Addiction is a very complex and unique disease. It develops as a result of a confluence of factors that can be biological, environmental, or developmental, making it difficult to isolate a singular reason that can be attributed to an individual’s dependency. Although the disease of addiction cannot be cured, it can be overcome with an appropriate course of action. Individuals who receive quality, evidence-based care and addiction treatment can reroute their lives, effectively reversing the downward spiral of addiction. However, while treatment makes it possible for individuals to achieve sobriety, it’s up to one’s strength of will and conviction in recovery to remain sober after completing an addiction treatment program.
Individuals in the throes of addiction use substance abuse as a vice in order to cope with stress, anxiety, and any sort of hardship they experience in day-to-day life. When individuals begin recovery they must learn healthier and less self-destructive ways of coping in order to minimize the potential for a relapse. Some individuals identify themselves as chronic or recurrent relapser’s, unable to maintain their sobriety after completing an addiction treatment program and, consequently, requiring another round of treatment in order to become sober again. Recovery may take more than one attempt for a number of hopefuls, but it’s important to be able to identify when one is at risk of being a chronic relapser in order to take the proper precautions.
Part of determining whether one is a chronic relapser requires a thorough understanding of the relapse process. Although there are many situations in which an individual in recovery might be at risk of relapsing, there is often an underlying process or series of steps that direct the course of the relapse behavior. Being able to identify the steps in the relapse process allows individuals to employ alternate ways of thinking or behaving in order to divert a potential relapse.
In the early stages of a major life change—such as recovering from alcohol or drug addiction—it’s clear that the benefits of the change dramatically outweighs the effort that the changes require. However, there will come times when individuals will feel as though the benefits are not enough to warrant the demand and effort, which puts them at risk of reverting to the harmful and self-destructive behavior. Triggers for this shift in perspective tend to include feelings of disappointment, guilt, shame, embarrassment, or the feeling of being victimized or deprived. In these instances, the individual remembers that the addictive behavior would have previously been used to get relief from these situations. These thoughts turn into cravings, which require some sort of diversion tactic; however, individuals who continue to indulge in fantasies of using are virtually talking themselves into a relapse. After the relapse, individuals feel guilt and begin missing group meetings and counseling sessions, numbing the guilt with more substance abuse as another bout of addiction begins.
The reality of recovery is that relapse is common and is often an accepted and expected part of the recovery process. Although many individuals tend to relapse after treatment as they make their way toward sustained sobriety, for individuals who are chronic relapsers the goal is to minimize the chance of additional relapse and learn to sustain continuous sobriety. To that end, it’s essential for individuals to be able to identify instances in which they are at risk for a relapse.
Relapse prevention is a major focus of addiction treatment. More often than not, when individuals relapse it’s due to being unable to cope with stress and anxiety with the aid of alcohol or drugs. Emotional situations have been a major source of relapse for many who have relapsed, which is why it’s important to learn ways of coping that aren’t harmful or destructive. Other relapse triggers include exhaustion and overexertion, becoming complacent in recovery, self-pity and victimizing oneself, and being excessively argumentative.
People are prone to make mistakes, providing an opportunity to learn from them in order to prevent them from happening again. In the case of a relapse, it’s important to remember that relapsing doesn’t mean an individual cannot achieve lasting sobriety. A mistake can be a slip rather than a relapse back to harmful, self-destructive behavior. An individual who relapses often feels immense guilt, which causes them to relapse again and again. Instead, an individual—whether a chronic relapser or not—should accept that he or she slipped and take the necessary steps to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. It’s important for those in recovery not to give up after a slip or a relapse.
It’s important for those in recovery not to give up after a slip or a relapse. Even after making a mistake, the journey of recovery isn’t over. At First Steps Recovery, we never give up on residents. If you feel you are at risk of recurrent relapsing, contact us today so we can help you create a diversion plan that will fortify your recovery and help you to sustain your sobriety long-term.