Why we can't seem to get enough

How Often Do Long-Term Sober Alcoholics and Addicts Relapse?

Recent celebrity overdoses have raised the question...does anyone actually stay sober? If someone has been abstinent from alcohol and drugs for a few years, or even a few decades, what are the chances that they will relapse? Read More

Think of addiction like

Think of addiction like diabetes. If after 1 day or 30 years you stop you daily preventative treatment and the disease starts to take over with fatal results.

I was sober for 25 years when

I was sober for 25 years when I picked up a drink again. Now I've been drinking for almost a year. NEVER, NEVER are we cured. And it's very hard (in my experience) to get sober again!


Hoffman is only the latest victim of a predictable as well as fabricated epidemic of heroin addiction that is spreading from coast to coast. During the Reagan administration the practice of medicine was snatched out of the hands of the M.D.s and kidnapped by MBAs. The end result is a system that invents diseases, convinces the public that they are afflicted then offers a solution for a fee. The United States represents only 3% of the World's population yet we consume 80% of the entire world supply of pain killers. In many states the Big Pharma lobbyists have authored and paid legislators to pass legislation which holds doctors liable for under-prescribing pain medication. Today, doctors are able to fill these orders on sight and are paid cryptic benefits for volume. Drug addiction is a 400 billion dollar enterprise globally and Pharmaceutical companies want their share of the addict dollar. Any addict must guard, nurture and protect his/her sobriety to any extreme. If it were up to the pharmaceutical industry every American would be consuming several substances, needed or not, from cradle to grave.

Long term recovery relapse rate

I'm 36 years clean and sober, 100% no prescriptions pot or anything else. I drank for 13 years, so I'm almost sober 3 times longer than I drank.
Drinking long ago became a non-issue for me, and I took a 12 year reprieve from meetings and AA. But I was married to a woman who was extremely helpful and we went to couples counseling for about 10 of those years, so I continued to work on myself with her help and the counselors help, and made some great progress during that period.
I am now divorced and attending meetings again, and enjoying it.
Great article, it's good to hear evidence that we stabilize with years of practice.
There are a number of variables to consider.
1)Do we work the 12 steps, I mean really work them? Not just to discuss them in meetings. In particular, steps 4,5,6,7,8,9,10? Many skimp on these steps, and pay the price. We need to continue with step 10 if we want to stay healthy.
2)Do we continue to grow along spiritual lines? Recovery IS a spiritual solution to our addictions.I've been working intensely on step 11 for the past year with really great results. We never stop growing, or we go backwards.
3)Do we depend on prescription meds for our mood swings, depression, etc.
At 10 years sober, experiencing ongoing depression, I was actually elated to read the Bill Wilson suffered depression into his 15th year sober!
I then knew I was not alone!
Addiction is not a Prozac Deficiency, or a Valium Deficiency, or whatever is the trendy drug they want to substitute nowadays.
I tend to think that the use of prescription meds can interfere with actual recovery. Just my opinion, take it or leave it.
I personally never used any anti-depressants, and I am personally skeptical of their use except as a very short term attempt to kick start someone out of a rut, then back to abstinence.
As addiction stated in his comment, we can't trust Doctors and Big Pharma with our lives, we need to use our own common sense.
Doctors today are too quick to prescribe meds to addicts.
Any prescription drug can quickly become a Gateway Drug for an addict, so we need to be our own doctors there, and be very wary of these doctors.
Just my opinion, but it's worked well for me and dozens of others I know with 2-3-4 decades of sobriety.

Long-term recovery and Relapse

I have only been in recovery for 7years from compulsive addicted gambling, and sometimes to much alcohol when I gambled. It's sad to read how "Celebrities" seem to get all the attention when they die or commit suicide from various addictions while their are many, many more who die everyday that had long recovery time and then some major life event happens and they relapse.

It's why we need to work on our recovery each and everyday to help NOT become complacent. You don't have a "Balanced Recovery" if you don't. Use a "Relapse Prevention Daily Plan" so you will be prepared, and not be caught off guard when a life event happens. We also need to remember, WE WILL ALWAYS be a bet, a drink, a pill, a needle, etc, etc, AWAY each day!

Mood-Altering Chemicals

Excellent article; thank you! This is my 20th year of sobriety. I've used a sponsor since my first months and attend meetings every week. I have a service commitment and sponsor others. I don't talk about my major depressive disorder, but I've got it, and it has not gone away. This is between my psychiatrist and me. My meds have been as low as the smallest dosage of wellbutrin -- a year ago -- to today when I am on the highest plus one other.

Opiates (heroin, pot, oxycontin) are instantly "gratifying" mood alterers. Anti-depressants are not. They put a "floor" between me and the abyss. If you have major clinical depression, you understand the abyss. Anti-depressants keep me alive, as do therapy and practicing the principles to the best of my ability.

I am glad that not all of us in recovery have been diagnosed by a specialist as having a depressive disorder. I don't judge the appropriateness of meds for insulin-dependent diabetics, despite occasional spikes in my own blood sugar. I would hope that those with occasional episodes of depression would not judge those of us who requires meds to help manage our depressive disorders.

longterm sobriety and depression

I'm sober 32 years and I have been out of work for almost a year now. I have found myself withdrawing, and my anxiety is also high. My sponsor never calls and I feel very alienated from people in the program, I do talk about how I feel but at the same time feel misunderstood.

I'm worried about this and hoped to get some feedback from those who relate.

AA not the only way

Hey, Dude. Criticising the usage of anti-depressants is downright DANGEROUS for those suffering from depression or bipolar. I'm sober 5 years thanks to a good website, SSRI's and therapy---and most importantly, me. If I had taken the AAer advice of no drugs I would have killed myself. Consider yourself lucky that your ONLY problem was addiction. On top of my addiction I had severe depression. The depression is finally getting better (took near 5 years), but it's still there and way more difficult to manage than my alcohol addiction.

To those who find themselves with both addiction and mental illness, hang in there, and remember to get your medical advice from doctors, not fellow recovery people.


we are all entitled to our opinions, but I too battled depression for 10-15 years sober.
I remember being so relieved to read that Bill Wilson fought depression until around 15 years sober.
For those who don't know, Bill Wilson was one of the 2 founders of AA, the one who did most of the writing of the big book, and many other AA books.
Sorry, but I feel strongly that the use pf prescription drugs to alter my mood as a recovering addict is dangerous.
I have 2 close family members who traveled that road, and both ended up dead from the disease.
I felt like killing myself numerous times sober, but I'm still here, and the depression is largely a thing of the past.
I am sober over 3 decades, with no prescription or self prescribed substances at all.
So do as you will man, but I'm telling you that from my personal experience, it's a dangerous road.


I was relieved to read Bill Wilson suffered long term depression because I was thinking I was doing something wrong.
So it made it easier for me to accept that I was depressed at 8-10 years sober, or whatever it was.

I believe it is irresponsible

I believe it is irresponsible to tell ANYONE they should NOT take antidepressant meds. Believe me, no one I know WANTS to take these medications. I have seen countless people commit suicide AND relapse over untreated depression. Most addiction professionals believe underlying depression to be a CAUSE of addiction for many addicts/alcholics trying to self medicate. The 12 steps work. Millions of us have been helped. I really wish they had better statistics on long term recovery because I see a huge deficit of long-timers in the rooms of AA--do they grow out of AA AND stay sober? Or do they relapse? We don't know because we lose them. It has become an adage that "it's a program of attraction rather than promotion" means "leave the alcoholic member alone--it's THEIR job to contact us". Bill and Bob did NOT do this and the statistics for recovery were MUCH higher in the 30s and 40s than they are now. Bill DID have depression by the way, and it almost killed him. He experimented with LSD to try to alleviate it!!! How much better his quality of life had we had SSRI's to help major depression. I agree that recovering people are most likely all depressed in their first year or so--I was--TWICE--I was told that if it persisted THEN to seek help. Too many people take meds who should not take meds, but it is a personal choice, and in my state doctors do NOT pass out meds like candy. By the way I had 7 years--relapsed--14 years--relapsed with breast cancer treatments--and 9 years--relapsed with severe depression--now I am being treated for my depression-I have chronic pain but do NOT take pain meds--they are DANGEROUS--Welbutrin is saving my life.

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Omar Manejwala, M.D. is an addiction psychiatrist, the chief medical officer of Catasys, and author of Craving: Why We Can’t Seem to Get Enough (Hazelden Publishing 2013).


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