Substance Use Disorder (SUD) places a heavy burden on societal and health systems given its association with high mortality and morbidity rates worldwide and relapse can represent a watershed moment for an individual in recovery. It can be a moment where you reaffirm your commitment to your recovery or a moment where you fall off the tracks for the foreseeable future. This blog will explore the challenges associated with relapse and how to overcome them. It will urge readers not to panic but to use a relapse as an opportunity to come back even stronger.
It’s Not the End of the World
Relapses happen. According to a study cited in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, approximately 75% of those addicted to alcohol relapse within the first year of rehab. You shouldn’t expect a relapse, but you should accept a relapse. “Relapse prevention initially evolved as a calculated response to the longer-term treatment failures of other therapies” (Relapse prevention, Menon & Kandasamy, 2018.) What’s important is that you keep your wits about you and don’t throw in the towel on your entire recovery over a relatively brief period of poor judgment.
Examine What Went Wrong
Try and understand how you got to the point that you did. Contrary to what many believe, the relapse process starts well before someone takes a sip of alcohol or uses their substance of choice. There are three stages of relapse: emotional, mental, and physical. Try and trace back and see when you first started to emotionally relapse.
1. Emotional Relapse
An emotional relapse occurs when your heart is no longer fully invested in your recovery and can manifest in various ways. These include not focusing on your own needs, getting too caught up in work, not engaging in self-care, not attending meetings, or doing so lackadaisically.
If you are in a state of emotional relapse, now is the time to reinvigorate your commitment to your sobriety. Start sharing at meetings, make sure you engage in proper self-care, go to the gym, and make sure you maintain proper space from your job.
2. Mental Relapse
A mental relapse occurs when you are actively thinking about drinking. Here, you are at the last line of defense. The difference between you and a drink is simply a passing thought that you may allow to envelop and take control of you. If you are in a state of mental relapse, you need to step up meeting attendance and speak to your sponsor or another trusted support person immediately.
3. Physical Relapse
Physical relapse is the actual use of alcohol or your drug of choice. A physical relapse represents the final stage of the relapse process. At this point, you’ve lost the battle in your mind. A physical relapse can be the consumption of one drink or a full-blown “bender,” which can last for a considerable period.
Dealing With a Relapse
As previously stated, how you deal with relapse can determine your trajectory of recovery. This can be a moment where you give up, throw in the towel, and end your efforts. Or it can be a time of reinvigoration and recommittal.
If you have just relapsed, get in touch with someone immediately. Whether it be your sponsor, a friend, a family member, or another member of your sober network, you should not be alone.
Next, develop a plan for sobriety. Your plan should focus on how you are going to become sober for the foreseeable future. For example, this can include committing to going to 90 Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings in 90 days. It should include a regimen for working out and self-care and strategies for avoiding triggers to use.
Forty to sixty percent of persons in general relapsed after completing detoxication and rehabilitation treatments. Consider substance abuse therapy as an adjunct to the strategies that you are implementing. Substance abuse therapy is an opportunity to explore all facets of your addiction and to address a strategy for tackling them. There’s something unique to the accountability that is involved in seeing a professional at least once a week to discuss your prevention strategies.
Should I go back to rehab?
Going to rehab is a highly personalized decision. You have to ask yourself whether you need additional time away from home to deal with your cravings. Do you need forced sobriety? Do you need time to dry out? Can you reinvigorate your program on your own?
It’s important to remember that rehab is not a panacea. In other words, it will not automatically solve the problem of relapse. What it will do is give you space to be sober. If you choose to return to rehab, Lantana Recovery offers unique program options that empower you to be at your best in the context of addiction relapse.
A New Beginning, Not the End
You should view a relapse as an opportunity for a new beginning rather than an end of your recovery journey. Remember that the majority of people who go through rehab relapse. Relapse is an opportunity to examine your way of life and tinker with what went wrong. It is an opportunity to identify the people, places, and things that influenced your desire to use and to make appropriate changes.
If you are reading this and have recently relapsed, reach out to someone immediately on your phone, whether it be your sponsor, a friend, a family member, or a therapist, and tell them how you are feeling. There is a saying in AA that “the opposite of addiction is connection.” There are people ready to help you.
Lantana Recovery understands that relapses are not the end of the world, and catastrophizing about them helps no one. There are three stages of relapse: emotional, mental, and physical. Lantana Recovery recognizes that rehab could be appropriate at any stage of relapse. We understand that it is important to use any stage as an opportunity rather than a setback. Our facility provides numerous approaches to treatment, from traditional cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to “out of the box” approaches such as experiential therapies. Lantana believes that by combining traditional and non-traditional approaches to addiction treatment, you can find healing.