redeeming relapse

Redeeming a Relapse

SoCal Detox
SoCal Detox

SoCal Detox editorial contributors include writers, editors, mental health and substance abuse treatment professionals who are trained to create credible and authoritative health information that is accurate, informative, and easy to understand.

Relapse: to suffer deterioration after a period of improvement.

Relapse. Even the very definition of the word carries quite a connotation. It’s a movement backward. It’s a failure. A deterioration. In many peoples’ minds, it’s a spiral backward that brings someone back to who they actually are. The issue here is that those descriptions just don’t work when talking about drug and alcohol recovery. Because, how can something be a deterioration when it has been used in so many lives as a catalyst for positive change? As a part of a path that actually leads to lasting recovery?

Relapses in recovery, though not sought after by any means, can become significant agents of change and propel a person to true lasting sobriety. This means there is hope if you or your loved one has experienced a relapse.

Redeeming a Relapse—the Situation

That said, we do everything we can to prevent a “slip up.” In treatment, you build life skills in order to make sure you can handle cravings and manage triggers. In a good program, a significant amount of residential treatment will be focused on this very thing. Addiction treatment is proven to remove or reduce the symptoms of drug/alcohol use disorder, but it cannot “cure” the essential cause. So relapses will happen. To hide from that fact would be foolhardy. We have to accept it and move forward with this information.

The Stigma

Addiction is not the only disease that incurs relapse. In fact, other chronic illnesses have a lot to learn about redeeming a relapse from the addiction community. If a person with type 2 diabetes has a relapse into their previous damaging lifestyle, how is that treated?

First off, the shame is not as prevalent—usually their loved ones do not treat them as failures without hope. Beyond that, what is being done by the person and the community to help turn the relapse into a positive life-changing, psychoanalysis? Do they examine the triggers that brought them to the lifestyle relapse? Do they make notes of the emotional charges that might have contributed to the return to harmful practices?

All to say, our language is important here, so is our understanding of the inevitability of relapses in addiction and other diseases that require behavioral modification.

We certainly don’t want people to feel like a relapse is perfectly acceptable and something that should happen all the time. However, there needs to be a bit of a correction in our understanding. Possibly even over-correction. So here are a few positive things we can put to use in redeeming a relapse.

  1. Drugs and alcohol are bad news for the addict.

Once a person has some sobriety under their belt, it’s surprisingly easy to for them to forget how hard life was under the tyranny of an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol. A couple of months of recovery and people sometimes find themselves glamorizing the past. Or even thinking it might be nice to get back to it.

But after a relapse, the pain returns with a vengeance. The craving, the loss of control, the hollow days and overall shallowness of life. Not to mention the danger: the overdose likelihood, the damage your body takes, the threatening situations, the willingness to put yourself at risk.

Takeaway: Drugs and alcohol are not good for you as an addict, and it’s absolutely not worth it to go back.

  1. I Have Triggers

Sadly, it is common for relapses to occur even when things seem to be going well in a person’s recovery. The cravings are at bay, life has a semblance of wellness to it, you are healing and developing relationships—and boom, something happens and the junkie’s back. And everything that goes with it.

No matter how strongly you feel, or how much positive momentum you have, like everyone else, you can succumb to life’s uncontrolled circumstances. This is a tough lesson to learn, but it’s the reason to never take your addiction and your recovery lightly. Here are three common relapse focal points to keep an eye on and to help you define where some of your deeper triggers lie:

Emotional Relapse – You might not be cognitively thinking about using drugs or alcohol; however, your emotions are strong. Maybe tragedy happened in your life recently or you might even be feeling joy from career success. Beneath the surface, your emotional state could be setting you on the road to return to substance use.

Mental Relapse – This sometimes happens as time moves along. A mental relapse occurs when you begin thinking about returning to substances. Maybe part of you wants to get back to the feelings and the ability to numb life. The preoccupation with this will grow over time.

Physical Relapse – You had certain behaviors and locations that were part of your life in addiction. Returning to those are part of a trigger event that can lead you to relapse. This might happen as a result of allowing certain relationships back into your life or going back to the old places/events that were integral to your drug or alcohol use.

Takeaway: You have triggers, and the more you understand what they are and where they come from, the more equipped you will be to successfully manage them.

  1. You Can Change Your Approach

The key to redeeming a relapse is found in changing your approach. Something didn’t work, so you need to rethink your recovery program. You probably don’t need to reinvent the entire thing, but now you have insight to where you can firm up and delve deeper into some of your personal triggers and psychological issues. You now have more insight on what makes your addiction tick … what gives is a certain amount of power over you. So it’s the perfect time to make some changes.

Takeaway: You are not right back where you started! You have so much you have learned and done. You have momentum and new skills. A relapse does not delete this from your life. In fact, relapse can infuse your past accomplishments with new strength. And give your recovery approach a more specific and effective focus.

What to do?

Again, relapse is not something we aim for. However, when they do happen, working with them and using them can redeem what looks like a catastrophe.

If you have had a slip or a relapse, respond immediately. Relapse will spell certain disaster if it does not push you to change. It’s time to recognize why your circumstances caused you to relapse. Get help in this. Relapses are serious business and should be handled with as much intention and care as the first time you decided to get clean.

Most likely, this time around you will be even more serious and put more effort into your treatment because you are acutely aware of the consequences.

This Is Not the End

If you or your loved one has experienced a relapse, there is no time to lose. Take advantage of the lessons learned from this experience and move forward to lasting recovery. Please call us today and allow our team of experts to work with you in understanding your relapse and using it to help you find a recovery plan that lasts for you and your unique needs. Call us today at 888-590-0777.

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