Relapse in Recovery: Bouncing Back

The determination to overcome substance addiction is already a victory in itself. The realization that something is wrong and needs addressing is commendable. But, the road to recovery can be long and very challenging. There may be several obstacles along the way. One obstacle may be a relapse in recovery.

After people undergo the discomfort and pain of detoxification (detox) and spend time in rehabilitation, they may think that all is well. After all, people at this point have worked hard to get their lives back together. But, this is where people can be wrong. A relapse in recovery is still very much possible.

What Is a Relapse?

A relapse in recovery is not a sign of failure. Handled properly, a relapse is a temporary setback following a period of improvement. Individuals suffering from addiction need to make lifelong efforts to remain sober, but recovery is a possible achievement.

While every single day may be a challenge and relapse is possible, so is recovery. It is common for people in recovery to feel as though they have failed. They may feel that they have let themselves down as well as the people who are supporting them.

The hard truth is, depending on their addiction, about 50 to 85 percent of people struggle with relapses within a year of their treatment. Why? The answer varies from one person to another. But, while the facts clearly show that they are common occurrences, relapses should not be excuses for avoiding treatment.

Why Does Relapse Occur?

Relapse in recovery has different effects on different people. A person who has struggled with alcohol addiction for about ten years but is on the road to recovery may find himself with a friend who wants to meet him for a drink. This person may want to spend time with his friend and not succumb to the temptation of alcohol, but may find himself drinking in such a situation. Later, the person may wonder how such a situation occurred.

Some people might find themselves in the same places and situations that led to their drug and alcohol problems. While their resolve not to take drugs again may be strong, such places and situations may trigger people to give in to the urges of their addictions.

Each person is different. Different people also have a variety of experiences. Addiction can change the way people think. Addiction alters circuits in the brain, making it difficult for people to control their impulses and driving them to do anything to satisfy their urges. Even if they want to quit or stop, they just cannot.

People struggling with addictions have brains that tell them to continue to do what they are doing. Their brains tell them that using drugs or alcohol one more time would not cause trouble. Substance abuse is a struggle people face every day. But a life away from addiction is possible and attainable.

Signs of Relapse

There may be several warning signs of relapse in recovery. They can be emotional, mental, or physical. People may struggle with one or more of these signs.

Emotional Relapse

  • Isolating oneself
  • Not sharing one’s feelings
  • Going to counseling but not sharing
  • Not attending counseling
  • Having problems sleeping and eating
  • Focusing on others and ignoring one’s own needs

Mental Relapse

  • Minimizing the consequences of past substance use
  • Glamorizing previous substance use
  • Experiencing cravings for substances
  • Bargaining
  • Thinking of places, people, and things associated with past substance use
  • Planning a relapse
  • Lying
  • Thinking of ways to use substances
  • Looking for opportunities to relapse in recovery

Physical Relapse

  • Using drugs and/or alcohol again

It can be difficult to prevent physical relapses if people do not use coping skills to avoid them. Mental relapses, on the other hand, may exhaust people’s minds. People may begin using again to escape their own thoughts.

Bouncing Back from Relapse

Relapse in recovery is not the end of anybody’s journey. It should merely be regarded as a temporary obstacle, not an insurmountable one. If you or a loved one is suffering from a relapse, it is important to reach out and seek help. There is no shame in needing and asking for help. Addiction is a powerful disease that changes the brain’s wiring and affects every aspect of a person’s life.

Seeking help involves talking with people. For example, you could talk with a counselor and develop a recovery action plan if do not have one. If you have a plan but it is not working, you can make adjustments to help you get back on the right track.

Therapy is a helpful option. Discuss relapse in recovery, its possible triggers, and your feelings about it. Do not keep all your thoughts to yourself. Bottling your emotions can eventually cause you to use drugs or alcohol again or create additional emotional problems.

Treatment is another option to consider. Treatment can teach you or your loved ones new coping mechanisms to help you have a successful life in recovery.

Avoiding Relapse in Recovery

There are tips that can help you avoid relapse in recovery. They include:

  • Staying away from possible temptations – Freeing yourself from urges to use again can mean avoiding temptations.
  • Developing a healthy routine – More healthy routines often include regular exercise and healthy meal plans.
  • Finding a positive support network – It takes a village to recover. The same is true when it comes to avoiding relapse in recovery. You need to surround yourself with positive people who have your best interests at heart.
  • Avoiding complacency – Thinking that you will not relapse and being complacent about your initial recovery can be dangerous. You need to have a proactive attitude and a willingness to battle addiction.

You can stay sober. You can live a healthy and successful life, and it starts with one day at a time.

Talk with one of our Treatment Specialists!

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