Drug and alcohol addiction are complex medical challenges faced by millions of people every year. Sadly, fewer than 10% will ever seek the help they need to learn how to overcome addiction or learn the skills required to avoid relapse after getting sober.
What Does it Mean to Relapse?
Many people consider “relapse” as an event. However, it is important to understand that relapse itself is not a singular event or occurrence. Several studies indicate that relapse is actually a process. It is a process that occurs in several stages, including emotional relapse, mental relapse, and physical relapse. Each step is uniquely characterized by different signals or signs often visible to friends or family of someone struggling with addiction. Understanding these signs and symptoms can help ensure you or a loved one gets the help they need before relapse occurs.
It is vital to point out that relapse is a normal part of addiction recovery. When someone experiences a relapse, it does not mean that they have failed or that treatment has failed. It also does not indicate a failed commitment to sobriety or long-term recovery from drug or alcohol abuse. In most cases, experiencing relapse means that you might need a little more help and support to safely and effectively manage relapse triggers outside of the aftercare or addiction treatment environment.
Why Do People Relapse?
Addiction is often called a chronic relapsing illness. This means, like many other chronic disease processes, symptoms can return even after completing treatment or after remaining sober for some time. Some statistics suggest that up to 60% of people who have completed treatment will experience a relapse at least once. So what causes relapse? In most cases, relapse occurs when you are exposed to triggers. Triggers can be things, emotions, people, or places that “trigger” memories of drinking or using drugs. In some cases, these triggers can cause overwhelming and intense cravings or urges to use. In addition to triggers, there are a few other reasons why relapse occurs. These can include:
Mental health struggles: It is not uncommon for people who struggle with mental health concerns to use drugs or alcohol as a way to self-medicate. This situation is referred to as a dual diagnosis. Unfortunately, far too many who struggle with a dual diagnosis do not receive adequate treatment to address the needs or symptoms of both conditions as part of the same treatment program. This means it is possible to leave addiction treatment without addressing your mental health needs adequately. In time, mental health symptoms will return, followed by urges to use drugs or alcohol to dull the symptoms shortly after.
Loss of Motivation: The first days of recovery can be complex and challenging. Keeping busy is vital to ongoing sobriety success for people new to recovery. During treatment and aftercare, you are busy and surrounded by peers who share common goals. Upon leaving treatment, this is not always the case. Many newly recovered addicts struggle with boredom and isolation as they no longer “hang out” with the same friends or frequent the same places. Although this is an effective way to avoid trigger exposure, it can lead to other challenges. In time loneliness, boredom, and reduced motivation can cause relapse.
Poor coping skills: Relapse triggers and stressful situations are an inevitable part of day-to-day life for newly sober people. Although it is unlikely you will experience triggers every day, they will occur, and you must have the tools and skills necessary to manage them in safe and effective ways. When you do not know how to manage or cope with relapse triggers, you are at a more significant risk of relapsing. During treatment, you will learn and practice vital relapse prevention tools. Additionally, participating in an active care program or relapse prevention planning can help you further reinforce these skills. It is vital to take the time you need to solidify your coping skills to ensure you have access to the tools you need to manage challenges to your sobriety adequately.
The Importance of Relapse Prevention Programs
The best way to avoid relapse is to ensure you work with your treatment providers on a relapse prevention program. An individually designed relapse prevention program will help you access the tools you need to manage triggers and stressors. It is important to note that some of the most common causes of relapse include typical daily stressors, increased conflict, financial struggles, work-related problems, and emotional difficulties.Because many of these are unavoidable parts of daily life, a well-planned relapse prevention program can help you identify the emotions and situations that could be triggering while providing healthy and constructive ways to manage them. Coping with day-to-day life after treatment is often a difficult road for many who are newly sober. Inevitably, there will be setbacks and difficulties along the way. It is challenging to start over and meet the challenges and obligations of life without the assistance of drugs or alcohol. Let Relevance Recovery help you start your journey. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment and relapse prevention programs.