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A relapse occurs when a person, after having completed substance abuse treatment, starts using his or her drug of choice again. So, what is relapse if not a failure to stay sober? Individual outlook is a very important factor in the substance abuse recovery process, and it’s crucial to view a relapse as a learning opportunity rather than a failure. Relapses are far more common than most people assume. The right outlook can often lead to more effective recoveries. The shock of reentering a dangerous lifestyle may be the final push a person needs to truly commit to recovery.
Understanding Relapses And Why They Happen
Substance abuse deeply affects behavior and creates patterns that become very difficult to break. The change in environment during rehab helps with this as it limits exposure to stressors and triggers that may encourage a return to addiction. Relapse is so common because the sudden return to “normal” life after recovery is often a return to those same triggers and stressors, without the support found in the initial recovery center. These situations can send a person spiraling back into bad habits.
Relapse Rates In The U.S.
Roughly half of all people who complete substance abuse rehab return to heavy drug use within a year, and as many as 70% to 90% make a mild slip-up and use again*. If you or a loved one relapsed and felt like a failure, it’s important to remember that you’re in the majority. Recovery is not easy, and everyone has a different experience during substance abuse treatment. It may be easy for one person to avoid a dangerous environment after rehab and adopt new behaviors, while another person may have no choice but to return to an atmosphere that may tempt a former user to return to drug use.
Many people struggling with addiction worry about the detox process as it is notoriously uncomfortable and withdrawal can be very stressful without medical assistance. However, the detox process is the easiest part of recovery. Removing harmful drugs from a person’s system is a relatively straightforward process. The real challenge in recovery comes in the form of changing behaviors, developing new stress management techniques, addressing past traumas and co-occurring disorders, and confronting elements of a person’s life that need to change.
Risks Of Relapse
Relapse can be dangerous, and it’s important for anyone in recovery to understand the risks of returning to drug use. Some people who decide to use again aren’t cautious enough to start with a small dose and risk overdosing by taking more than they can handle. Others may expose themselves to dangerous situations, abuse, or engage in risky behaviors under the influence.
It’s easy for someone who relapses to fall into depression and dread the thought of enduring recovery again.
However, this type of situation may be the final push a person struggling with an addiction needs in order to make real positive changes in his or her life. It’s important to try to view a relapse as a learning opportunity. The sudden shock of a life-altering relapse can help a person realize the need to make more significant changes.
A Valuable Wake-Up Call
A relapse could lead to a person waking up in a jail cell, a hospital bed, a stranger’s house, or even on the street in the aftermath of using again. Alcohol relapse may cause severe illness that may be life-threatening in some cases. Relapses often happen due to specific triggers or influences, and these experiences may help a person identify the people, places, and stressors that push them toward drug use. For example, a person in recovery may not want to admit that his or her romantic partner is a bad influence until the partner encourages or enables a relapse. Going forward, the person who relapsed will now know that this individual is not a reliable source of support or able to be a healthy influence.
Refining Your Outlook During Recovery
Relapsing can trigger feelings of guilt, shame, remorse, and a host of other negative feelings. Friends and family may look at all their previous efforts to encourage the person who relapsed into treatment as having been in vain, but this doesn’t have to be the case. When a person relapses back into drug use, friends and family should stand firm with their encouragement toward treatment and be supportive rather than critical.
Identifying Stressors and Triggers
During rehab, a person overcoming addiction learns to analyze elements of his or her environment that relate to drug use. For example, if a person usually visited the same friend’s house to get high, he or she may realize during rehab that it’s best to avoid visiting that friend in the future. Seeing drug paraphernalia, visiting old haunts the person frequented while using, and interacting with friends who still use drugs are all potential triggers for a relapse.
Stress can also spur a drug relapse. Returning to work and the demands of everyday life may be too much for some people fresh out of recovery. Rehab can teach new stress management techniques, but putting those techniques into practice takes tremendous effort and dedication.
Developing A Plan For Living Sober
A relapse can be a crucial opportunity to refine a plan for sober living going forward. If a relapse reveals elements of someone’s life that require adjustment, then a relapse could be an important step toward true recovery. Having access to professional ongoing support after rehab can be key to developing a strong foundation for recovery.
Recovery Monitoring After Rehab
Family First Intervention offers a recovery monitoring program intended to help with relapse prevention and continuing treatment after rehab. We understand that returning to normal life can be incredibly stressful without the right support, and we work with a nationwide network of caregivers, professionals, and other people in recovery to provide ongoing support and encouragement following rehab.
Learn more about the recovery monitoring programs we offer and the other substance abuse recovery services available from Family First Intervention.