Advice on Relapse Prevention

Readers Question Readers Question: (Name changed for privacy)
Stanton Peele Response by: Dr. Stanton Peele
Posted on March 29th, 2023 - Last updated: November 20th, 2023
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Dear Stanton,

I’ve mostly moved past my problematic drinking, but I still find myself falling into old habits and patterns of thinking.  I easily slip back into the alcoholic identity/mindset. Before I realized I was doing this, it led to several episodes of full on binging. I’ve heard so many podcasts on how to stop problematic substance use, benefits of stop, etc that I would be refreshing to hear what to expect once we’ve recovered and are trying to get on with normal life.

Or how do I stop sabotaging myself? Thanks!


Hi Sue,

“I’ve mostly moved past my problematic drinking.” God bless America!

How many people do you think eliminate excessive drinking while drinking mainly moderately? And how many people cut out drinking altogether once and for all, never to fall off the wagon?

Everything is a process. We expect in the Life Process Program that process will be positive (as it has been for you). The name given to this approach is “harm reduction.”  In LPP your lessening your problem drinking and your general life improvement go hand in hand. They support one another. When you are embarked on that process you should feel positive about yourself.

If you notice yourself drinking excessively on occasion, your focus should be on your general life-improvement. I suggest avoiding a cascading sense of personal failure that builds upon itself. In other words, one bad night or brief period of excess is just that — a momentary lapse from the non-addicted you. We focus on this re-framing in LPP. This is a module in our program called “Relapse Prevention.

From our guide to beating addiction:

Addiction, like many other problems in life, is often cumulative. That is, after an initial misstep, you become a victim of your own inertia. In an effort to recoup your losses, you repeat the behavior, but the more you resort to the addictive behavior, the more slippery the slope becomes. One clear example, of course, is gambling, where “throwing good money after bad” literally describes what you are doing. But the same is true for all addictions. Stopping the momentum toward addiction is a teachable skill called “relapse prevention.”

Relapse is not an unfortunate event that happens to you; it is a series of bad choices that you make.

Finally you refer to “normal life.” This entire life process — making choices, having slips and errors, tracking your progress, appreciating yourself and your efforts — Sue, that’s what we at LPP call normal life.

Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

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