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  • Writer's pictureChoice Recovery

The Cycle of Giving In

What is it about life that causes us to abandon our commitments, intentions, or even our sobriety? What makes it so hard to follow through on those things we once thought were a great idea or commit to things we don’t want to do? And finally, why do we take-away the greatness of life by giving in to our addiction?

If you find life and recovery difficult, “giving in” too often may be the root cause. What "giving in" looks like is people-pleasing, over-committing, betraying our inner voice, avoiding reality, or inducing dependence. Simply put, giving in is knowing what not to do yet doing it anyway. Whether it is self-care, boundaries, or our responsibilities, our ability to follow through on what we set out to do is what makes life easier and fun. What happens when we “give in” to external pressures is guilt, shame, or regret begin to influence our decision-making. When in this state, we tend to act without purpose and character, which rarely leads to anything good. These unwanted outcomes are often a result of behavior that manifests in our being and must be broken before we can become the person we want to be. We enter recovery to change our lives for the better. To do this, we must learn how to react purposefully in good times and in bad. By learning this skill, we do more than simply stay clean and sober; we learn to be a better person. The Cycle of Giving In has four stages, which are initiated when we agree to do something we don’t want to do or shouldn’t do. The moment we take-on these purposeless responsibilities, a feeling of dread, resentment, anxiety, depression, and second-guessing begin to enter our consciousness. If we choose to stay in the cycle, these negative internal reactions develop into outward expressions like passive-aggressive behaviors, emotional outbursts, avoidance, and other addictive measures. The cycle concludes with the guilt and shame that delivers messages like “I’m so stupid” or “I’m not capable of making good decisions.” As this self-talk continues, our desire for comfort increases. The fix we often mistakenly come-up with is to give in again or give up altogether and return to our old destructive behaviors. Obviously, our goal is to avoid the cycle altogether or exit it when we become aware that we entered it. Like many things, this is easier said than done. Research tells us that the most effective way to avoid the Cycle of Giving In is to identify a life purpose that motivates us to say “no” to any commitments, responsibilities, or requests that do not support the advancement of that purpose. However, there are times when it is hard to say “no” because the request is from a loved one, someone in need, or even a boss. In these times, the solution is not to lie about why we cannot help but to offer an alternative or talk through the consequences of agreeing to the request. This might look like, “I am so sorry that I cannot attend your birthday party, but could you have coffee with me next week instead.” The most critical aspect is not whether we say "yes" or "no" to a request, but whether we do it with an honesty and integrity that satisfies our soul. When regret or other unwelcome feelings take-over your mind after a decision has been made, this is the indicator that you are in the cycle. If you are in this place, always know that it is okay to change your mind. With dignity, respect, and character, tell the person you made a mistake when you responded to their request, and you, unfortunately, cannot attend/be of service/complete the task. As long as your change of mind is based on an honest assessment about what is best for you, and far from you being selfish, lazy or weak, the soul will be satisfied, and the shame/guilt you are feeling will dissipate. However, if you are not acting authentically, the regret, shame, and guilt will expand exponentially, making you feel significantly worse. If you enter stage three and four of the cycle, which are acting out and a deep sense of shame/guilt, respectively, it is time to ask for help. We have sponsors, coaches, and therapists for a reason. Giving in is a tactic employed by our addiction to get us to use again. Our addiction hates that we are trying to better ourselves through staying clean and sober, so it continually tries to subvert our plan. Our addiction knows that when we give in, we are destined to act without intent and that this type of action leads us one step closer to using again. When emotional outbursts, rage, confusion, the feeling of defeat, or other unhealthy thoughts/actions are present, it is okay to ask for help. The power of emotion is strong, and we want to use this energy to promote our recovery. To do this, we sometimes need the help and support of others, and there is never any shame in asking for help. Success in recovery is not about never making a mistake; it is about having the awareness to do the next right thing. We always have the option to exit the Cycle of Giving In before things get out of control. With a purpose-driven by honesty, awareness, and courage, we can continue our journey to live a life that we love, even if at times we begin to do something we know we shouldn't be doing.

About Choice Recovery

A team of addiction treatment specialists that can assist individuals with drug and alcohol abuse issues can be found at Choice Recovery, but our program offers far more than that. When an individual enrolls in our substance abuse program, we support them on their journey in recovery, but also look to assist with their success in employment, social networks, and family. The support from the Choice team and tools learned in our program help addicts build the skills necessary to conquer all aspects of life without the need to run to drugs and alcohol.

Choice Recovery is an outpatient addiction treatment center in Arizona offering telehealth, intensive outpatient ("IOP"), and outpatient programs. We accept AHCCCS insurance including Mercy Care, Care 1st, Banner University, United Healthcare, and others. If you or a loved on is suffering from opioid or another drug/alcohol addiction, please contact us at 480-527-0337 or


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