About Relapse

One of the worst things that could ever happen to a recovered addict is a relapse.  A relapse is often seen as a loss, and it is the epitome of that which all of us who are working through recovery fear the most.  We feel as though a relapse is the worst possible thing that could happen to us in light of all of our hard work and efforts when it comes to conquering our addictions and staying clean and sober.  We always think about relapse as the end of the line, probably because so many recovered addicts will experience an overdose and death during a relapse.

To a degree, fears and concerns about relapse are warranted and validated.  True enough, relapse is one of the worst aspects of addiction, possibly second only to overdose in the severity of occurrences that happen as a result of addiction.  Relapse should be avoided at all costs as the occurrence of a relapse can, (but doesn’t always), mean the loss of months and possibly even years of work.

Relapse Often Blown Out of Proportion

Assuming that you don’t die from a relapse, let’s look at this regarding severity and intensity.  How bad is a relapse?  How quickly can you come out of it?  How likely is it that you’ll bounce back and tackle your recovery and sobriety with renewed zeal and intensity?

One analogy to use here is that, if a person with heart disease returns to treatment after a heart attack, likewise, people with histories of drug or alcohol abuse should not shy away from treatment if they experience a relapse event.  Don’t just think that it’s game over and back to substance abuse.  Relapse can be handled, and you can achieve success again by returning to treatment.

Psychology Today magazine had this to say about relapse:

Many people who have successfully achieved long-term sobriety have learned to control the triggers associated with their past histories of substance abuse. However, this ability to control cravings only comes over time. Unfortunately, this means that people will always be at risk of relapse, but making a mistake once means that the person can learn valuable lessons and skills to more easily resist cravings in the future.”

Though relapse is one of the most significant obstacles facing people with histories of substance abuse is the idea that relapse signals that they have failed to get clean.  This is not true though.  In fact, contrary to popular opinion, relapse is a common event in the lives of people recovering from long episodes of substance abuse.  Realistically, as many as fifty to sixty percent of recovering addicts experience at least one relapse in their lives after they have achieved sobriety.

It’s Not a Sign of Failure:  What to Do About Relapse

A relapse is still a serious event in the lives of those who have begun recovery programs, and the long journey to sobriety extends much further than that.  We tend to make the mistake of looking at relapse like it is the end of the line, but factually a lot of people relapse and then get back to treatment and handle whatever aspect of our lives caused the relapse.  It is not the end of the world.

So what needs to be done about relapse? Relapse should be avoided at all costs.  It can be dangerous and can ruin all of your hard-won achievements.  Relapse can be fatal.  But if it does happen, don’t let it inspire you just to keep abusing drugs and alcohol.  Get yourself back into treatment, address and handle whatever it was that inspired the relapse in the first place, and then get back to your life in recovery and sobriety.

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