A relapse, regardless of whether you believe or have been told it to be a simple, unavoidable part of recovery or not, is a setback, of that there is little doubt. In fact, it is not the relapse itself that affects your chances of a successful recovery from addiction, but how you actually respond to such an event if it happens.
“A chat with the Grim Reaper should be
enough to scare away any thought of relapse.
Wish it were that easy, but not even days
conversing with death can disintegrate
the claws of addiction.”
– Ellen Hopkins, U.S. author of “Traffick”
In truth, a successful recovery from substance addiction involves one thing and one thing only – 100& abstinence from that substance. However, it will be only be considered to be a success by yourself, the recovering addict, if your life has become a good one to be lived without it, one that has no need, or even any room, for substances. For many, sadly, that’s not the case, and relapse for them is just the next thing waiting around the corner.
I, myself, am no angel. I spent more time getting high, getting drunk, and getting the next fix than I have ever spent abstinent. Yet abstinent is what I am now, and reasonably successfully so, if the last 6 years are anything to go by. Fortunately, I was able to attend a drug addiction rehabilitation center before I accidentally overdosed, and that was, according to the physicians, the next step I was going to take. The last step, too.
Have I relapsed during my recovery? No, but, boy, have I come close. Too close. And that explains why I’m writing this, not because I’m some medically-qualified expert in the matter, but just because I’ve been where you are now – in the early stages of recovery, and concerned that my life as it was then was building up to an unavoidable event, one I couldn’t stop. Maybe, you feel that way now.
To a degree, relapses can be predicted. Failure to consider the following will make keeping to your recovery a whole lot harder, making relapse more likely:
- Sobriety has to be your top priority: If you wish to succeed, it has to be this way. A failure to commit 100% to your recovery from substance addiction makes you far more likely to succumb to relapse.
- Your sobriety needs a support system: A solid and reliable support system is essential. Once you’re no longer in treatment, their support is gone, so you must ensure something takes its place.
- Stop for yourself – No-one else: Recovery is a personal thing – and it should be all about you. Becoming abstinent for somebody else, seeking recovery without yourself as the reason for it, well… that’s simply not going to work.
- Prepare for your post-treatment life: Not only do you need a support group in place, but you also need to draw up a relapse prevention plan. Understanding what can cause relapses is one thing, but identifying potential hurdles to your sobriety, eg, triggers, out in the real world, your real world is vital.
The aim of this article, however, is not just about how to avoid relapse – importantly, it’s about what to do if you experience one. So, here you are: “4 Important Steps You Must Take Now If You Have Relapsed.” Please, read on…
#1. You Are Accountable
Your recovery is yours, and any relapse during that recovery is yours too. Your fault and your responsibility – no-one else. Holding yourself accountable for the actions (or inaction) that led you to this point is an important step that you need to take. Therefore, admitting to yourself that your relapse could have been prevented and realizing that you need to take action to stop it happening again is vital within your recovery process.
#2. You Need to Find Support
The importance of a support system (as described above) is at no time more evident than when relapse has occurred during the recovery. In the event of a relapse, you should immediately get in touch with those within your support system – your family, your designated friends, your sponsor (if you have one), and your therapist – to let them know what’s happened, and to share this troubling time and the burden placed on you. With your support assisting you, a relapse will only seem like an obstacle to be overcome, and not an end to your recovery.
3. Understand Why Your Relapse Happened
Relapses occur for a reason, probably explained by one of the triggers to your previous substance abuse, along with your inability to act rationally in the face of it. Whatever has caused this, you need to understand why it has happened by looking at the circumstances, your mindset, and your thinking process at the time. There may well be the presence of environmental factors too. By understanding what has triggered the relapse, you will be far better placed should you be faced with the same (or similar) situation.
#4. Relapse Treatment Programs
Obviously, something as serious as a relapse may well require professional assistance, either in the form of a return to an inpatient or outpatient program, which will ensure the relapse goes no further, and you stabilize your recovery process. It may well be the case (depending on the impact and severity of the relapse itself) that another detox is also required, to once again ensure the complete removal of toxins from the body.
Additionally, a return to group therapy and individual counseling sessions can also help to reduce the impact of the relapse. In fact, many addiction treatment centers offer programs specifically for recovering addicts and alcoholics who fall victim to relapse.
“Keep Moving Forward…”
Addiction recovery is all about progress, whether it be measured in time abstinent like the 12-Step program, or by your personal level of happiness leading an abstinent life, or some other measure. Whichever way you look at it, a relapse is not the end of the road and is certainly not your final destination.
I’m reminded of a movie quote. How did Rocky put it when he was sharing his philosophy on life? It’s not about being able to hit hard, or anything like that…
“It’s about how hard
you can get hit, and keep
Sums it up quite well, doesn’t it? For a recovering addict, nothing hits harder than relapse back into substance abuse. However, it really is about keeping your momentum going forward. Yes, it is a setback, but not, by any means, a defining one.
These 4 important steps – being accountable, finding support, understanding why, and considering a relapse treatment program – are all steps you need to take to ensure your recovery is back on track as soon and as practicable as possible.
Please feel free to share your experiences of any relapses you may have experienced during recovery, and how you were able to overcome them. Thank you.
Have you or a loved one dealt with addiction?
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