Understanding Relapse

 In Drug & Alcohol Addiction

Addiction can be viewed as a disease, and just like other diseases, understanding one’s health issues and admitting that they need to be addressed and creating a plan for recovery are steps to help overcome addiction. A relapse occurs when an individual who has done the good work of undergoing an alcohol or substance abuse program once again begins using drugs or alcohol. The National Institute of Health notes that although there are now “US Food and Drug Administration–approved treatments for nicotine, alcohol, and opioid addiction, more than two-thirds of individuals are known to relapse after initiating treatment for substance use disorders.”

Some challenges in recovery include addressing past traumas and co-occurring disorders, exploring issues that need to be examined and re-envisioned, modifying behaviors, and developing and implementing stress management techniques.

It’s important to look at relapse as a chance to learn and to grow rather than as a failure. A balanced perspective, patience, and sympathetic overview of the situation can all be aids to personal growth and to re-committing to recovery. Rehab, counseling, and support groups may be quite useful to help to teach new stress management techniques, and help to supply encouragement and feedback while the person working on wellness practices incorporating new techniques in an organic and well-organized way.

Reasons an Individual May Relapse

Relapse is a common fear of people in recovery because committing to giving up drugs and alcohol can be quite challenging. The reality concerning recovery is that it is something that needs to be re-committed to every day, and this is especially true when working through the early period of sobriety. Some common issues that may lead to relapse include:

Early Days: Many people face the challenge of relapse when going through withdrawal and the first year of recovery.

Triggers: Revisiting old environments that the addict spent time in while using, and interacting with acquaintances and friends who are still using drugs and alcohol can provide temptation to give in to addiction.

Challenges: One of the challenges to recovery is of everyday routines, such as returning to work and chores and responsibilities; the previous routines may be overwhelming for some people right out of recovery.

Stressors: Whether moving to a new dream home or facing a lay-off at work, emotionally charged events can cause issues for individuals overcoming addiction.

What to Do If a Relapse Occurs

Re-examine triggers and stressors, such as people, places, events, and anniversaries that may set off a renewed episode of drug or substance abuse. Utilizing this awareness, the individual working through addiction issues can use their own insights or, with the aid of a counselor, develop a plan to avoid falling back into issues of alcohol or drug abuse the future.

A relapse can be an invitation to explore different types of treatment, consider the frequency of treatment sessions, and take into account the occurrence of other health and psychological concerns that may be affecting therapy.

Re-commit to sobriety by drawing up plans to utilize resources. These can be supportive individuals, safe environments, and exploring counseling, therapeutic modalities, and sober living peer programs.

Work with medical professionals to find medications that can help during detox, times of the great pressures, or while learning new techniques to healthy living.

It’s not uncommon for people to relapse a number of times before finally coming to long-lasting sobriety. Research shows that with each effort towards recovery, an individual’s probability of long-term sobriety increases. Many relapses transpire when addicts are still in the early stages of withdrawal. The good news is that the risk of relapse steadily decreases. Consider the viewpoint that relapse is imparting important lessons about what one can do to increase the odds of successful sobriety the next time.

Implementing a Recovery Plan

Awareness: Be aware of the triggers that can challenge sobriety and implement rewards when successfully overcoming them.

Allies: When you are trying a new activity or an old challenge, consider asking for help from an ally if it is possible.

List: Create a list of rewards and things that bring pleasure, such as entertainment, hobbies, engaging in the arts or sports that the person working towards recovery can turn to for inspiration, comfort, and enjoyment.

Celebrate Sobriety Milestones: Whether it’s a day, month, or decade, honor the good work of wellness and recovery.

Preventing Future Relapses

Relapse may be a common part of recovery, yet it’s challenging not to be discouraged by this setback. The recovering addict may feel sad to let down people who are encouraging and helping one work towards sobriety.  People may suffer guilt, embarrassment, and shame at using again, and feel overcome by the challenges of committing to sobriety once more, but this needn’t be the case.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests that treatment address the whole person, with continuous evaluation and modification, just like the approach taken for other chronic diseases.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, do not be afraid to reach out. Newport Beach Recovery Center is here to help. Contact us today to receive more information and to talk to an addiction treatment professional.

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