer to recovery.” I appreciate that thought. My son is once again in treatment. Hopefully, one step closer to long term recovery. That’s my expectation, I want long term! Expectations trip me up every time! Can I learn to stay in the moment, cherishing today? I should be thankful, grateful, hopeful, but it’s hard to muster after the countless opportunities he’s had to receive treatment and stick with it. Apparently, I still ask the questions “why” and “how long”, “what will it take”? Have i relapsed as well? Some say yes! I must take care of myself. Also a challenge at times but if I expect it of my son, I need to expect it from myself. I’ve been looking for hope and God is giving it to me, through the nudges of others! Thank you Libby!!

5 years ago
Reply to  libbycataldi

Staying close, makes my life and thoughts tolerable. And I see how much it means to my son. I see him so differently than I use to. Thank you Libby. My husband and I have spent 22 years fighting this dark decease, with both our younger children. Our daughter, 36 yrs old, has now been clean for 4 yrs. Our son still struggles daily, he is 34. Sometimes I’m just so tired, I can’t think straight. But I am always optimistic