Facts About Relapse: A Reminder that YOU are not alone
Relapse happens to the best of us. If you don’t think it’s true, or you're feeling like you are somehow inadequate because you relapsed recently, consider the following statistic: 90% of people in recovery from addiction to drugs or alcohol will relapse at least once in their first year. Not only are you not alone, but you're also with the other 90% of people who, despite their best effort in trying to climb the recovery ladder and stake a claim to sobriety, have relapsed. Relapse sucks, there’s no arguing about that, but it happens to even the most strong-willed, committed people--just like you! We fight hard to reach sobriety. We strive for that day, week, month or year checked off in the sobriety calculator. But relapse happens, and sadly, not enough people talk about the guilt and shame that is felt when it does. You made a commitment to sobriety. You did everything you could to achieve the best possible outcome. But, somewhere along the lines, you had a drink or touched the poison that you committed not to ever touching again. It’s okay! Let’s take a look at some of the facts surrounding relapse, and what you can do to get back on track!
Addiction Recovery Relapse Facts
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, relapse rates associated with drug use are very similar to those related to other chronic illnesses. Therefore, someone who suffers from addiction and then recovers for a period of time is likely to experience a relapse at some stage in their lifetime. This is just like someone who has cancer going into remission and then later relapsing when cancer reappears. Relapse is a likely phase of recovery. Below are some statistics directly related to relapse:
- 40-60% of those treated for substance use disorder will relapse in their lifetime. (90% relapse in the first year.)
- Those who receive treatment for alcohol addiction are less likely to relapse in the following 3 years when compared to those who do not receive addiction. (Sadly, less than 20% of those who suffer from addiction receive treatment.)
- The primary tools for relapse prevention include CBT and mind-body relaxation techniques to change negative thought patterns and develop healthy coping skills, according to the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine.
Did you know that relapse is often an explainable outcome? Most relapses can be better understood in looking at a few basic recovery rules:
- Changing your life to create a new life where it is easier not to use drugs or alcohol. If you have not made changes to your life to get away from the patterns and lifestyle in which you previously used drugs or alcohol, your risk of relapse is definitely higher than for someone who has made significant lifestyle changes to ensure their recovery.
- Being completely honest with yourself and with others. If you're lying to yourself, saying one drink won't hurt, or I can be around So-and-So that I used drugs with in the past, it will be okay, or I'm not hurting anyone by doing this,” you are risking your recovery. Lying to yourself is a step in emotional relapse and one step closer to making a poor decision regarding drugs or alcohol.
- Being afraid to swallow your pride and ask for help. If you’re afraid to ask for help in a situation that could lead to relapse, you are almost setting yourself up for failure. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when help is needed. If you feel like you’re slipping and your recovery may be at stake, ASK FOR HELP. See support through sobriety apps like Pocket Rehab, connect with others in recovery, and get the help that you need.
- Care for yourself. If you’re not doing your part in taking care of yourself, you are risking relapse. Caring for yourself includes both efforts to take care of your emotional well-being and efforts to care for your physical health. If you’re not feeling your best, there is an increased risk that you will self-medicate in an honest attempt to fix the problem. Unfortunately, this could be risky to your recovery.
- Follow the rules. You can’t bend the rules of recovery--not even just a little! The fact is, a lot of what you need to learn and DO in recovery relies on following rules. If you're even considering bending the rules, think again!
What Causes Relapse?
No matter what stage of recovery you are in, there are risks of relapse. The causes of relapse may vary for each individual and for each stage of recovery. Those in early recovery are often faced with stronger temptation and cravings to use than those in later recovery. Likewise, those in later recovery may start to forget the impact that addiction had on their lives and ultimately allow themselves to slip out of recovery over time. Below are just a few of the potential causes of relapse:
- Stress over everyday life and the priorities we have.
- Remaining connected to the people or places that were part of our addiction.
- Facing negative emotions or challenging times.
- Mental illness that is left untreated or undertreated.
- Being in an environment that is conducive to substance use. Such as a bar or a party.
- Facing times of celebration without a plan for sobriety.
- Forgetting about the impact of addiction on your life.
- Thinking you are beyond the basics and don’t need basic therapy anymore.
- Growing past the days of regular NA or AA meetings and slipping away from sobriety.
- Focusing less on self-care and more on responsibilities or other behaviors.
- Attending self-help meetings less frequently.
- Losing connections with your support group.
- Thinking that you can control the outcome now that you have been educated about drugs or alcohol.
Recovery After Relapse
So now that you know why relapse happens, and you know you are not alone, what next? Is there recovery after relapse? ABSOLUTELY! In fact, almost everyone in recovery will tell you that they relapsed at least one time before they made it to where they are today. Moving forward, it is important to recognize what happened in your life to cause a relapse. Remember, most of the time, relapse can be explained by one of the following scenarios:
- Changing your life.
- Being honest with yourself.
- Asking for help.
- Practicing self-care.
- Following the rules.
So as you try to figure out exactly what happened to cause your relapse, consider whether you failed on any of the above? Did you spend time around someone that you knew was still abusing drugs? Did you lie to yourself and say you could have just one drink? Did you feel yourself slipping but avoid asking for help? Whatever the case is, if you can figure out WHY you relapsed, you can work on developing coping skills to prevent the relapse from occurring again in the future. Take an internal inventory, be honest with yourself, and decide what steps you must take to ensure this doesn’t happen again. Once you have done that, take these steps:
- Forgive yourself. You can’t be too emotionally hard on yourself. The relapse is over, you have taken steps to correct it, you are aware of why it happened--now stop beating yourself up about it.
- Closely monitor your situation. If a trigger lead to your relapse, now is the time to make sure you are paying very close attention to any other potential triggers to avoid a repeat. Track the people you know, the environments that you are likely to use in, the activities that are likely to cause temptation and anything else that could derail your recovery efforts--track them, and avoid them or learn how to cope with them.
- Put your sobriety first in every situation. If you even suspect that your sobriety may be derailed by attending that party--don’t go. If you suspect you may be triggered by seeing that old friend--don’t see him or her. If you suspect that you don’t need your daily support group after a few weeks--KEEP GOING ANYWAY. Put your sobriety first.
- Get support from peers through sobriety apps like Pocket Rehab. You need as much support as you can get during this time!
Tags: relapse, relapse triggers, recovery, relapse prevention, pocket rehab, rehab app, support