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The CENAPS Corporation
The Center For Applied. Sciences
THE RELAPSE DYNAMIC
1
Relapse does not begin with
the first drink. Relapse besins in
a behavioral dynamic which
reactivates patterns of denial,
i.oJation, elevated stress, and
impaired judgement. The pattern
of this behavioral setup was
identified in 1973 by the author
throup the ccxnplelion of clin­
ical intemew& with 118alcoholic
patients who met the following
a'itefta: (I) They had completed
a 21 or 28 day intermediate care
treatment Jll'opam. (2) They had
been discharged with the con­
scious intention to remain per­
manently sober. (3) They had
eventually returned to 1088 of
control consumption. in spite of
initial commitments to remain
sober.
The results of this clinical
research was compiled in the
fonn of a Relapse Chart depict,
ing the symptoms of a relapse.
The most commonly reported
symptoms are:
1. Apprehension About Well­
Bang - The alcoholic report­
ed an initial sense of fear and
uncertainty. There was a
lack of confidence in the
ability to stay sober. This
apprehension was often
extremely short lived.
2. Denial -. The patient re­
activated his denial system
in order to cope with appre­
hension and resultant anxiety
and stress. The denial
systems reactivated in this
stage of relapse dynamic
tend to correspond with the
denial systems utilized to
deny the presence of alcohol­
ism during the initial phase
of treatmenl Most patients
were aware of this denial
with hindsight but reported
they were unaware of this
denial process while exper­
iencing it.
3. Adamant Commitment to
Sobriety - The patient con­
vinced himself he would
"never drink again." This
self persuasion was some­
times 0\'«1: and blatant, but
most often it constituted a
very. private decision. Many
patients reported fear or
apprehension of sharing that
conviction with their thera­
pist or with members ofAA.
Once a patient convinced
himself he "would never
drink again" the urgency of
pursuing a daily program of
recovery diminished.
4. Compulsive Attempts to
Impose Sobriety on Others ­
This attempt to impose
sobriety or individual stand­
ards for recovery on others
was seldom overt. It was
generally private jUdfements
about the drinking 0 friends
and spouses and the quality
.of the sobriety programs of
fellow recovering alcoholics.
When dealing with ililSues of
sobriety. the patieni began to
focus more on what other
persons were doing rather
than on what he himself was
doing.
5. Defensiveness - The patient
reported a noticeable in­
crease in .his defensiveness
when talking about his
problems or recovery pro­
grams.
6. Compulsive Behavior - Be­
havior p a t ~ m s became rigid
and repetitive. The alcoholic
tended to control conversa­
tional involvement either
through monopoly or silence.
The tendency toward over­
work and compulsive in­
volvement in activities began
to appear. Nonstructured
involvement with people was
avoided.
P.O. Box 184 Hazel Crest,lIlinols 60429 (312) 335-3606
!)i
7. Impulsive Behavior - Pat·
terns of compulsive behaviors
began to be interrupted by
impulsive reactions. In many
cases the impulse was an
overreaction to acute episodes
of stress. There were also
reports of impulsive activi·
ties being the culmination of
a chronic stress situation.
Many times these over·
reactions to stress formed the
basis of decisions which
affected major life areas and
commitments to ongoing
treatment.
8. Tendencies Toward Lone­
liness - Patterns of isolation
and avoidance increased.
There were generally valid
reasons and excuses for this
isolation. Patients reported
short episodes of intense
loneliness at increasing
intervals. These episodes
were generally dealt with by
reactivating compulsive or
impulsive behavior patterns
rather than by pursuing
responsible involvement
with other persons.
9. Tunnel Vision - Patients
tended to vie}\' their life in
isolated fragments. They
would focus exclusiveJv on
one area, pre-occupy them'"
selves with it. and avoid
looking at other areas.
Sometimes pre-occupation
was with the positive aspects
thus creating a delusion of
security and well-being.
Others pre-occupied them·
selves with the negative
aspects thus assuming a
victim position which con­
firmed their belief they were
helpless and being treated
unfairly,
10. Minor Depression - Symp­
toms of depression began to
• appear and persist. Listless­
ness, flat acceptance, and over­
sleeping became common.
11. Loss of Constructive Plan­
ning - The patient's skills at
life planning began to
diminish. Attention to detail
subsided. Wishful thinking
began to replace realistic
planning.
12. Plans Begin to Fail - Due to
lack of attention to detail, or
the pursuit of unrealistic
objectives, the plans began to
fail.
18. Idle Daydreaming and
Wishful Thinking - The
ability to concentrate dimin·
ished and concentration was
replaced with fantasy. The
"If Only Syndrome" became
more common in conversa­
tion. The fantasies were
generally of escape or of
"being rescued from it all" by
some unlikely set of circum­
stances.
14. Feelings That Nothing Can
be Solved - A failure pattern
in sobriety was developed. In
some cases the failure was
real in tenps of objective
realities, in other cases it was
imagined and based upon
intangibles. The generalized
perception of "I've tried my
best and it isn't working out, H
began to develop.
15. Immature Wish to be Happy
- Conversational content
and thought patterns became
vague and generalized. The
desire to "be happy" or "have
things work out" became
more common without ever
defining what was necessary
to be happy or have things
work out.
16. Periods of Confusion - The
episodes of confusion in­
creased in terms offreq uency,
duration and severity of
behavioral impairment.
17. Irritation with Friends
Social involvements includ·
ing friends and intimate
relationships, as well as
treatment relationships
formed with therapists and
AA members, became strain·
ed and conflictual. The
conflictual nature increased
as confrontation of the
alcoholic's progressi vely
degenerating behavior in·
creased.
18. Easily Angered - Episodes
of anger, frustration, resent­
ment and irritability increas­
ed. Overreaction became
more frequent. Often the fear
of extreme overreaction to the
point of violence seriously
increased the level of stress
and anxiety.
19. Irregular Eating Habits ­
The patient began overeating
or undereating. The regular
structure of meals was
disrupted. Well-balanced
meals were often replaced by
less nourishing "junk foods."
20. Listlessness - Extended
periods of inability to initiate
action developed. These were
marked by inability to
concentrate, anxiety, and
severe feelings of apprehen­
sion. Patients often reported
this as a feeling of being
trapped or of having no way
out.
21. Irregular Sleeping Habits ­
Episodes of insomnia were
reported. Nights of restless­
ness and fitful sleeping were
reported. Episodes of sleeping
marathons of 12-20 hours
were reported at intervals
varying between 6 and 15
days. These sleeping mara­
thons apparently resulted
from exhaustion.
22. Progressive Loss of Daily
Structure - Daily routines
became ha.phazard. Regular
hours of retiring Bnd rising
disappeared. Inability to
sleep resulted in oversleeping.
Meal structures disappeared.
Complaints of inability to
keep appointments became
more common, and social
planning decreased. Patients
reported feeling rushed and
overburdened at times and
then faced large blocks of idle
time in which they didn't
know what to do. An inability
to follow through on plans
and decisions was also
reported. The patients report­
ed they knew what they
should do, but were unable to
overcome strong feelings of
tension, frustration, (ear or
anxiety that prevented them
from following through.
23. Periods of Deep Depression
- Depression became more
severe, more frequent, more
disruptive and longer in
duration. These periods
generally occurred during
non-structured time periods
and were amplified by fatigue
and hunger. During these
periods the patient tended
toward isolation and reacted
to human contact with
irritability and anger while
at the same time complaining
that nobody cared.
24. Irregular Attendance at
Treatment Meetings
Attendance at AA became
sporadic. Therapy appoint.
ments were scheduled and
then missed. Attendance at
treatment groups and home
AA meetings became
sporadic. Rationalization
patterns developed to justify
this. The effectiveness of AA
and treatment was dis­
counted. Treatment lost a
priority ranking in the
patient value system.
25. Development of an "I don't
care" attitude - The patient
generally reported this "I
don't care" stance masked a
feeling of helplessness and
extremely poor self image.
26. Open Rejection of Help ­
The patient cut himself off
from viable sources of help.
This was sometimes
accomplished dramatically
through fits ofanger or open
discounts. Other times it was
done through quiet with·
drawal.
27. Dissatisfaction with Life ­
The padent began to think
"things are so bad now I
might as well get drunk
because they can't get any
worse." Rationalizations.
tunnel vision and wishful
thinking bega.n to give way
to the harsh reality of how
totally unmanageable life
had become in the course of
this period of abstinance.
2K Feelings of Powerlessness
and Helplessness - This
was marked by an inability
to initiate action. Thought
processes were scattered,
judgement was distorted,
concentration and abstract
thinking abilities were
impaired.
29. Self Pity The patient
became indulgent in self
pity. This is often called the
PLOM (Poor Little Old Me)
Syndrome. This self pity
often was used as an
attention getting device at
AA and with family
members.
30. Thoughts ofSocialDrinking
- The patient realized that
drinking could normalize
many of the feelings and
emotions he was experienc­
ing. The hope that perhaps
he could again drink in a
controlled fashion began to
emerge. Sometimes the
thought was challenged and
put oqt of conscious thought,
other times it was entertain­
ed. Again. with hindsight,
the patient realized he had
few other alternatives but
drinking. He felt he was
facing a choice between
insanity, suicide or a return
to drinking. .
31. Conscious Lying - .Denial
and rationalization became
such extreme processes that
even the alcoholic began· to
recognize the lies and
deceptions. In spite of this
recognition, he felt unable to
interrupt the pattern.
32. Complete Loss of Self
Confidence - The patient
felt he couldn't get out ofthis
trap no matter how hard he
tried. He became over­
whelmed by his inability to
think clearly or initiate
action.
; ~ 3 , Unreasonable Resentments
- The Patient felt severe
anger with the world in
general and his inability to
function. This anger was
sometimes generalized; at
other times focused at
particular scapegoats; at
other times turned against
himself.
34. Discontinues All Treatment
- Attendance at AA stops
completely. Patients who
were taking An tabuse report
episodes of forgetting to take
it or manipulations to avoid
taking it regularly, When a
helping person relationship
was part of the treatment,
strain and eventual termina­
tion of that relationship
resulted. Patients dropped
out of professional treat­
ment in spite of a realization
that they were acting
irrationally and needed
help.
35. Overwhelming Loneliness,
Frustration, Anger and
Tension - The patient
reported feeling totally
overwhelmed and feeling
there were no available
options except returning to
drinking, suicide or in­
sanity. The fear of insanity
was intense. There was also
intense feelings of helpless­
ness and desperation. Often
drinking was an impulsive
behavior with little or no
conscious preplanning. '
36. Start Controlled Drinking­
The efforts at control took
two general patterns: the
effort to control quantities
while drinking on a regular
basis, and the effort tc
engage in one short-term
and low consequence binge.
37. Loss of Control - The
ability to control was lost,
sometimes Y'ery quickly,
sometimes after varying
patterns of "controlled
drinking." The patient,
however, quickly returned to
alcoholic drinking which
was marked by symptoms as
severe. or' mote severe than
were present during his last
episode of active alcoholism.
Defensive ­
Impulsive behavior ­
Tunnel vision ­
Plan begin8 to fail ­
Idle daydreams and wishful thinking ­
Periods of confusion ­
Easily angered ­
Listlessness ­
Progressive IOS8 of daily structure ­
Periods of deep depres8ion ­
"I don't care" attitude ­
Feeling powerless and hopeleas ­
Thoughts of social drinking -:
Complete IOS8 of self confidence ­
Mi8ses all treatment meetings ­
Stops Antabuse ­
OVERWHELMING LONELINESS AND TENSION START OF CONTROI.I..ED _
SOCIAL DRINKING LOSS OF CONTROL REI.APSE 0 .. ' ALCOHOLISM
--Apprehension about well·being
-Denial (Unaware lying to Belf)
--Adamant Commitment to sobriety
--Compulsive attempts to impoae sobriety on others
--Compulsive behavior
--Tendencies towards loneliness
--Minor depreuion
-Los8 of constructive planning
-Feelings that nothing can be solved
-Immature wish to be happy
-·-Irritation with friends
-Irregular eating
-Irregular sleeping
--Irregular attendance at treatment
meetings
--Open rejection of help
-Diuatiafaction with life
--self pity (PLOM)
--Conscious lying
-Unreasonable resentments
-Problems with helping
person
!)t;C-.L.Z
For further information about training and
consultation services based upon the CENAPS
model of treatment contact:
The CENAPS Corporation
P.O. Box 184
Hazel Crest, Illinois 60429
(312) 335-3606
Terence T. Gorski
President
-f.kvI'2--
For books and materials on Relapse Prevention
contact the Addictions Publication division of
HERALD HOUSE-INDEPENDENCE PRESS
P.O. Box HH
3225 South Noland Road
Independence, MO 64055
(816) 252-5010 1-800-821-7550
OTHER BOOKS AVAILABL'E
_ Learning to live Again 17-0105-3 $10.95
_ Staying Sober 17-0120-7 10.95
_ Counseling for Relapse
Prevention 17-0104-5 9.95
_ Management of Aggression
and Violence 17-0106-1 6.95
_ Family Recovery, Growing
Beyond Addiction 17-0109-6 5.00
_ The Phases and Warning
Signs of Relapse 17-0117-7.90
17·0111-8

the plans began to fail. frustration. Impulsive Behavior . Often the fear . 12. The fantasies were generally of escape or of "being rescued from it all" by some unlikely set of circum­ stances. as well as treatment relationships formed with therapists and AA members. Minor Depression .The episodes of confusion in­ creased in terms offreq uency. The conflictual nature increased as confrontation of the alcoholic's progressi vely degenerating behavior in· creased. In some cases the failure was real in tenps of objective realities. and over­ sleeping became common.Episodes of anger. became strain· ed and conflictual. Tendencies Toward Lone­ liness . These episodes were generally dealt with by reactivating compulsive or impulsive behavior patterns rather than by pursuing responsible involvement with other persons.The ability to concentrate dimin· ished and concentration was replaced with fantasy. The "If Only Syndrome" became more common in conversa­ tion. 14. flat acceptance. Overreaction became more frequent.Conversational content and thought patterns became vague and generalized. 16. The generalized perception of "I've tried my best and it isn't working out. Attention to detail subsided. Sometimes pre-occupation was with the positive aspects thus creating a delusion of security and well-being. and avoid looking at other areas.Symp­ toms of depression began to • appear and persist. There were generally valid reasons and excuses for this isolation. duration and severity of behavioral impairment. Plans Begin to Fail .Due to lack of attention to detail. Feelings That Nothing Can be Solved . Many times these over· reactions to stress formed the basis of decisions which affected major life areas and commitments to ongoing treatment. 8. In many cases the impulse was an overreaction to acute episodes of stress. H 15. or the pursuit of unrealistic objectives. They would focus exclusiveJv on one area. Irritation with Friends Social involvements includ· ing friends and intimate relationships. 11. Periods of Confusion . Wishful thinking began to replace realistic planning. began to develop.A failure pattern in sobriety was developed. 18.The patient's skills at life planning began to diminish.Pat· terns of compulsive behaviors began to be interrupted by impulsive reactions. 17. in other cases it was imagined and based upon intangibles. There were also reports of impulsive activi· ties being the culmination of a chronic stress situation.Patients tended to vie}\' their life in isolated fragments. Loss of Constructive Plan­ ning . 10. Idle Daydreaming and Wishful Thinking . Others pre-occupied them· selves with the negative aspects thus assuming a victim position which con­ firmed their belief they were helpless and being treated unfairly. 9. resent­ ment and irritability increas­ ed. The desire to "be happy" or "have things work out" became more common without ever defining what was necessary to be happy or have things work out. Listless­ ness. 18. Patients reported short episodes of intense loneliness at increasing intervals. pre-occupy them'" selves with it.!)i 7. Immature Wish to be Happy . Tunnel Vision .Patterns of isolation and avoidance increased. Easily Angered .

2K Feelings of Powerlessness and Helplessness . ments were scheduled and then missed. These sleeping mara ­ thons apparently resulted from exhaustion. Dissatisfaction with Life ­ The padent began to think "things are so bad now I might as well get drunk because they can't get any worse. Complaints of inability to keep appointments became more common. and social planning decreased. anxiety. . Open Rejection of Help ­ The patient cut himself off from viable sources of help. but were unable to overcome strong feelings of tension. During these periods the patient tended toward isolation and reacted to human contact with irritability and anger while at the same time complaining that nobody cared. 19. frustration. Episodes of sleeping marathons of 12-20 hours were reported at intervals varying between 6 and 15 days. This was sometimes accomplished dramatically through fits of anger or open discounts.phazard. Progressive Loss of Daily Structure . Patients reported feeling rushed and overburdened at times and then faced large blocks of idle time in which they didn't know what to do. Treatment lost a priority ranking in the patient value system. more disruptive and longer in duration. The regular structure of meals was disrupted.of extreme overreaction to the point of violence seriously increased the level of stress and anxiety.n to give way to the harsh reality of how totally unmanageable life had become in the course of this period of abstinance. Listlessness . Irregular Sleeping Habits ­ Episodes of insomnia were reported. Well-balanced meals were often replaced by less nourishing "junk foods.The patient generally reported this "I don't care" stance masked a feeling of helplessness and extremely poor self image." Rationalizations. 21. 23." 20. Development of an "I don't care" attitude . Nights of restless­ ness and fitful sleeping were reported.Daily routines became ha. Patients often reported this as a feeling of being trapped or of having no way out. 26. Irregular Eating Habits ­ The patient began overeating or undereating. 24. and severe feelings of apprehen­ sion. tunnel vision and wishful thinking bega. An inability to follow through on plans and decisions was also reported. Other times it was done through quiet with· drawal. These periods generally occurred during non-structured time periods and were amplified by fatigue and hunger.This was marked by an inability to initiate action. These were marked by inability to concentrate. Inability to sleep resulted in oversleeping. 25. more frequent. 22. Thought processes were scattered. Regular hours of retiring Bnd rising disappeared. 27.Extended periods of inability to initiate action developed. Meal structures disappeared. Rationalization patterns developed to justify this. Irregular Attendance at Treatment Meetings Attendance at AA became sporadic. concentration and abstract thinking abilities were impaired.Depression became more severe. Attendance at treatment groups and home AA meetings became sporadic. Periods of Deep Depression . judgement was distorted. The effectiveness of AA and treatment was dis­ counted. The patients report­ ed they knew what they should do. Therapy appoint. (ear or anxiety that prevented them from following through.

29. suicide or in­ sanity. In spite of this recognition.The patient realized that drinking could normalize many of the feelings and emotions he was experienc­ ing. he felt unable to interrupt the pattern. at other times focused at particular scapegoats. Frustration. suicide or a return to drinking. Patients who were taking An tabuse report episodes of forgetting to take it or manipulations to avoid taking it regularly. Often drinking was an impulsive behavior with little or no conscious preplanning. 35. Unreasonable Resentments .The Patient felt severe anger with the world in general and his inability to function. This anger was sometimes generalized. strain and eventual termina­ tion of that relationship resulted. other times it was entertain­ ed. sometimes after varying patterns of "controlled drinking. Thoughts ofSocialDrinking . . . Overwhelming Loneliness.~3.Attendance at AA stops completely. Conscious Lying . with hindsight. Self Pity The patient became indulgent in self pity. There was also intense feelings of helpless­ ness and desperation. or' mote severe than were present during his last episode of active alcoholism. at other times turned against himself." The patient. This is often called the PLOM (Poor Little Old Me) Syndrome. Discontinues All Treatment . 32. the patient realized he had few other alternatives but drinking. ' 36. . Again. The fear of insanity was intense. This self pity often was used as an attention getting device at AA and with family members. Sometimes the thought was challenged and put oqt of conscious thought. 37. Patients dropped out of professional treat­ ment in spite of a realization that they were acting irrationally and needed help. Start Controlled Drinking­ The efforts at control took two general patterns: the effort to control quantities while drinking on a regular basis. Loss of Control . 31. quickly returned to alcoholic drinking which was marked by symptoms as severe. Complete Loss of Self Confidence . The hope that perhaps he could again drink in a controlled fashion began to emerge. He felt he was facing a choice between insanity. 30.The patient felt he couldn't get out ofthis trap no matter how hard he tried.The ability to control was lost. and the effort tc engage in one short-term and low consequence binge. 34. When a helping person relationship was part of the treatment. He became over­ whelmed by his inability to think clearly or initiate action.. sometimes Y'ery quickly.Denial and rationalization became such extreme processes that even the alcoholic began· to recognize the lies and deceptions. however. Anger and Tension The patient reported feeling totally overwhelmed and feeling there were no available options except returning to drinking.

' ALCOHOLISM _ ..ED SOCIAL DRINKING LOSS OF CONTROL REI.Defensive ­ Impulsive behavior ­ Tunnel vision ­ Plan begin8 to fail ­ Idle daydreams and wishful thinking ­ Periods of confusion ­ Easily angered ­ Listlessness ­ Progressive IOS8 of daily structure ­ Periods of deep depres8ion ­ "I don't care" attitude ­ Feeling powerless and hopeleas ­ Thoughts of social drinking -: Complete IOS8 of self confidence ­ Mi8ses all treatment meetings ­ Stops Antabuse ­ --Apprehension about well·being -Denial (Unaware lying to Belf) --Adamant Commitment to sobriety --Compulsive attempts to impoae sobriety on others --Compulsive behavior --Tendencies towards loneliness --Minor depreuion -Los8 of constructive planning -Feelings that nothing can be solved -Immature wish to be happy -·-Irritation with friends -Irregular eating -Irregular sleeping --Irregular attendance at treatment meetings --Open rejection of help -Diuatiafaction with life --self pity (PLOM) --Conscious lying -Unreasonable resentments -Problems with helping person OVERWHELMING LONELINESS AND TENSION START OF CONTROI.APSE 0 ..I.

Box 184 Hazel Crest.O..~uJ For books and materials on Relapse Prevention contact the Addictions Publication division of HERALD HOUSE-INDEPENDENCE PRESS P.95 _ Counseling for Relapse 17-0104-5 9. Growing Beyond Addiction 17-0109-6 5. Illinois 60429 (312) 335-3606 Terence T.95 _ Family Recovery.95 _ Learning to live Again _ Staying Sober 17-0120-7 10.Z.3Nw4]. MO 64055 (816) 252-5010 1-800-821-7550 OTHER BOOKS AVAILABL'E 17-0105-3 $10. Gorski President -f.For further information about training and consultation services based upon the CENAPS model of treatment contact: The CENAPS Corporation P.00 _ The Phases and Warning Signs of Relapse 17-0117-7.O. Box HH 3225 South Noland Road Independence.kvI'2-.90 17·0111-8 .~ ~ .95 Prevention _ Management of Aggression and Violence 17-0106-1 6.

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