Recovery is an ongoing process that doesn’t just happen in a day. Many people struggle with relapse, find their way back to treatment, and continue the work to become the best version of themselves before they achieve their ultimate goal of lasting sobriety.
Sometimes relapse is a part of the recovery process but a pattern of chronic relapse can keep you from achieving your sobriety goals and maintaining a stable lifestyle in recovery. If you’re struggling with chronic relapse, here’s how long-term rehab treatment can help you beat it.
Relapse in Addiction Recovery
Relapse happens. Due to the nature of drug and alcohol addiction, relapse rates resemble those of other chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and asthma. Studies show about 40 to 60 percent of people who have completed addiction treatment will relapse at some point.1
Unfortunately, unlike other chronic diseases, addiction is often evaluated differently, and many people view relapse as a form of individual failure or a failure of treatment. In reality, a lapse back to drug abuse is a sign that treatment should be reinstated, adjusted, or a new form of treatment should be considered instead. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “successful treatment for addiction typically requires continual evaluation and modification as appropriate, similar to the approach taken for other chronic diseases.”
Additionally, relapse isn’t just a single event. It’s a process that takes place over a period of time. By the time you have had a drink or used drugs again, you have likely been experiencing signs of relapse for a while. Instead of just thinking about relapse as a singular occurrence, it’s helpful to think of it as a frame of mind. The relapse process starts as a mindset and progresses into action when it is left untreated.
To fully recover from drug and alcohol addiction, a person must receive ongoing treatment that is fluid and tailored to their individual needs. The key to sobriety is not a formula that a drug therapist or treatment center can simply implement over and over again and expect the same results. Addiction recovery is a highly individualized process that often requires several different episodes of treatment for the best results.
What is Chronic Relapse?
Chronic relapse is relapse that happens over and over again. For example, a person who is described as a “chronic relapser” may complete multiple drug detox and rehab programs, be sober for long stretches of time, and be very familiar with the terms and tools of a recovery program like Alcoholics Anonymous, yet, they can’t seem to stay sober.
In these instances, it’s often not effective to send a chronic relapser back to complete the beginning stages of treatment. Instead, it can be more helpful to focus on a robust relapse prevention plan. In exploring and developing a relapse prevention plan, the chronic relapser can work with addiction treatment professionals to identify the signs of relapse, understand their personal relapse process, and develop an effective strategy to prevent relapse behavior in the future.
Top Causes of Relapse
The severity of addiction varies from person to person and recovery is an ongoing battle of the mind and body. The symptoms of addiction are both physical and psychological, so the causes of relapse are complex. Although the decision to use drugs or alcohol again is an irrational one, the consequences like homelessness, social rejection, physical withdrawal, financial ruin, and even overdose are often not enough to stop someone from picking up those drugs again after a period of sobriety.
Addiction recovery is a process that is full of ups and downs but typically, during a relapse, a person may experience intense cravings or other triggers that cause the drug-using behaviors. Here are some of the most common causes of relapse.2
- Stress – Stress from things like a demanding job or a rocky relationship can easily cause a relapse. Additionally, stress that is related to traumatic experiences like physical or sexual abuse can also contribute to relapse behaviors.
- People or places related to the addiction – Environmental triggers like being in a place where you used to use drugs, seeing a bottle of wine or a pipe, or spending time with a person you used to do drugs with can all be powerful triggers that can cause a relapse.
- Very negative or positive emotions – Negative feelings in daily life can be difficult to cope with if you’re used to finding relief in drugs or alcohol. Additionally, feeling extreme positive emotions can make you feel like you’re on top of the world and invincible, even to the effects of drugs or alcohol. Working with a therapist or counselor can help you develop alternative strategies to cope.
- Seeing alcohol or drugs – Sometimes even just seeing the object of your addiction can make you want to use. A rehab program can help you develop coping techniques and alternative behaviors that will keep your mind off the drugs or alcohol you crave.
- Celebratory occasions or times of the year – Birthdays, holidays, and weddings are all types of celebratory occasions that can make you feel excited, joyful, and in control. However, being overly-confident can be dangerous. Although you may think you can control your drug or alcohol use, the act of stopping once you’ve started is often more difficult than anticipated.
How to Beat Chronic Relapse with Long-Term Rehab
Relapse can be discouraging, not only for the person in treatment but also for the family members and loved ones who are rooting for their success. However, relapse doesn’t have to define you or your success in sobriety.
If you are a chronic relapser, a long-term rehab program that consists of several different stages of treatment can help you win the mental and physical battle you are fighting. An addiction treatment program that lasts 90 days or longer can provide adequate time to address the underlying causes of your addiction, develop a recovery plan that tackles your biggest triggers, and offer continuous support as you work to sustain your sobriety.
To eliminate chronic relapsing behaviors, a long-term rehab program should:
- Reduce feelings of shame and guilt associated with relapse
- Help you examine your periods of recovery and relapse to identify personal triggers (understand your individual relapse process)
- Maintain a focus on the underlying causes of the addiction with individual therapy that addresses things like low self-esteem, self-hatred, unresolved trauma, and other issues that sabotage recovery efforts
- Develop a recovery plan that addresses specific issues related to relapse
- Encourage participation in ongoing treatment like IOP, personal monitoring, sober living, or local support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
Start Your Treatment Today
Many people who struggle with chronic relapse feel frustrated, hopeless, and abandoned, but you’re not alone and you can experience the joy of full recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. If you need help getting back on track, call Eudaimonia Recovery Homes to learn more about your treatment options. It’s never too late to try again.