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active addictionAlthough some people find recovery on their first time to rehab, many others maintain an active addiction. The trouble is, what is the difference between an active addiction and a chronic relapse?

Most Twelve Step programs state that the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop. That may be all well and good for membership, but for those closest to the addict or alcoholic, it gives very little guidance.

Many people have different ideas of what constitute a chronic relapse versus an active addiction. As always, the opinions set forth are entirely my own.

One hallmark is the frequency with which an addict or alcoholic goes to meetings. If an addict or alcoholic is refusing to go to meetings or do even some of the most basic things suggested for their own recovery, and the person continues to struggle, chances are they are back into an active addiction. If a person is at least maintaining their attendance, it shows some level of commitment to recovery.

More over, if someone still struggling is maintaining an active relationship with his or her sponsor, that also counts for a lot. A blatant refusal to maintain a relationship with a sponsor (or to even have a sponsor) is another good indication an addict or alcoholic may not yet be ready for recovery.

Of course, there are other factors that may impact how to deal with a struggling addict or alcoholic, but for me, these are my two primary considerations.

So what happens when an addict or alcoholic is not just going to meetings and maintaining a relationship with his or her sponsor, but increasing these interactions?

Perhaps it is the meetings that the person attends. Maybe there is a lack of identification, or maybe there are other motives at play. At the same time, perhaps the sponsor is not a good fit for a given person. Most people do very well with a structured approach to sponsorship, but there are others, like myself, that become more engaged when a hands-off approach is taken. Alternatively, if there is no Step work being done in the sponsor/sponsee relationship, that is really good indication that a different approach should be taken.

Maybe it is the attitude of the group. Each group is autonomous, and although a desire to quit should be all that is needed for membership, some groups (whether they admit it or not) tend to shun chronic relapsers. If that is the case, a different, more supportive group may be needed. It should be noted, though, that this does not translate into “a more enabling group.”

Ultimately, it all boils down to accountability. Active addiction is a monumental hurdle, and most addicts and alcoholics never make it to treatment at all. Patience is a good virtue to have. However, if the disease is progressing and nothing changes, then…well, nothing changes. At this point, a higher level of care may be necessary for the addict/alcoholic’s welfare.

At what point did things have to change for you, or your loved one? Was it a single episode, or a progression? Let us know in the comments!

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