Q&A with Rhyll Croshaw: Is Relapse an Expected Part of Recovery?

Once a month on our blog, we will be featuring Q&A’s with Rhyll Croshaw. This content was originally found on our sister site, rhyllrecovery.com, but will now be a part of our Women’s Discussion here.

Thanks to Rhyll for her insights and willingness to share her strength, hope, and experience with all of us.  Please let us know if you have more questions for her.

Q: Is relapse an expected part of recovery?


There are those who minimize their behavior by saying they can’t be expected to “just stop” porn and masturbation and other acting out behaviors. In this case, they are giving themselves a pass and want others to let them off the hook. Giving them a pass is enabling.

Relapse is a part of the addiction cycle, not a part of recovery. A relapse occurs when a person is in the addict cycle (preoccupation, ritualization, acting-out, shame and despair). We could replace the word “acting out” with relapsing. The person may have long stretches of white knuckle sobriety, but every relapse does not indicate recovery starting again. . . it indicates a pattern in a cycle.

If the pattern continues to be the same, 3 weeks, 3 months, or even 3 years- THAT is not progressive victory over lust. My husband could be white knuckle sober for 3 years. That is not recovery, it is staying in the addiction cycle. He recognizes now that he was not in recovery, but most of the time was somewhere in the addiction cycle. There can be long periods of time with either shame and preoccupation with no acting-out. In this case, the individual is not in recovery; they are merely white knuckling.

12 thoughts on “Q&A with Rhyll Croshaw: Is Relapse an Expected Part of Recovery?”

  1. So what is it if they say they are not relapsing or even thinking about it yet all their behaviors have not changed towards the betrayed?
    They also feel they don’t need a 12-step group or continuing therapy. What if they are shaming you during sexual intimacy because they could not climax and you cannot climax ever.

    Is this him minimizing cause he’s not ready to change?

    1. Tina, that is so hard 🙁
      My husband was actually sober for a year when we separated… even though he wasn’t relapsing, he was still a “dry drunk” so to speak. He wasn’t working recovery. Sobriety doesn’t equal recovery. Shaming and minimizing are addict behaviors, for sure.

    2. Tina, I totally understand your confusion and appreciate Alicia’s insight as well. For me, I know studying and understanding the Circles Models as posted under the SA Lifeline Education page helped me to understand and identify when my husband was in addict behavior, which is just as much a part of his addiction as the actual acting out. As I began to understand this and see how these behaviors were disappearing as my husband found real recovery, I realized that I needed to set my boundaries around these behaviors rather than just his acting out behaviors. If he is in addict behaviors and attitudes, I feel just as unsafe as I do if he is acting out. It is all a part of the same cycle. Setting these type of boundaries can be scary, but if you dig deep and ask your Higher Power and sponsor to help you know what you need to really feel safe, you will find your way. Trust your gut and be true to what your heart is telling you. ❤️

    1. Trigger-Event, thought, image, or any host of other things that will lead to addict behavior such as lust, fear, anger, resentment, emotional withdrawal, etc.

      Slip- accidental exposure to a triggering event that is acted on by choosing to pursue addict behavior or acting out behavior.

      Lapse-choosing to pursue addict behavior and or acting out behavior. Then choosing to acknowledge the lapse in a specific period of time. The sooner and closer to the “heat of the action” the better. (Less then 24 hours max)

      Relapse. (Hiding or not acknowledging addict behavior or acting out behavior)
      Choosing to pursue addict behavior and or acting out behavior. Then choosing to hide, lie or fail honestly admit the lapse.

  2. Rhyll I am a victim of sexual abuse by my dad as a teenager. I have often felt i was abused as an infant. Is this possibly a true feeling? i also have a addiction to porn. i am so ashamed. I just want to crawl into a hole and die.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i am also in the midddle of a divorce from a husband who is heavily into porn. I want better and am going to sa meetings.

  3. 2 years ago my husband’s Therapist told him that he had never had a client that hadn’t had a relapse during their recovery and then proceeded to use the analogy of a cake on a cake stand with a cover over it … it was okay for the cake to be there and you might find yourself lifting the lid, smelling the cake and maybe eating a slice …just don’t eat the whole cake …if you fall off the wagon just get back on. My husband was quite up beat as he relayed this to me when he came home…my reaction was ‘’Are you kidding me? He just gave you a free pass and if he has never had a client who hasn’t relapsed that that doesn’t say much a about his effectiveness as a therapist’! My husband found another therapist and is in recovery.

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