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The All or Nothing Approach Increase the Risk of Relapse

A common reason why many become disillusioned with life after addiction is unrealistic expectations. This all or nothing view of sobriety means that far too high demands are placed on the immediate future and, when things do not turn out as planned, can be used as justification to relapse.

How the All or Nothing Approach Puts Your Recovery in Jeopardy

The all or nothing approach is harmful to your recovery for a number of reasons, including:

  • meaning you have set unrealistic demands on the future, and you will end up feeling disappointed
  • life rarely turns out exactly as planned so the all or nothing approach is a terrible way to approach the future
  • meaning that you may fail to appreciate all the good things in your new life because you are so focused on wanting more
  • weakening your sobriety
  • becoming too focused on your goals and not enough on your life
  • putting unrealistic demands on other people
  • putting added stress in your life
  • being at higher risk of depression because this approach to recovery means enduring regular disappointments and failures
  • preventing you from developing emotional sobriety, which means you could fall victim to dry drunk syndrome.
The All or Nothing Approach and Ambivalence to Recovery

One reason why some have an all or nothing approach to recovery is that they are not fully committed to sobriety. This means setting the bar unrealistically high as an excuse to relapse.

The ambivalent person in recovery will often have a 'list of demands' that they expect to be met in order for them to stay committed - even the slightest deviation from these demands can be enough to send them scurrying back to the alcohol or drugs. When ambivalence is combined with the all or nothing approach like this, it can be seen as a form of self-sabotage.

The All or Nothing Approach and Unrealistic Expectations

It is common for those struggling with addiction to develop the idea that if they were to stop the substance abuse, their life would become perfect right away. These individuals forget that their life was not perfect before they began abusing alcohol or drugs. It means they fail to appreciate that it will take time and effort to build a great life in recovery; things are unlikely to be perfect right away.

If you end your physical addiction, you can expect there to be significant improvements in your life. There will still be many improvements to make though - it is doubtful that your descent into addiction happened over night, so why should your recovery be any different?

How to Avoid the All or Nothing Approach in Recovery

If you want to build a successful recovery, you need to let go of the all or nothing approach. Here are a few suggestions for how you can go about this:

  • The key to avoiding the all or nothing approach is to have goals rather than expectations.
  • Accept that the goal in recovery is progress and not perfection - as long as you are moving in the right direction, you are doing well.
  • Do not enter recovery like a hostage taker with a list of demands - most people do not manage to escape addiction so it is better to face the future with gratitude.
  • Understand that it is often the things you did not plan for in life that turn out to be the most rewarding.
  • Remember that hardly anything works out exactly as we expect it to, but that's a good thing.
  • It is always better to focus on the things you have in life rather than the things you don't have.
  • Become less goal-orientated and more process-orientated.
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