What is the Abstinence Violation Effect? The Abstinence Violation Effect (AVE) is a fancy name for something that we all experience after we give in to an urge. All it means is that we allow ourselves a “slip” and then become guilty or demean ourselves for giving in. This creates a vicious cycle – we begin thinking, “What’s the use? I already gave in. Doing this again won’t matter.”
The AVE will be stronger if you believe that the slip occurred as a result of internal, unchangeable, factors, like a lack of willpower. You may feel shame, guilt, or a deep fear that all is lost. If this occurs, you may be more likely to experience more lapses or even a full-blown relapse.
If you believe that the cause of the lapse was an external, changeable factor, such as an unexpected, one-time situation, you are more likely to feel some control over the slip (you may simply be able to stay safe by avoiding this situation in the future). In this case, your AVE would be less intense (assuming you are able to avoid the situation).
Tips for How to Handle a Slip 1. The first task — GET OUT OF THE SITUATION. Staying in a high risk situation will only cloud your judgment, encourage more slips, and prevent you from getting a clear look at the situation. 2. USE THE SLIP AS A LEARNING EXPERIENCE. The fact that the slip occurred means that you made a mistake or need information to avoid such risks in the future. Slipping does not mean that you are a failure — it means you need to learn more about yourself. 3. PLAY DETECTIVE. Take time to retrace your steps. Did you make any decisions prior to the slip that led to greater risk? Was there a pattern of negative thinking that preceded the slip? Has your lifestyle been supportive of recovery? 4. DO NOT KEEP THE SLIP A SECRET! This will promote further dishonesty and may set the stage for further slips. 5. DISCUSS IT WITH SUPPORTIVE PEOPLE. Others may have noticed unhealthy patterns and can provide you with more insight into the slip. 6. DEVELOP A PLAN. Decide in advance what you would do in the event of a slip to reduce the chance of a full-blown relapse.
Adapted by Inflexxion, Inc. from Chiauzzi, E., Villapiano, A., Budman, S., & Goldman, R. (2003), Time-Effective Treatment: A Best Practices Manual for Substance Abuse Professionals. Center City, MN: Hazelden Foundation.