What Does it Mean to “Step Over Bodies” in Recovery?

“Step over bodies” is a cliche an individual is likely to hear when they are in recovery. They might hear their therapists or sponsors say, “Sometimes you have to step over bodies in early recovery”. Morbid as it sounds, it’s a sad fact. But what does it mean?

Stepping Over Bodies

To ‘Step over bodies’ means that an individual who is recovering will usually bear witness to someone else who has been unable to stay on the path to recovery, and avoid letting that person stand in the way of their own sobriety. There are a few common ways this happens:


Relapse is widely considered a part of recovery. So if someone close to the individual relapses, a therapist, or fellow recoverer might tell the individual to “step over the bodies” and not get involved in their toxic behavior. Especially when an individual is in early recovery, it would be wise for them to stay away from temptation and that means staying away from anyone who has relapsed, and not compromising their journey to a full recovery.

Death Due to Addiction

When someone talks about stepping over bodies, death is probably what comes to one’s mind first. And sometimes it means that the individual has to overcome some tragic deaths. The circumstances of these deaths may vary. It could be overdose, or troubling life situations that lead to untimely death. Of course, the death, whether of a friend or even someone who attended the same group therapy sessions, will affect the individual deeply. But it is vitally important for the individual not to let their convictions be jeopardized and to continue their recovery. To step over bodies means that the individual must be able to accept a death like this for what it is, and not use it as an excuse to be distracted from doing what they need to do for their own recovery.

Dealing with Tragedy

It is an unfortunate fact that relapse and possible fatalities are a part of addiction. A great many number of people relapse or die due to drug addiction every day, and an individual in early recovery is bound to to meet a few of them. Dealing with an experience like that, especially death takes a lot of willpower, perseverance and most important, support from sober friends and sponsors.

While it may seem insensitive to say “step over bodies”, the perspective that the individual must try to keep that someone else’s relapse cannot be the individual’s responsibility. The individual may want to try to help, and may indeed even do so, but not at the risk of being dragged down themselves.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction or substance abuse, don’t delay getting help. Call The Villa to find out how we can support your goals of getting and staying sober.