Facts About Relapse: A Reminder that You Are NEVER Alone

Facts About Relapse: A Reminder that You Are NEVER Alone

It’s so easy to feel alone, isn’t it? Especially in a world where terms like “Social Distancing” and “Isolation” are the new norm, feeling alone is a common scenario for many of us, but it doesn’t feel any better knowing that we’re all alone together -- if that’s even possible. Can you be alone, and together? 


Unfortunately, feeling like you’re alone is another common scenario when you relapse. But again, you’re really NEVER alone! Relapse is a common scenario for someone in recovery. It happens to the best of us. It happens to us when we try our damndest to do what we need to do. Sometimes, relapse just happens!


In fact, relapse happens between 30 and 90% of the time depending on a variety of factors including time spent in treatment, type of treatment received, type of addiction, severity of addiction and several other situations. The exact rates and predictors of relapse are as varied as the exact cause and frequency of addiction itself -- every case is different, every individual’s desires or situation is different, every relapse is unique. 


The only common denominator is the fact that relapse is bound to happen. 


Relapse Risk Factors


What is it that makes someone who’s trying to stop using drugs or alcohol struggle so deeply with their condition while others are able to turn down harmful substances without a second thought? Studies have proven that relapse rates are significantly increased with certain biological factors that can increase vulnerability. For example, cortisol and corticotropin ratio, which is a measure of adrenal sensitivity and serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor can both play a key role in predicting the potential for future relapse. But what does all of this, hard to say words and research, mean?


It means that many of the factors that increase our vulnerability or risk of relapse are out of our control -- we cannot do anything to necessarily run away from relapse. We can’t necessarily prevent all factors that increase our risk of relapse -- sometimes we just have to ride the wave, roll with the punches, and hope we come out better on the other side.


While we may not be able to prevent all of the biological factors associated with increased relapse risk, how about clinical factors and the various patient-related factors that we CAN control? Things like:


  • Depressive  symptoms

  • Stress

  • Drug cravings

  • Mental health conditions

  • Infectious diseases

  • Medical issues

Many of these relapse risk factors, although difficult to control, can be controlled with some level of planning and execution of treatment plans. Similarly, stress is a very common denominator in relapse scenarios and stress can be controlled or managed more effectively. These types of thought processes, determining what it is that is most likely in our lives to cause us to relapse and thinking through whether or not there is potential for us to manage the underlying risk and mitigate the potential for relapse, is vital. 


While you may not be able to control everything, you can focus on taking action and making decisions to control the situations or elements that are most likely to lead to relapse and most able to be adjusted or controlled, leaving situations or elements that are out of our control out of the equation.


Managing Relapse Risk


Findings suggest that the majority of individuals relapse within just a few weeks or months following the initiation of treatment for drug or alcohol use disorder. Addictive disorders are chronic in nature. You are not alone, nor are you a failure if you relapse! You would never think of yourself as a failure if you had relapsed following treatment for cancer - would you? The same is true with addiction. Treatment can help, but sometimes it’s not enough and often times the addiction comes back. If relapse occurs, you pick up the pieces, seek additional treatment, and continue on down your path of recovery.


Clinically, 85% of people who receive treatment for alcoholic, nicotine, weight loss, or illicit drug use return to using drugs within the first year of their treatment. Continued involvement in treatment can mitigate your relapse risk as you continue to learn coping mechanisms that reduce your sensitivity to triggers. Statistically, those who initiate the most coping strategies and responses to a relapse risk are most likely to avoid a lapse in their recovery from addiction to drugs or alcohol. 


Relapse Prevention Strategies


Recovery is a challenging journey but it’s well worth the effort. If you’re feeling like you need some additional support, consider actively engaging in steps that will help you reduce your risk of relapse. Various relapse prevention strategies exist and those who initiate involvement in more relapse prevention techniques are more likely to stay sober long term. 


Many stressors or triggers are within your control. If you find yourself facing a trigger that is not internally out of your control, consider the following techniques to help you prevent your risk of relapse:


  • Practicing self-care. Don’t let yourself get overly tired. Eat well. Take care of yourself.

  • HALT. Before you give into a drug craving ask yourself are you Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired?

  • Meditations and mindfulness. Are you aware of your surroundings? Have you been exposed to a trigger? Can you do anything about it? How about meditation?

  • Breathing & grounding techniques to reduce anxiety. Are you stressed? Breath it out…

  • Support from friends, family or a sponsor. Call an emergency contact if you’re feeling close to relapse.

  • Consider the repercussions BEFORE you act. If you feel like you want to drink or use drugs, think about what happens next. Play out the entire scenario. Do you still want to use?

  • Initiate connection to the five senses. Something you can see, smell, taste, touch, and hear. Engage your  mind in connecting with your senses to stop the anxiety or stress you’re feeling.

  • Group meetings. Online and telehealth support are both great as are support apps like Pocket Rehab which allow you to immediately connect with others and seek support when you need it.

  • Recognizing and avoiding triggers. If you know stress is a trigger for you, avoid stressful situations. If you realize low self-esteem is a trigger, make sure you’ve got an uplifting friend on your side. 


Reach out on Pocket Rehab to others in the community to connect and talk about what’s going on. Even if you just need someone to listen to what is going on in your life right here, right now -- there’s always someone available to chat in the app. Best of all, Pocket Rehab is free to join and features a robust community of members in various stages of recovery. Many are facing relapse challenges right now just like you! Why not reach out and support someone in need while you receive support for yourself too?


Just remember, if there’s anything we can say about relapse it’s this: You are Not alone!

Category: Pocket Rehab
Tags: relapse prevention, relapse tips, relapse, preventing relapse, relapse facts, facts about relapse