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Why Do So Many Crack Addicts Relapse?


By Amanda Smith


One of the most devastating events in a recovering crack addict’s life is a relapse.  Relapse is defined by Webster’s New World Dictionary as “to slip back into a former state, especially into illness after apparent recovery.”  Sounds pretty cut-dried and simple, right?  But relapse is anything but simple.  It is, in fact, devastating to the addict as well as to family members and loved ones.  It is a return to active drug addiction (drug use) after some amount of clean time.


Relapse can occur for any number of reasons.  Anything that causes a relapse is called a “trigger.”  Triggers can be external (outside influences) or internal (emotional or psychological.)  Following are transcripts from interviews of two addicts who are currently in recovery.  Read on to learn about their numerous attempts to quit drugs once and for all.


Addict #1 is currently residing in a transitional home in MiddleGeorgia for recovering addicts.  She signed up for the 6-month program and as of this writing has 3 months clean.  She began using alcohol and marijuana at the age of 13 and crack cocaine at the age of 30.  She is a white female, 47 years of age.


Informer:  When was the first time you attempted to get clean?

Addict #1: In 1982; I only stayed clean 30 days.

Informer:  How many times have you relapsed since that first attempt in 1982?

Addict #1: I have relapsed 10 times since then.  The longest I have been clean is 90 days.

Informer: Have you found that you have an average amount of clean time under your belt before you relapse?

Addict #1: Yes, I do.  I usually relapse at around 30 days.

Informer: Do you know why you relapsed?  I mean, are you aware of what things caused you to use again?

Addict #1: I never followed my program of recovery, I never chose a person who was a recovering addict to trust; someone who would help me with the program I chose.

Informer:  Can you identify any triggers that you must be careful to avoid in order to stay clean?

Addict #1: I sure can.  Old lovers that I used with and money are two big ones.  Also, depression, physical pain and grief.

Informer:  How is it different this time? 

Addict #1: I finally got sick and tired of the life.  I hit bottom; I was living on the streets, sleeping in an empty field at night with the rats.  I hit bottom and I couldn’t take it anymore.

Informer:  Do you think you are better equipped to see a relapse coming this time?  If so, why?

Addict #1: Yes, I do.  I am using the tools this time and I am dedicated to staying clean.

Informer:  What advice would you give to a struggling recovering addict?

Addict #1: They say that triggers are the reason people relapse, but for me, it was that I really loved the lifestyle – the drama, the chaos, the unknown.  I really loved the adrenaline rush of never knowing what was going to happen next.  But my advice would be to find God and develop a close relationship with Him and use the recovery tools at your disposal.


Addict #2 is married with children and owns her own home. She has a rewarding career and has 11 years clean as of this writing.She began using alcohol and marijuana at the age of 13 and crack cocaine some years later.  She is a black female, 40 years of age.


Informer:  When was the first time you attempted to get clean?

Addict #2: It was in 1989.  I tried to do it myself, but I was only clean for two days.

Informer:  How many times have you relapsed?

Addict #2: Twice.  I relapsed after just 2 days in 1989, but I tried again in 1993 and was clean for two years, until 1995.

Informer:  What is the longest time you’ve ever been clean?

Addict #2: 11 years; that’s where I am today.

Informer:  What were the reasons you relapsed?

Addict #2: I wasn’t really ready to quit; I hadn’t hit bottom yet.  I thought I could hit some just one more time and I would be all right.

Informer:  What has kept you clean all these years?

Addict #2: I developed a close relationship with God and I came to believe that my recovery program would work for me.  Also, I didn’t want to be suicidal anymore.  To me, recovery is beautiful.

Informer: Do you think you are better equipped to see a relapse coming?  Why?

Addict #2: Yes, I do.  I use my tools of recovery, I have the willingness to do whatever I need to do to stay clean and I recognize my triggers today.  Also, I stay around other people who are clean.

Informer: What advice would you give to a struggling, recovering addict?

Addict #2: Keep working your recovery program, have an open mind, and trust someone and allow him or her to help you.


As one can readily see, addiction is very tricky and relapse can sneak up on the recovering addict quickly.  This is why addicts must be vigilant in their recovery; identifying their own personal triggers and giving voice to any strong emotions that come up.  A support person the addict trusts and can talk to on a regular basis is vital to the recovery process.   Prayer for strength, courage and guidance are also necessary.

You are Visitor #  Hit Counter   Updated Wednesday April 05, 2006 12:40:42



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