Relapse rates after treatment can be very high. Depending on the drug, how long you’ve used it, and which studies you consult, the relapse rate might be as low as 40 percent to as high as 90 percent in the first year. What’s more, relapse is much more likely if you’re a man. One study of more than 300 people found that after six months, 22 percent of women relapsed while 32 percent of men relapsed. Here are some of the most common reasons men relapse.
They have a co-occurring condition that wasn’t treated.
More than half of people with a substance use disorder also have another mental health issue. These co-occurring conditions typically include depression, anxiety, PTSD, ADHD, OCD, borderline personality disorder, or schizophrenia. Any of these significantly increases your risk of developing an addiction. One drawback of trying to quit on your own or with the help of a mutual aid group such as a 12-step program, SMART Recovery, or Refuge Recovery is that the co-occurring condition is never addressed. These groups are often a helpful means of support for people recovering from addiction, but they are not meant to be a replacement for mental health treatment. If you have tried and failed several times to quit by yourself or with the help of a mutual aid group, you may have an undiagnosed mental health issue that’s undermining your efforts. This is especially a concern for men because they are often less engaged in therapy. Even if they do get professional help for their addiction and mental health issue, they may be more reluctant to open up about their issues. This can lead to worse outcomes and a greater chance of relapse later on.
They haven’t built a strong sober network.
Another area where men often run into trouble is that they are less likely to create a strong sober network. A strong sober network is one of the best predictors of success in recovery. However, it depends on engagement with a sober group and willingness to make new friends. In general, women are more social and have a slightly easier time making new friends in recovery. They can rely on this support in difficult times. Men, on the other hand, are more reluctant to engage with a sober group. They may go back to old friends who still drink and use drugs, which significantly increases their chances of relapsing.
They experienced some major stress.
For both men and women, stress is a major relapse trigger. Drugs and alcohol are familiar coping mechanisms, and when things get tough enough, it’s common to try to relieve stress by using again. This may be normal life stress from work or family obligations, or it may be something big like the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or a divorce. Even good stress, like getting married or getting a promotion may increase your risk of relapse. A strong support system is one of the best ways to protect against any kind of stress, and in that way, women have a slight advantage over men. Men have to manage stress the best they can by building that support network, managing their commitments, and getting plenty of sleep and exercise.
They get into a relationship too soon.
Getting into a relationship too soon after treatment is perhaps a bigger problem for women, but it can also be a problem for men. Being too quick to jump into a new relationship takes the focus away from recovery. At a time when you have to become comfortable with a new way of living and being independent, starting a new relationship is an unnecessary complication. What’s more, people in recovery often end up dating other people in recovery. While this seems to make sense, it puts both people at risk for relapse if one person relapses. Another pitfall is that a new relationship might be great for a while, then fall apart. Breakups are difficult, often stirring up feelings of rejection, anger, and resentment, which can endanger recovery.
They get complacent.
Often, people will be sober for 10 months or a year and start feeling like they have beaten addiction. They may stop doing the things that helped them stay sober. They may stop going to mutual aid meetings, decide to quit taking their medication, blow off appointments with their therapist, or see no harm in hanging out with friends who still drink or use. The confidence people start to feel after about the first six months of recovery is really only the transition out of early recovery into a long maintenance phase. Most people aren’t really on solid ground until about five years of sobriety.
They have unrealistic expectations.
It’s hard to balance your expectations of recovery. You have to expect things to get better, else why go to the effort? On the other hand, if you expect too much too soon, you might become frustrated when all your problems don’t vanish in your first six months of recovery. People who find the path steeper and longer than they expected sometimes become cynical about recovery. They may feel like they’ve been duped or that the effort isn’t worthwhile. In the long run, recovery is definitely worthwhile, you just have to keep at it. If you do relapse, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Many people have to try several times but eventually sustain a long recovery. The important thing is to learn from your mistakes and never give up.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or mental illness, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.