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Recently I heard one of the counselors at Rob’s Ranch tell the clients….”Everyone will relapse, but no one ever has to take another drink or do another drug.” The more I pondered this, the more it made real good sense, but not only for the “addicted” out there, but for the general population as well.

Before I get too far into this, for those of you who don’t know what the word “relapse” means here is a definition.  I know there are a few out there because my daughter asked me over the weekend and I had to try and explain it. So here is my very simple definition.

Relapse – When after a period of abstinence a person reengages in an activity that is painful to themselves or to others.

Relapse, backsliding, setbacks, regression, falling off the wagon, it doesn’t matter what you call it or specifically what you are speaking to. The point is, none of us are perfect and we all will have moments of relapse in our thinking, speaking or even in our actions. The important thing we must focus on is how we go about recognizing what we are doing. If we can strengthen our ability to assess our behavior in real time, to tune into what the Holy Spirit is convicting us of, we can be better suited to stop ourselves from ever “taking that drink” or “binging” or “visiting that website” or doing whatever it was that we are trying not to do.

For those of us that are chemically dependent we know that for a long time we have medicated our pain with chemicals. Drugs or alcohol….for many of us – both. Since this is where I have the most experience, I will stick to speaking to “using” drugs or alcohol, but I want to make it clear that this general principle of relapse is common to anyone out there trying to rid themselves of some type of addiction, habit or hang-up. Be it a porn-addiction, compulsive eating, gambling, etc.

Relapse does not start when we decide to finally use again. It’s a long process of us slowly migrating back into old behaviors, practices or attitudes. Below are the 4 common areas of Relapse, areas in our life that we can quickly look at to gauge how we are living and how actively we are pursuing our choice to be abstinent. Like a barometer, measure yourself in these categories and ask yourself this question.

What is your pain in these areas….?


  • God -Check your relationship with God?
  • YOU – How much do you love yourself today? What is your self-worth level?
  • Others – When we are using, on average, we hurt 21 other people. Are hurting others again?


  • How do you feel about lying to God, to others?
  • Is this a practice that has crept back into your everyday actions?
  • Are you lying to yourself about your true spiritual condition?

Delusions and Denial

  • Are you beginning to negotiate with yourself in order to do things you haven’t been doing or know you shouldn’t?
  • Are you criticizing others?
  • Are you hanging with the wrong people?
  • What are you watching, listening to or attending? Your environments are huge influences on your overall well-being.

Letting up on daily disciplines

  • Are you justifying missing meetings, daily devotional readings or family events?
  • Procrastinating on step work, calling your sponsor or hanging with encouraging and positive people?
  • Have you missed church for weeks at time?
  • Are you reading the word or excusing that time for selfish gain?

If you are nodding yes to yourself as you read some of these bullet points, then check your program, check your behavior and call someone who cares about you right now.

Also here are a few points to help you steer clear of relapse.

Stay away – Steer clear of slippery people, slippery places and slippery things.

Stay Motivated – Find whatever it takes to keep you positive, passionate and living “on purpose.”

Stay in Routine – As soon as you realize you’ve slipped into a state of relapse. Immediately go back into the routine that keep you sober the first 30-90 days. Prayer, devotional, gratitude, meetings, church, etc. Whatever it is for you get back in to a positive routine.

Get motivated! Get back in your routine! ODAT!

People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily. — Zig Ziglar