Addiction is a chronic and relapsing disease. While it can’t be cured, complete abstinence can send it into remission. Using again once you’re in recovery can cause the addiction—the compulsive use of drugs or alcohol despite negative consequences—to return. This is known as relapse. And while relapse is not uncommon in the recovery community, it is desperately frustrating. In this blog, we look into how to stay positive after relapse and get back on track with treatment and support.
Relapse Is Not A Catastrophe
Relapse statistics illustrate just how challenging it is to attain lifelong sobriety. Between 70 and 90 percent of people in recovery will have at least one mild to moderate lapse, or incident of using again. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 40 to 60 percent will experience a relapse of the addiction. Relapse doesn’t mean that treatment failed. Relapse is an opportunity to determine what skills are missing and develop a new arsenal of strategies and techniques to prevent another.
Why Relapse Is So Common: The Disease Model of Addiction
Addiction is a disease of the brain, characterized by long-lasting changes in its structures and functions. These long-term changes leave us vulnerable to the cues associated with substance abuse, such as stress, celebrations, a particular time of day or a certain place.
According to the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, 25 to 50 percent of people in recovery need intensive, continuing aftercare—including ongoing therapy, support groups and other programs—and a high level of support at home and in the community to successfully manage their addiction.
Emotional Responses to A Lapse
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a lapse doesn’t always lead to a relapse of the addiction. Whether it does is largely determined by the emotional response to the initial lapse. Feelings of shame, guilt and other negative emotions, make it more likely to let the lapse turn into a relapse as a way of escaping those negative feelings. If you feel like the lapse was completely out of your control because you believe you have no willpower, you may simply abandon your recovery altogether.
Steps To Take After A Lapse
The most important thing you can do after a lapse is to immediately tell someone in your support circle.
The second most important thing is to cut yourself some slack and let go of negative feelings. You made a mistake and it happens. It doesn’t mean you have categorically failed in recovery. Just as it takes time to develop an addiction, it takes time to develop a life of sobriety.
Once you’re surrounded by support and have shifted from guilt mode into repair mode, you’ll spend some time evaluating where things started to go downhill. Maybe you grew too confident and stopped attending or participating in meetings. Maybe your anxiety, depression or other mental illness wasn’t being managed well enough. Maybe you grew increasingly isolated, angry, frustrated or intolerant.
These are all common causes of relapse, and you’ll work to recognize when the relapse process started, how you could have read the signs better, what coping skills you were missing and what you could have done differently. Then, you’ll develop specific skills and strategies to prevent the same thing from happening again.
After this period of evaluation and rectification, you’ll likely return to recovery stronger, more motivated and better prepared to maintain sobriety for the long-term. For many, it takes more than one attempt to achieve lifelong sobriety, and that’s okay. You’ve come a long way, and while you still have a long way to go, acknowledging your progress, staying mindful and open-minded and remaining committed and engaged in aftercare will go a long way toward preventing another lapse.
If you or someone you love is suffering from the effects of alcohol abuse, substance addiction or any other type of addiction, please call us today. Our addiction treatment counselors can help you deal with physical, emotional and psychological consequences of drug and alcohol abuse. A substance abuse treatment program is effective, safe and has helped many men reclaim their lives. Destination Hope is a full service drug, alcohol and dual diagnosis treatment facility in Florida for men suffering from substance abuse and mental health issues.