Relapse is a surprisingly normal part of the recovery process that’s often seen as a sign of failure by the patient. The truth is that relapse is more of a temporary setback rather than a reason to throw in the towel and consider treatment unsuccessful. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, relapse rates for people with addictions are similar to relapse rates for chronic conditions like high blood pressure. Some studies place the odds of relapse after rehab as high as 85 percent; however, this doesn’t mean that a meaningful recovery isn’t possible.

Relapse After Rehab:  Why it Happens

Since relapse is a chronic condition, there’s always the possibility of it happening even after an otherwise successful treatment program. The rate of relapse varies based on the substance involved and the rates for alcoholics, for instance, can range from 30 to 70 percent. Some recovering addicts have underlying psychological disorders that can contribute to a relapse.

Contributing factors may also include:

  • Social pressures (or being encouraged by enablers)
  • Easy access to the addictive substance
  • Stress at home or on the job

Also, many recovering addicts don’t have the benefit of a strong support structure when they return from rehab.  This is a crucial aspect in their ability to avoid relapse after rehab.  For that reason, it is highly recommended that they establish an aftercare program before they leave the treatment program.

What to Do if a Relapse Occurs

Relapse After RehabIf a relapse does happen, it doesn’t mean that the initial recovery was a failure – it just means that recovery isn’t complete yet. While it’s understandable to feel ashamed or embarrassed following the return to previous habits, this shouldn’t be a hindrance to seeking further assistance. While a relapse doesn’t always require re-admittance, it often includes a comprehensive evaluation to determine what triggered it.

If you do experience a relapse, the following steps can be taken:

  • Contact your follow-up counselor or sponsor – You should have been given some contact information following your discharge. This person should be able to help you decide what next steps are best for you.
  • Refocus – Take a moment to breathe and relax. If you’ve been keeping a journal as part of your recovery, take a moment to express your thoughts and frustrations as you regroup and refocus.
  • Start Again – In some cases, your initial program may not have worked out for you because it wasn’t structured based on your needs, so consider looking for another inpatient program that’s more specific to your needs.
  • Seek Reassurance – Friends and family members can be a source of comfort and support if a relapse happens. If you can’t get reassurance from others, reassure yourself be realizing that a setback isn’t the same as failing.
  • Reflect and Learn – Since you’ve already been through a treatment program, you have had an understanding of what likely triggered your relapse. Be honest with yourself and determine what likely influenced your setback.

Realize that you are not going to judged if you return to an inpatient facility following treatment. Relapse is not unique to you and can happen to anyone recovering from a pattern of addiction and substance abuse. The key to avoiding relapse after rehab is the successful management of addiction. If relapse does happen, it should be viewed as a temporary detour on the road to recovery.

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