High Risk Situations and Relapse


By Terence T. Gorski, <a href=”http://www.relapse.org”>Author

A High Risk Situation (HRS) is the last step in an ongoing relapse process. To put it simply, a high risk situation is any experience that causes people to if two things:

1. Move away from the people, places, and things that support your recovery; and

2. Putt yourself around people places and things that support your return it addictive use.

To be more specific, a high risk situation can be described as any experience that meets one or more of the following criteria. The more criteria that are part of the experience, the higher the risk of starting addictive use. Here is how to recognize a high risk situation.

1. It isolates you from people who support your recovery;

2. It puts you around people who support and encourage your return to addictive use;

3. It gives you easy access to your addictive substance or behavior;

4. It puts you in a place where other people are acting out their addiction;

5. It encourages addictive thinking based upon the mistaken belief that addictive use will stop my pain and solve my problems;

6. It evokes strong feelings and emotions that are difficult for you to handle in a sober state of mind (these can be strong positive or negative emotions);

7. It activates or is a trigger for craving (the strong urge to use);

8. It reactivates old and deeply entrenched addiction-seeking (alcohol/drug seeking) behaviors which drive you into more intense high risk situations;

9. It limits your choices and available options for coping with or getting out of the situation; and

10. It puts you under social pressure to use, often with the promise of secrecy (It’s OK because no one will know!) and a guarantee it will be just this once (You can enjoy yourself now and get right back into recovery tomorrow!).

You can get out of high risk situations if you recognize what the situation really is, and have a plan for getting out and getting help immediately. Without a plan made in advance to deal with the situation the risk of returning to addictive use is very high.

Many people flirt with high risk situations. They often talk about wanting to prove to themselves they can handle the situation without using.

If they get into a high risk situation and get out without using, they tend to develop a false sense of confidence. They say to themselves: “If I could handle it once without using, I can do it again.”

This leads them to minimize the danger of high risk situations and take unnecessary risks with their recovery.

Early relapse warning signs are the thoughts, feelings and actions that lead you into high risk situations. In relapse prevention these warning signs are often described as Apparently Irrelevant Decisions that put people in high risk situations that seem to happen by chance.



4 Responses to High Risk Situations and Relapse

  1. John Dempsey says:

    Thank you for this, Mr. Gorski. After almost 16 years sober (14 of them in recovery and two in relapse mode), eight of the ten listed above were in play when I picked up again. My first rehab in 1997 didn’t teach about relapse. It wasn’t until treatment at Ashley that I learned of these things. Your work will help to save many lives.

    • Terry Gorski says:

      I am glad that Ashley was helpful. Father Martin was the only person of jus generation who endorsed me Andy model. Ashley has a great staff and one of the oldest continuous treatment programs in the nation.

  2. Can you give some common examples such as bars, drug dealers, drug using friends, booze parties, weddings, funerals and trying to rescue others that have relapsed?

  3. […] second she didn’t see coming. Nevertheless, they both fit what Terence Gorski would describe as a High Risk Situation (HRS). Gorski said that a high risk situation is: 1) any experience that causes you to either move […]

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