Saturday, April 7, 2007

Relapse Traps: How to avoid the 12 most common pitfalls in recovery

By Ronald L. Rogers and Chandler Scott McMillin.
ISBN 0-553-35479-5

Reviewed by Don G.

The authors have worked in the addiction recovery field for over twenty years.

In the book’s introduction, the author’s experience shows five common factors among people who relapse:

1) People relapsed for different reasons

2) Although relapse could occur at any time in recovery, it was particularly common in the first year of recovery

3) They, (the authors), came to believe that relapse was rooted less in emotional instability than in attitude and behavior

4) The most common causes of relapse could be grouped into twelve broad categories

5) Relapse isn’t confined to addiction. By thinking of relapse as a human and medical problem rather than a sign of psychological abnormality; the addict and alcoholic aren’t any different than anyone else with a chronic illness such as cancer, diabetes, etc.

While the book’s authors are definitely pro-AA and 12 step oriented, the book can be useful for someone who approached sobriety from a secular viewpoint.

In Part One, entitled The Anatomy of Recovery, the authors discuss what is relapse and how people fail.

They introduce what they consider three keys to the door of recovery:

1. Develop a feedback system
2. Use the 12 steps of AA
(Note: The authors have written a guide to the steps called "On Your Own Power - A secular guide to the 12 steps, which I’ll be reviewing at a later date)
3. Understanding the meaning of unconditional abstinence from drugs and alcohol.
The final part of the first section discusses the problems of emotions and craving, and assessing the attitudes that we bring into recovery.

The second section of the book deals with the Twelve Traps of Relapse. Rogers and McMillin talk about four tasks that must be completed for the addict\alcoholic to establish and maintain stable abstinence from drugs and alcohol:

1. You learn about the disease
2. You self-diagnose that you have the disease
3, You become involved in recovery groups
4. You assume personal responsibility for your own recovery
The relapse traps can be broken down into four major categories:

1.) Treatment Failures - Not following directions

Failure to self-diagnose
Experimenting with control
2.) Problems Of Being Human - Maintaining a high-risk lifestyle

3) Living With A Chronic Disease - Medical problems during recovery

Psychiatric Illness
Complications of normal recovery
4) Problems of Addiction - Switching to Other Drugs
Relapse by Intent
Family Feud
Chandler and Rogers discuss each trap in detail - showing how people relapse and the steps preceding the relapse. They then discuss how to avoid the trap, and how "co-dependence" frequently enters into the person relapsing. There are many exercise throughout the book, and lists of "red flags" that can reveal that we are about to slide into relapse.

There is a glossary and suggested reading list at the end of the book.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. While there is a heavy bias towards AA in the book, there are many useful pieces of information. For myself, I found the third section very helpful as I have chronic health problems besides alcoholism, and knowing how to avoid relapse while being treated for the other problems was a great help.

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