Recovery Isn’t a Straight Line
So you’ve acknowledged that you have a substance abuse problem. You’ve gone to treatment, and you’ve done the work. But you’ve found yourself in some tricky, trying spots after finding sobriety.
Now you’re tackling what might be your worst nightmare: relapse. If you’ve relapsed, you may feel like all of your hard work, discipline, and time was a huge waste. If you have a partner, child, or sibling who has relapsed, you may feel like all you did to help them get sober was for nothing.
Stop right there.
First, you are not alone.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains that forty to sixty percent of people relapse in addiction recovery. Other estimates are higher. Psychology Today estimates that 70-90 percent of people who get sober eventually use the substance they were dependent on again in a mild or moderate manner.
Second, using substances after becoming sober is not an end. It is an opportunity to come back even stronger in recovery.
Third, relapse is not failure. Relapse is an unfortunate but common part of many chronic diseases, including addiction.
We can define relapse in two ways:
- Falling back into a former physical or mental state or behavior
- The worsening of a condition after a full or partial recovery
So, what causes relapses?
In the addiction field, we talk about “relapse triggers.” These triggers are often “context cues”: people, places, and events that remind a person of their prior use and inspire cravings to use again.
In other situations, mental illnesses like panic disorders or depression can trigger a relapse just because the person is looking for a quick way to escape their emotional or mental pain. For the same reason, chronic physical pain may also prompt a desire to use again.
How can I prevent relapse?
Perhaps the most important tool for staying sober is to stay active in the recovery community. It’s easy to get busy and think you don’t need the extra support anymore. But attending recovery meetings, working with a therapist, and participating in events with sober friends will keep you on track.
A commitment to self-care is also important. Eating a healthy diet and getting enough exercise and sleep will keep your body and mind strong when cravings hit. Another important part of self-care is having a reason to be sober–something in your life or a goal you want to reach that inspires you and brings you joy.
What can I do if I relapse?
At St. Gregory’s, one of the virtues we hold most dear is love. We have to love ourselves through the relapse (or love a family member through their relapse). The support and assurance that someone can derive from being told that they are not judged and that they are valuable goes a long way in preventing and overcoming relapse.
In addition, relapse is a sign that the treatment plan needs to change. It’s important to return to treatment and/or counseling in order to learn more about what led you to relapse and develop a plan to take better care of yourself.
At St. Gregory’s, we foster an environment of healing. We’ve found that the most triggering of events involve feelings of depression, low self-esteem, and worthlessness. This is why it’s so crucial not to treat relapse as failure or view people who relapse as undeserving of further treatment.
Moving from sobriety to relapse and back to sobriety again can be painful, but is often the path that leads to permanent independence and freedom from substances.
We Are Ready to Help You and Your Family
If you suspect that you, a family member, or friend may be on the verge of relapsing, don’t hesitate to reach out to us today. With our help, and with your commitment and support, relapse will never stand in the way of lasting success in sobriety.