Four ways I can tell if you are on your way to recovery or to relapse.

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It seems pretty bold that I might make such a prediction about people with addiction problems: whether they will recover or relapse... yet boldly I go as I share my observations of key indicators which have led to success or failure for the many people I have encountered (myself being the main subject of this non-research).

So if you are curious about what I think are the traits of people who recover or relapse, I will list them below. If you find that you are offended or disagree with my observations, please comment! This passion could be and indicator of your high level of engagement in recovery, which could be a positive for recovery. On the other hand it could be a defense mechanism, which is an indicator that your locus of control is more external, thus a sign you are moving toward relapse.

  1. People who recover genuinely want it; People who relapse lack the desire.

    I have had call after call with people who are not truly dedicated to recovery. In some cases they are feeling pressure from family or friends, or in some cases they believe their stresses are more than they can handle. They believe there is something about their drug of choice that will help them escape their problems. The love/hate they experience for their drug of choice is leaning toward love. They do not believe they are going to recover. This belief in the long-term win is absolutely key. You must want to get better. You must have a burning desire to make the necessary changes to improve your life.

  2. People who make a good plan, recover; People with no plan, do not recover.

    James Clear, author of Atomic Habits says "You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” People who say they want to change their lives but do not put a solid plan in place, with options for evaluation and adjustment, will fail. People who write down their plan, gather resources and follow through (practice the changes daily) will succeed.

  3. Resourceful people recover; the uninformed relapse.

    You absolutely must be your own advocate for recovery. If you wait for someone to hand you the tools and relieve you of your cravings and issues, you will be waiting a long time. You must go out and explore all the options for recovery that await you. People who recover are reading about recovery, attending meetings (not necessarily 12-step meetings) and seeking out help from doctors, counsellors, coaches, friends and the internet. People who recover make resources work for them. People who relapse wait for someone to do it for them.

  4. People who bounce-back, recover; People who give up, relapse.

    Relapse is actually a stage of change. It is common for people to experience ‘stinking thinking’ or to have slips, but how a person manages relapse is an indicator of their success long-term. When people learn from their mistakes- when they carefully evaluate and make appropriate changes to their plan, they bounce back into recovery. When they give up or deny the important lessons from the relapse experience - they stay in the cycle of addiction.

I welcome your feedback and questions on the above statements. I have not yet conducted any real research on these items, they are simply my observations based on my experience as a coach, counsellor, student, friend and person with addictions.