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Media Addicts Anonymous Addiction Relapse Cycle

Whatever we consume, eventually consumes us. Each of us, no matter how long we have been in recovery, is either moving closer to a slip or relapse or moving closer to recovery. Every day we must be vigilant because as media addicts we have little or no effective mental defense against the first click. Recognizing the warning signs before a relapse is the best way to prevent one from occurring. 


Let's look at what the media relapse cycle looks like by focusing on the 10 D's of the addiction cycle.


  1. Dissatisfaction. It starts with a feeling of dissatisfaction—feeling down, depressed, hungry, angry, lonely, tired, resentful, shameful, guilty, full of self-pity, etc.

  2. Drug of choice. We start to think about finding a way to lift our spirits with a dopamine hit of some kind.

  3. Denial. We deny that one small hit will hurt us. We were never that bad. We can handle this.

  4. Defense. We begin to defend this insane idea. We have a right to use. I'm entitled to this.

  5. Defiance. "I will do whatever I want, I don't care!" We already feel drunk and it's only a matter of time before we use it.

  6. Drunk. We use our drug of choice and we can't stop and don't want to stop. We move into blackout oblivion.

  7. Depressed. We wake up the next day scared and depressed. Hopeless and fearful that we will never be able to stop.

  8. Desperation. We will do anything to stop. We call on a Higher Power to help. G-O-D = GIFT OF DESPERATION. 

  9. Determination. We seek out help from our fellowship and work our program one day at a time. We don't give up; we are willing to go through detox and withdrawal again. 

  10. Daily Disciplines. We pick up our daily disciplines and work them rigorously.


You can see if we always live in numbers 8, 9, and 10—Desperation, Determination, and Daily Disciplines—we never have to circle back to number one and start the whole addiction cycle again. We never have to go through withdrawal again. 


System for Living Media Sober


Desperation, Determination, and Diligence working our Daily Disciplines are the only hope we have to maintain any long-term media sobriety. Our system for living media sober is to turn around the cycle of addiction. Here it is.  


  1. (Instead of Dissatisfaction) Gratitude. Turn dissatisfaction into gratitude. Make a daily gratitude list.

  2. (Instead of Drug of choice) Prayer and Meditation. Make your drug of choice your Higher Power.

  3. (Instead of Denial) Stay in Reality. Stop gas-lighting yourself. Remember how bad your worst binge was, and how you felt after it.

  4. (Instead of Defense) Defend your sober life rather than your alcoholic media.

  5. (Instead of Defiance) Ask your Higher Power for humility and just surrender. Save time. Save your life.

  6. (Instead of getting Drunk) Hold on to your sobriety as if it is the most precious possession you possess.

  7. (Instead of being Depressed) Wake up joyful and grateful with a good night's rest.

  8. Desperation. Stay in this one. Stay close to GOD: the "Gift Of Desperation." Never let up.

  9. Determination. Stay connected to your fellowship and work your program one day at a time. Don't keep a back door open on your alcoholic media, stay willing to go through detox and withdrawal as long as it takes. 

  10. Daily Disciplines. List your daily disciplines and work them rigorously.

A Slip VS Relapse


Let's look at the difference between a slip and a relapse.


A slip has several layers of seriousness. A minor slip would be to enter into your "middle-line" media and behaviors. A major slip would be to dip into your “bottom line," alcoholic media and behaviors. A slip is a momentary indiscretion and is a clear sign that something in your life is out of balance and needs to be addressed. 


A slip becomes dangerous if it continues longer than a few hours or a day. If a slip continues for a few days, we would say you are at the beginning of a relapse. The allergy of the body and obsession of the mind have been reignited, and the ability to control your alcoholic media will be almost impossible. A full-blown relapse would constitute months and even years of media insanity.


If a media addict can acknowledge a slip or break right away, take responsibility and tell another recovering media addict about the slip, ask their Higher Power for help to remove any urge, and hermetically seal the incident so it doesn’t move into the next hour or the next day, a relapse can successfully be prevented.


But what leads up to a slip or a relapse is even more important to understand. Many smaller events happen before a relapse. There are four distinct stages leading to relapse:  Spiritual, Emotional, Mental, and Physical.


The Stages of Relapse


1. Spiritual


A spiritual relapse is the first stage leading to a media relapse. It begins when we let up on our disciplines of prayer and meditation. For example, we wake up late and believe we don't have time to connect to our Higher Power before work so we decide to pray in our car on our way to work. But once in our car, we put on the radio without thinking. At work, we get so busy we forget to ask H.P. for guidance. We make our time with our Higher Power an option rather than a daily requirement. We put our jobs, school, and others before ourselves and our Higher Power. We keep saying, "Tomorrow I will do better."  But we keep up the same pattern until we feel disconnected from ourselves and our Higher Power. We need our Higher Power to stay in fit spiritual condition around our media usage. Without it, we become prey to the first click.


2. Emotional


Emotional relapse is the second stage leading to media relapse and a continuation of spiritual relapse. It occurs way before a media sober individual even begins to consider using again. Because we have lost our conscious connection with a Higher Power, we start to experience negative emotional responses, such as anger, moodiness, and anxious feelings. We may also begin to experience erratic eating and sleeping habits, and our desire for recovery often wanes due to a lack of using the support systems we have in MAA. These are warning signs that a media sober person could be entering into the next phase of relapse, and it is important to recognize them as quickly as possible. This stage occurs before a media addict is even aware that they could be in danger of a relapse. 


3. Mental


Mental relapse is the third stage of the process and a continuation of emotional and spiritual relapse. This is often a time of internal struggle for the media sober person because part of them wants to remain on the road to long-term sobriety. However, part of them is embattled in a tug-of-war with another side that wants to return to using. Unless we have sworn off all alcoholic media completely and for good, there will always be a part of us that wants to use again, which is why addiction is considered a chronic condition. As the mental phase of the relapse progresses, fantasies about using bottom-line media eventually arise, and at this point, it’s difficult to stop the compulsion to act out. When a media addict decides they are going to use, it’s just a matter of time until they do it. The AA Big Book tells us that the main problem for the addict centers in the mind and that the "insane idea" always wins out unless arrested right away.


4. Physical


Once mental relapse has occurred, it doesn't take long to progress to the stage of physical relapse. Physical relapse is when a media addict consumes their alcoholic media, breaking their sobriety. Using even just one time can ignite an intense dopamine high, and the media addict starts to have intense cravings to continue to use. The potential to enter back into their compulsive media behaviors is now a very real threat. With the physical release of dopamine, the media addict wants media more than anything else. Most desires for relationships, life goals, and self-care fly out the window and take a back seat to their alcoholic media. The only thing the addict wants is their media, and if this stage is not arrested right away, it will turn into a full-blown relapse. 

Signs and Symptoms Leading to a Media Relapse

Here is a list of common signs and symptoms leading to a media relapse. This list was put together in no particular order.


  1. Believing that we are cured after we have fasted for a period of time and can now use media with impunity

  2. Not getting enough sleep, not having a media curfew, or, if we do have one, not following it

  3. Overworking and not having sufficient time for rest and relaxation, having no balance and boundaries

  4. Not making our Higher Power a priority in our life and not cultivating that relationship

  5. Not taking care of our body's basic needs and eating poorly which creates other mood-altering effects

  6. Desiring media more than we desire a deep relationship with our Higher Power

  7. Letting the fire go out on our life purpose; feeling we have nothing to contribute; giving up and living a discounted version of ourselves

  8. Believing that we can always start tomorrow, never having urgency and desperation for our recovery

  9. Judging, complaining, or losing respect for MAA members or sponsors who are trying to help us get and stay sober

  10. Badmouthing the process or showing disdain for recovery and blaming others for our dissatisfaction 

  11. Feeling hurt by something that happened at a meeting or business meeting or any other interaction with a human and deciding we have a good reason to act out with media

  12. Still holding onto the belief that we can afford resentments, self-pity, and dishonesty and that these will not hurt us

  13. Believing that we can afford to have a HUGE addiction and a SMALL recovery program

  14. Living our life as a reaction rather than a creation; getting trapped in our feelings and triggers, getting lost in "stinking thinking"

  15. Not coming to meetings or showing up late and leaving early; never putting our camera on or multi-tasking during the meeting 

  16. Leaving MAA after we get sober and believing we can do it on our own

  17. Never giving back what we were given, never sponsoring or helping at meetings

  18. Losing regular connections with other MAA members, avoiding outreach calls

  19. Re-introducing media without guidance from a sponsor and making decisions by ourselves

  20. Still hoping that one day we can use media the way we used to and there will be no adverse consequences, keeping the back door open on alcoholic media 

  21. Falling into the nostalgia trap and allowing ourselves to linger on the good-ole days with media

  22. Discussing TV shows, games, music, etc., that are our alcoholic media with others, which creates an obsession of the mind and creates the urge to use them again

  23. Feeling envious of others who get to use media when we can't

  24. Feeling discontented with our sobriety and doubting whether recovery is really working for us

  25. Longing to be normal with media

  26. Denying that we were ever that bad, that we are wiser and better now, and that we can handle our alcoholic media without falling down the rabbit hole

  27. Not keeping recovery as our first priority but allowing work and relationships to distract us

  28. Not working on MAA's 12 Steps or not completing them

  29. Isolating and trying to do it all by ourselves

  30. Not using our Higher Power to take away the obsession of the mind and protect us against the first click 

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