What to Do When Old, Addictive Behavior Is Leading to Relapse

March 10, 2016 Becky Doyle

Old, addictive behaviors can crop up, leading to a relapse. These are often traits that served us well in our addiction by enabling us to use or drink with minimal interference. By evaluating our behavior through the lens of humility, we are able to see when old, addictive behaviors resurface and if they may be leading you to a relapse.

There are a few ways in which old, addictive behavior can lead a recovering alcoholic down the path of relapse. While the following examples are attributes I have heard many recovering alcoholics and addicts admit to having, I will simply speak for myself and my own experience. If you are in long-term recovery and you have similar or different experiences, I'd love to hear your insights.

Selfishness Is an Addictive Behavior

My first, and worst, old, addictive behavior is that I tend to be very selfish and focused on only what is happening in my life. It is really easy for me to forget how to listen to other people or be a good partner when I'm only focused on my problems. Similarly, that means I have a tendency to not have compassion for those around me. Without compassion, I can get angry easily and anger often spurs the desire to drink within me. If left unchecked, that desire may lead me to drink.

What helps me battle selfishness is making a conscious effort to help other people. Sometimes that means calling a friend just to ask how they are doing, and at others it's as simple as offering to help someone across the street. When I think about the people around me and focus on their needs or wants, I am able to relate to them enough to feel compassion for their struggles. If I can help someone else, I get relief from my own self-imposed anger, frustration, and anxiety. This practice directly impacts my peace of mind on a daily basis (Five Benefits Of Serving Others).

Isolating Yourself Is an Addictive Behavior

My second, major addictive behavior is that I prefer to be isolated; I am naturally unwilling to express my feelings and connect with other people on a personal level. It is uncomfortable to reveal myself so intimately and it makes me feel raw. I don't like it. However, the more I suppress my feelings and thoughts, the more baggage I pack into a tiny, little bottle. As I pack my feelings into a tiny bottle, pressure builds and begs for relief. Without periodic relief, whether through communication, art, or exercise, I become emotionally and sometimes physically sick. I feel angry, alone, hurt, and misunderstood. If left unchecked, those emotions, alone, could lead me to drink because those were the feelings I experienced the most when I was active in my addiction to alcohol.

What helps me fight against old behavior like isolation is to have a regularly-scheduled appointment with a therapist (How To Break The Isolation Habit). In those appointments I share everything that goes through my mind. Literally, I talk about everything that has happened since my last visit and how it made me feel. It becomes easier with time. And while splayed out across my doctor's couch, I often see connections between the events in my life that I've never noticed before. Having a therapist upon whom I can release this deluge enables me to speak without restraint or fear of retribution, which I would have with a friend or family member. It's seriously the best thing I've ever done for myself. I highly recommend it (Different Types Of Mental Health Therapy).

Do you battle with old, addictive behaviors such as being selfish or feeling isolated? Have you relapsed and, in retrospect, seen old, addictive behaviors becoming more prevalent in your life? I would love to hear some of your stories.

APA Reference
Doyle, B. (2016, March 10). What to Do When Old, Addictive Behavior Is Leading to Relapse, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 25 from

Author: Becky Doyle

March, 17 2016 at 2:17 pm

8 have experienced many and all of those feelings before my relapse. I sat down in my home and "asked myself what's the point, now what?". Then within 20 min I was drinking. I was alone for 2 weeks all day, til 6pm. I'm so glad I got back on track and now i am aware that I can call and wirhout feeling stupid because my friends would rather talk me through a rough patch, then get my phone call drunk.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Becky Doyle
March, 20 2016 at 3:54 pm

Wow, thank you for sharing. Yes, always better to call someone when you're feeling sad, depressed, or alone.

jenn E
March, 11 2016 at 6:27 am

I see it in an addicted family member. The addiction is Pornography. The old behavior harkens back to teenage years. It is seeking proximity to young people. Its girl-watching, jumping in to open doors for certain types of people over or exclusively of others, getting in line in public places near or next to persons of interest which feeds the addiction at the "socially acceptable and deniable" level. Even though nothing inappropriate takes place the tension builds until lapse into the secret world of screen time can follow.

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