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Explaining the Effect of Abstinence Violation

Explaining the Effect of Abstinence Violation

When dealing with or recovering from alcohol addiction, relapsing is always a real and ever-present danger. The road to becoming better and being free from drinking is not smooth and has its ups and downs. Recovering comes with a lot of highs and lows, and the only thing that matters and is truly important is that the addict keeps striving on.

Relapsing isn’t the end of the world on the road to recovery. Many alcohol addicts who have recovered suffered a relapse at some point. Instead of simply going on and hoping you don’t relapse, it may be best to have an actionable strategy for when it happens. The difference between those who went on to successfully recover from alcohol addiction and those who fell back to old habits is known as the Abstinence Violation Effect.

What Is The Abstinence Violation Effect?

The first and most important thing to note is: the abstinence violation effect doesn’t mean a relapse. It involves a relapse, but goes beyond this, flowing into the realm of mental blackmail. The abstinence violation effect refers to a person relapsing and then fully falling back into alcoholism due to their perception of both themselves and their relapse action.

When put in simpler terms, the abstinence violation effect is how a person reacts when they relapse back into alcohol consumption. Some of the most obvious symptoms seen someone undergoing abstinence violation effect include:

  • Exhibiting a sense of guilt and other negative emotions and attributing the relapse to their failures
  • Placing the blame on things they cannot control like a weak willpower
  • Attributing the relapse to situations they are unable to cope with

A person who is suffering from the abstinence violation effect will believe there is no need to be sober any longer. Since they have relapsed, they may as well continue down the path and return to alcohol use. At this point, they effectively give up on recovery and embrace the alcohol addiction ahay. The biggest issue here is that it usually leads to devastating consequences like excessive alcohol use, which can lead to death.

Explaining the Effect of Abstinence Violation

Explaining The Effect of Abstinence Violation

The abstinence violation effect isn’t the cause of the relapse, rather, it stems from one relapse. The first thing that the abstinence effect does to the victim is that it prevents them from understanding the difference between a relapse and a momentary lapse in judgment. One relapse isn’t a full-blown regression and they aren’t able to recognize that.

As stated earlier, most people going through recovery will at some point relapse. This is where the abstinence violation effect comes into full action. On one hand, there is the recognition that the relapse is a mistake, and with a little extra effort, it won’t happen again. On the other hand, there is the path of relapse, where the person continues their negative habit.

The abstinence violation effect leads the individual in question down the second path and into a full-blown relapse. This path is often characterized by despair, which involves the person blaming themselves, engaging in mental abuse. It is also important to note that the abstinence violation effect isn’t the relapse itself, but rather, the characteristic self-loathing that leads to the relapse.

How Can Abstinence Violation Effect Hinder Recovery?

The obvious way the abstinence violation effect hinders recovery in that it makes a person think negatively. Alcohol addiction relapse and recovery are all influenced by a person’s mental health. When you have a positive mindset, it is easy to overlook one relapse and see it for what it was, a moment of weakness. A negative mindset, on the other hand, will likely lead to spiraling and full-blown alcoholism.

Once the abstinence violation is in effect, the individual affected will be unable to see the temporary relapse as a mistake. Rather than working to fix what a momentary lapse in judgment is obviously, and start looking for a way to fix this, they will become victims of self-inflicted emotional abuse. This will cause a deterioration in the alcohol addict’s mental health.

The abstinence violation effect effectively hinder recovery and it does so in the following ways:

  • Diminishes self-esteem: Self-esteem is arguably the most important commodity for a person recovering from alcohol addiction. They start to blame themselves when they lapse and with each relapse, it gets worse. Over time, they begin to exhibit other negative emotions like guilt and shame. After a while, their self-esteem is so low that it is almost non-existent and they can slump into depression.
  • Impairs the development of coping skills: Another prominent feature of the abstinence violation effect is that the victim won’t learn to cope with mistakes. This is because they will believe: the relapse isn’t a mistake that needs to be fixed. Instead of working to fix it, they spend their time feeling guilty and blaming themselves for the relapse.
  • Encourages Denial: Denial is also a prominent feature where the abstinence violation effect is in effect. Rather than accepting certain facts about themselves and improving weak aspects in their life, they simply accept and fall into their alcohol addiction.

Once all these characteristics are evident, then the abstinence violation effect is in full flight in that individual. It is also important to note: it isn’t the end of the world and is merely an indication for the person to seek treatment.

How To Prevent Relapse When Recovering

As identified earlier, relapse is something that anyone recovering from alcohol addiction needs to accept as a possibility. Not in the negative sense where they think relapse is inevitable, but in the sense that there is a possibility of relapse due to mistakes. Once they can accept this fact, then they can make the plans to prevent it from happening again. Prevention is the best way to fight off the abstinence violation effect.

Some common ways a person can prevent relapse include:

  • Identifying the most probable reasons and situations that can cause a relapse
  • Staying away from the people who have to potential to influence your habits negatively, like fellow users or suppliers of alcohol
  • Learning from those who have successfully kicked alcohol addiction and employing some of their strategies
  • Look for healthy habits you can use to distract yourself from the urge to indulge in alcohol use
  • Surround yourself with positive influences

With a clear and actionable plan, then you are on the road to recovery. Abstaining from alcohol is easier once you are able to identify and steer clear of its triggers. It is also important to remember that if a relapse occurs, it doesn’t mean the plan isn’t working. Instead, it may simply be an indication to step up the plan or try a different approach.

Addiction and relapse are no joke and anyone can fall victim to them without prior warning. If you are an addict or have someone suffering from alcohol addiction, get professional help. The ecosoberhouse.com provides treatment, counseling and support services to all addicts. We have a judgment-free area for people going through alcohol addiction to deal with issues and process them in a healthy way.

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