Treatment centers understand that addiction is lifelong disease. While they do their best to give patients all the tools they need to manage stress, triggers, and cravings for their addiction, sometimes things are still too much for them or they have a moment of weakness and relapse. Relapse is when an addict has been clean and sober for a while but have began abusing drugs or alcohol again. Relapse does not mean that the patient failed or that rehab didn’t work it just means that the symptoms of this lifelong disease have reappeared and their treatment model needs to be adjusted. Patients with co-occurring disorders may need any medications they are on to be adjusted or they might need some more time in treatment. However, the goal for every patient is to avoid relapsing and treatment centers do their best to offer the patient the tools, resources, and support they need to do so.
If a recovering addict only uses once or twice this is classified as a slip, not a relapse, but can still be cause for concern. Using again, just once, is a slippery slope. The recovering addict is used to using their substance to escape from certain feelings or situations and the likelihood of those going away forever is unlikely, which means that the reason to use will always be there. If they use it once again, they will most likely try to use again when things get too hard. This slip can lead to full on relapse. Recovering addicts don’t go out looking to relapse. Relapsing addicts often times feel like a disappointment to themselves and their loved ones. This disappointment can feed the relapse as they don’t want to feel this shame. Many times recovering addicts feel a desire to stay clean and a desire to use their substance again. Some recovering addicts give into both of these desires for years, going to rehab then relapsing only to go back to treatment and then relapse again. This is known as revolving door syndrome. There are thousands of people who go through treatment once and maintain their sobriety afterwards but for those who don’t it can be scary for them and their loved ones.
Dangers Associated with Relapse
There are many dangers associated with relapse. Abusing any substance leads to severe damage to organs which can lead to lifelong medical problems or early death. Those who do relapse may have difficulty finding treatment again that will help them recover. Relapsing can hurt the family members and the trust in relationships. Often after a time of sobriety, relapsing can lead to so much disappointment and grief that the addict sinks further and further into their addiction. After relapsing, they may also lose motivation to stay sober and think that the life of an addict is all they deserve. This is not the case. It is important to get the help needed as soon as possible. If after having a slip you don’t feel like you or your loved one can maintain their sobriety, getting the help needed is a great first step. Sobriety can be regained.
A relapse does not mean that the progress made is lost or that treatment has failed. There may need to be changes made to the treatment plan. You may need to find more support through local recovery groups or by going to more meetings. Having a plan that addresses all aspects of your life, better your physical and emotional aspects of your life. Accepting that any use can lead to relapse. Finding a new social network of supportive friends and family is also important, you don’t want your old friends offering you your substance or a reason to use. If you have a co-occurring disorder it is important to make sure you are receiving help for your addiction as well as any treatment for a mental health problem. Making sure that you go to therapy and take any medications prescribed for treatment. It is also important to set realistic goals for your recovery. Things will not happen overnight, recovery takes time and is best done one step at a time. Addressing the underlying issues that started the substance abuse can help you heal and find that you don’t need your substance anymore. It is also important to learn how to handle and face daily stresses so that you don’t need to use your substance to avoid it. Make sure not to visit old haunts. Seeing old friends at old hang out spots can make you feel like using again.
If you do relapse, it is ok. There is still help and support for you. It is important for you to take responsibility for your actions and accept that you need help again. The sooner you get help, the better, and the easier it will be. Leaning on your support groups is helpful, they can give you the encouragement you may need to get through this. Going to treatment and getting the help you need is important and they can help you make a new plan, a better plan for long-term recovery. Reevaluating your expectations and understanding that their may be discomfort or struggles throughout the recovery process can help you feel more at ease with the situation. Looking at your relapse and understanding why it happened can help you avoid it happening again. By choosing a long-term treatment program you are committing to long-term recovery. Make sure to cut ties with your negative ties and instead increase your support network. Prioritize your stress management so that things don’t get too stressful for you and focus on creating your new sober life. Forgive yourself. We are all human, all imperfect, and all need some extra help sometimes and there is no shame in admitting it and asking for the help you need. If you do relapse you haven’t failed and it is not an excuse to continue using drugs. This is a time to pick yourself back up and resist any future use. Continue your recovery, ask for the help you need, make sobriety your top priority, continue or start going to therapy again, remember the tools you were taught in treatment, and know there is help for you.