What Happens if I Relapse?

Relapse is a part of the recovery process. If you have experienced a relapse, there are many things you can do to get back on the path to sobriety.

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    Getting Back On The Road To Recovery

    No matter how diligently you pursue your recovery or how committed you are to lifelong sobriety, there is a chance you will relapse at some point.

    No matter how diligently you pursue your recovery or how committed you are to lifelong sobriety, there is a chance you will relapse at some point.

    According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, relapse rates while in recovery are 40 to 60 percent.

    After a relapse, many people experience feelings of shame or regret. Furthermore, you may feel like giving up the fight and giving into your addiction rather than continuing to work hard and overcome the fleeting desire to use. These are normal, but can create challenges to creating a drug-free life.

    Instead, use this relapse as a learning tool; clarify your relapse prevention plan and identify your triggers. By digging deeper into the root cause of the relapse, you will lay the foundation for a recovery that will ensure you bounce back stronger than ever.

    What Causes A Relapse?

    Relapse after a period of sobriety is an unfortunately common occurrence. Approximately half of all recovering addicts experience a temporary moment of weakness that results in picking up drugs or alcohol again. Knowing some of the red flags can help you avoid this.

    Signs that may predict an upcoming relapse include but are not limited to:

    • Not making sobriety your top priority. Without a firm commitment to long-term sobriety, you’re more likely to relapse. To be successful, you must be willing to put in the hard work required to stay sober. This includes attending 12-step meetings, having a committed sponsor and getting therapy or counseling for possible co-occurring mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety.
    • Not having a support system. A newly sober person needs to have a solid support network right away, as this can make the difference between continued recovery or relapsing back into addiction. Having a support group of others in recovery is vital. Ask your family to keep you accountable, seek spiritual guidance through meditation or religion and join sober group activities.
    • Not wanting to quit for yourself. In some cases, the user enters treatment because they are trying to please their family or friends rather than being committed to quitting for their own sake. Unless someone truly wants to quit for themselves, the risk of relapse is much higher.
    • Not being prepared for life post-treatment. It’s important to create a relapse prevention plan for transitioning back to regular life post-treatment. It is crucial to understand how certain things can sabotage sobriety, such as dysfunctional family dynamics, toxic friendships, social isolation and unhealthy daily routines. Clearly identifying triggers early on can help you protect your newfound sobriety.

    Remembering to have a support group of family and friends can help keep you focused on healing. They can provide stable foundation and encourage discipline or compassion needed in this time.

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    I Relapsed…Now What?

    The first step is to determine whether you need to go back to rehab. If it was an isolated incident and you’re committed to examining or adjusting your recovery care plan, you may not need to go back to an inpatient facility. This offers the patient hands on treatment and ongoing supervision.

    However, if you’ve fallen back into a continued pattern of substance abuse, you might need to get back into a strict treatment program. If you find yourself talking about using substances, hang out with people who encourage you to drink, or fall back into substance abuse to cope, this is a sign of a bigger problem needing immediate treatment.

    “I’ve relapsed many times but this was the longest I’ve stayed sober. If I could do this, anyone could. I almost died, almost went back to jail, almost lost everything [that] I worked so hard to protect. But you can make it back. I did.”

    - Heidi D., recovering addict for over 5 years

    Upon returning to treatment, this time should have a deeper emphasis on therapy, particularly cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which has been successful in teaching recovering addicts new behavioral responses to distorted thinking. Other forms of therapy to explore that are available at many treatment programs include art and music therapy, yoga and relaxation techniques, physical fitness and even equine therapy. After treatment, you can continue to use these strategies and tools to maintain a stress-free life, additionally using these methods to cope with depression, grief, anxiety or anger.

    From the moment you enter treatment after a relapse, the focus should be on the transition back to regular life. You may find that your best option for avoiding relapse is entering a sober living environment for a few months, where accountability and discipline help during those vulnerable first months post-treatment. Also, it would be advantageous to be prepared with an outpatient plan for continuing therapy after you leave.

    Get the Help You Need

    If you’ve already gone through treatment and are struggling with the potential or reality of relapse, there is help available. You should get you enrolled in a treatment program that better suits your needs and that can help you reach sustained sobriety. There re several options suited for your needs, and your budget. Don’t allow relapse to keep you silent or in a cycle of substance abuse.

    Contact a dedicated addiction specialist to find the right treatment program for you.

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