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Relapse is often part of the recovery process. Substance use disorders are chronic diseases that do not have a cure. Therefore, while in recovery, relapse is always possible. While in active recovery, you are in a state of remission. Relapse occurs when symptoms of your substance use disorder return. While this is common among individuals in recovery, does this mean that at some point, you will relapse? In short, no. However, it is also complex. Your fear of relapse is real. However, your fear might stem from the thought that you have somehow failed recovery if you relapse. While relapse does happen, it is not an indication of failure. Sometimes a relapse can reinforce coping skills and strengthen the resolve to find long-term recovery. While there might be feelings of shame and frustration, continuing to seek support is the best way to recover from a setback. Let’s look at relapse, how it affects recovery, and what you can do to prepare.

Should I expect to relapse?

Going through treatment for your substance use disorder and getting on the road to recovery does not mean you have attained the cure. However successful you were in treatment, recovery is a life-long journey that happens while managing other tasks and the challenges of everyday living. Since substance use disorders affect the brain, you will likely continue to experience cravings even after reaching sobriety. While these impulses to drink or use drugs diminish, they never completely go away. Estimations show that between 40 and 60 percent of individuals in recovery relapse. However, this does not represent every person that has completed treatment. It is essential to understand the probability of relapse to learn coping skills for maintaining sobriety. While there is a possibility of returning to former habits, it does not mean that you should expect to relapse. Adopting this frame of mind will only reinforce negative thoughts. Instead, your expectations should focus on staying sober and guarding against potential relapse.

When do people relapse?

Relapse can happen for various reasons depending on the individual. Emotional and physical duress, be it anxiety, depression, exhaustion of day-to-day tasks, can create triggers for relapse. It is more common during the initial stages of recovery because you might be extra sensitive to things, people, and situations that trigger you. Therefore, addressing your triggers will help you avoid such situations. However, avoiding does not mean isolating. Isolation places you in an environment devoid of support and is a major contributor to relapse. It is important to avoid triggering situations and rebuild support networks that consist of people that ensure your recovery comes first. If you discover that your friends and family can’t provide the proper support, you should consider attending peer-supported groups and meetings. Programs such as AA or NA will connect you with peers that share similar experiences. You will have a deep understanding of what each is going through and this can be helpful when building a support network. Additional factors that contribute to relapse include:

  • Overconfidence: Assuming that you are “cured” after detox and treatment can cause you to grow overconfident or complacent about continuing to grow in recovery.
  • Lack of confidence: You might feel like you are “failing” because you lack faith in yourself. Therefore, you might turn to substances to cope. However, this is why having a strong support network matters.

How do I recover if I do relapse?

No matter how long you are in recovery, you can relapse. What matters is how you learn from the slip-up and move forward. Methods to recover from relapse include:

  • Staying positive: Relapse does not have to live in the negative. It can become an opportunity to learn and revise your recovery plan. Reach out to your support network to help you maintain optimism and work together to develop different goals and ways to keep you motivated and accountable. Being around others that belief in you will instill a positive outlook.
  • Seeking therapy: Your substance use disorder is likely rooted in behaviors and emotions that are more complex than simply craving substances. Your trigger can occur from work or relationship-related stress, past trauma or seasonal affective disorders (SAD). Continuing to attend therapy such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) will help you learn what motivates your thoughts and behaviors surrounding your desire to use substances.
  • Attending meetings: After relapse, you might feel shame and therefore want to avoid seeing other peers. However, this is when attending peer-supported groups is essential. By continuing to attend, you will likely meet another that has experienced relapse and therefore attain advice and wisdom on how they endured. Sharing stories during these meetings can help you see that you are not alone.

Continuing to stay the course of recovery and learn about your substances use and how it affects you will only strengthen your resilience to manage triggers. The stronger your coping skills, the more successful you will become at avoiding relapse. Therefore, use both the positive and negative experiences to learn and develop ways to take preventative measures. At Associated Behavioral Health Care, we offer the resources necessary to treat substance use disorders. If you are currently experiencing difficulty managing addiction or recovery, then get help today. Together we can help you with diagnosis, treatment and recovery. To find out more, call us at Associated Behavioral Health Care today at (844) 335-7384