Why Does Relapse Keep Happening?

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Being involved in recovery and working in the field of addiction treatment, relapse may be the most frustrating obstacle to long-term sobriety. Relapse can seemingly strike out of nowhere and happen to anyone. Many people believe that relapse is a random occurrence that most people go through in early recovery. I believe however, that relapse is not as mysterious or unpredictable as some may say. Instead, relapse is a progressive and chronological regressing of a recovery program, until actual drinking or drug abuse occurs. More importantly, there is a way to safeguard against relapse, and to recognize if your vulnerable to a slip and how to avoid it.

What is a Slip/Relapse?

Simply, relapse is a return to an old behavior or way of living. In the case of addiction, relapse is most commonly referred to as  the physical return or slip back into to active drug and alcohol usage. In early recovery, many people start to feel better immediate and may think themselves immune from relapse. However, relapse is a subtle and cunning foe, and anyone can be at risk, regardless of sobriety time. Relapse can begin in a harmless fashion, with controlled drinking or occasional drug usage. Eventually, the relapse will progress to a full-blown scale and resemble the previous level of addiction. When a person relapses, their addiction can actually become more serious than before the relapse. Feelings of guilt, shame, failure, and depression can accompany a relapse and these feelings can lead to more drinking/drug use or even self-harming. The length of a relapse varies; some relapses are short-lived while others may last years until the addicted person seeks help again. While relapses are never mandatory, many people do relapse on their way to long-term sobriety. Relapse is not the end of the world, and by taking the necessary steps it can be avoided altogether.

5 Things You Can Learn After a Relapse

Being involved in recovery and working in the field of addiction treatment, relapse may be the most frustrating obstacle to long-term sobriety. Relapse can seemingly strike out of nowhere and happen to anyone. Many people believe that relapse is a random occurrence that most people go through in early recovery. I believe however, that relapse is not as mysterious or unpredictable as some may say. Instead, relapse is a progressive and chronological regressing of a recovery program, until actual drinking or drug abuse occurs. More importantly, there is a way to safeguard against relapse, and to recognize if your vulnerable to a slip and how to avoid it.

Why Does Relapse Happen?

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Fortunately, there are common warning signs that precede and signal a relapse. Relapse most often occurs in the first year of sobriety, but can happen at any time during recovery. The more you know about the relapse process and what can trigger or lead to relapse, the more you will be able to protect your sobriety from it happening. The common thread of relapse is a loss of priority on recovery, sobriety, and responsibility. Often a person will stop doing the things and activities that helped them get sober in the first place. This may be stopping attending recovery meetings, stopping seeing a therapist, giving up on meditation and prayer, etc. It is important to remember that it is necessary to continue to do the things that got us sober in the first place. Sometimes a person about to relapse will slip back into old character defects, such as manipulation, dishonesty, selfishness, anger, etc. They may start getting ideas about being able to control their drinking/drug use or thinking, “I could drink and get away with it, nobody would know.” Slipping may also occur following a traumatic or upsetting event; a divorce, death of a loved one, getting fired, etc. In recovery, we need to learn how to deal with these possible events and emotions in a healthy and positive way.

How to Avoid Relapse?

Preventing relapse is a combination of self-knowledge, emotional awareness, and a strong program of recovery. The self-knowledge aspect is about identifying your personal relapse warning signs and triggers. Do you think about drinking/drugs when your lonely, bored, or sad? Find out what situations are most likely to lead you to a relapse. Having a knowledge of your weaknesses can be a great strength in designing a recovery program. One of the best ways to safeguard against relapse it to develop healthy coping skills and create a network of sober people/friends. When those negative feelings, like depression or boredom, arise be prepared to deal with them. An example is finding a hobby or activity to combat those feelings, such as yoga, painting, running, etc. A solid recovery program is filled with activities that help you deal with troubling events and difficult moods, while also promoting serenity and acceptance.228-300x253Having close friends or a group of other sober people is another tool that can defend against relapse. Recovery meetings are full of people who are sober and probably have ever experienced or dealt with relapse first-hand. Fill your phone with numbers of people you can call in a pinch, who will listen to you if something comes up. In addition to these tips, there are countless other ways to build a stable recovery program and achieve long term sobriety. Find what activities and coping mechanisms you can incorporate into your life to promote safety from relapse.

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