Relapse and Recovery After Relapse
Relapse and Recovery After Relapse
Recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction can be difficult. You have to overcome physical withdrawal symptoms, cravings, and mental roadblocks in order to get sober. The path to sobriety isn’t easy, and it doesn’t get any easier the more times you tread it.
Unfortunately, many recovering addicts and alcoholics tread the path several times – sometimes due to a few ‘false starts’ and for others, they get sober and relapse much further down the line. There are also those who repeatedly get sober and repeatedly relapse after a certain period of time, again and again.
If you ask anyone who has relapsed if getting sober gets easier, they will all tell you it doesn’t – and if anything it only gets harder as you have the additional burden of trying to understand why you gave up the sobriety which you fought so hard to obtain the first time around.
Relapse is not uncommon, it is estimated that 40% to 60% of recovering drug addicts in the United States will relapse at some point, and that approximately 90% of alcoholics will relapse within 4 years of getting professional help.
It is important to recognise from the outset that relapse is not a failure or a lack of effort or willpower. Relapses happen for many reasons, but once it has happened, save the analysis for later and focus first on getting back on track.
Most doctors will agree that addicts and alcoholics are never completely ‘recovered’ and recovering from addiction isn’t as simple as attending weekly therapy sessions, or making a few lifestyle changes. Compared to when an individual is actively using or drinking, sobriety is a completely new way of living, thinking and being – and it takes time to adapt and even longer to form new habits.
Triggers and Relapse
Triggers are by far one of the biggest contributing factors to relapse. For recovering addicts and alcoholics, it’s common that certain people, places, things and emotions bring up memories that create an urge to abuse substances or drink. These emotions can be both positive and negative, happy and sad. Anything that leads to an urge to drink or use is known as a “trigger.”
During treatment, individuals will spend time learning about relapse prevention and making relapse prevention plans. A large portion of time is allocated to learning new coping strategies for dealing with triggers and healthy responses to triggering situations. Not every situation can be anticipated and planned for; during recovery individuals need to use the tools they have developed either through treatment or with their support groups or network. Unexpected triggering situations and challenges are often behind a seemingly well recovered individual relapsing,
It is just not always possible for people to avoid triggers or deal with the same trigger again and again. Life can often get in the way of sobriety, especially when people have limited choices in terms of avoiding triggers – they may even be living in a household which in itself is a trigger or contains multiple triggering people or behaviours. Unless they are able to remove themselves from that environment, or have sufficient coping strategies in place, the chance of a relapse is high.
Another factor that can increase the risk of relapsing is how long an addict or alcoholic has struggled with addiction. Someone who abused drugs for many years before finally getting treatment will generally have a harder time maintaining their sobriety than someone who abused drugs for one year.
As with any habit, the longer you do it, the harder it is to break. That’s why getting professional treatment early on is so important. Mental health professionals, such as the team at The Lighthouse Bali, provide clients with the tools and strategies that are needed to create new habits and make lifestyle choices that support sobriety.
Five Tips for Bouncing Back After a Relapse
If you have recently relapsed, that doesn’t mean you need to start again from square one. Remember that you’ve already made significant progress in your recovery and although you will need to go over some of your work again, a slip up does not erase the effort you have made so far.
Here are five ways that you can get back on track after a relapse:
- Learn from your mistakes
Everyone makes mistakes – we are human after all. Acknowledge that your behaviour was a mistake and figure out what led you to make the choice to use drugs or alcohol. Was it a certain feeling you had, peer pressure from those around you or a place you visited? Determine where you went wrong, and find ways to eliminate those triggers moving forward.
Remember that learning from your mistakes is part of growing and it doesn’t mean beating yourself up for what has happened in the past – instead, focus on the future and preventative measures.
- Go back to treatment
If you relapse and have trouble staying sober afterward, it might be time to consider a complete overhaul and re-entering a primary inpatient program. Going back to therapy in an inpatient environment can help you recommit to recovery and allow you to practice the tools you need to maintain control in your everyday life without distractions. Getting sober is easier when that is your main focus and being in treatment provides you with the environment you need. If you are dealing with unresolved mental health issues, therapy and medications should also be considered with professional advice.
At The Lighthouse Bali, we have several treatment options which you might want to consider. Options range from our Primary Inpatient Program which provides 24/7 residential care; an outpatient patient program (available following completion of a primary program or for those with a minimum of 30 days continuous sobriety) which can be tailored around your needs, sober companion services if you need a program at your home, or if you prefer to stay at home, we offer an online recovery program as well as counselling options via video call.
- Attend a 12-step meeting
Attending 12-step meetings is a great way to stay on track long after you leave a clinical treatment setting. After a relapse, 12-step meetings can help remind you of the positives of life in recovery and can help you to build relationships, and create a support system, with people who really understand. Find an in-person meeting near you if you feel comfortable attending, or join a virtual meeting that you can attend from home.
- Avoid triggers
We covered triggers in the information above and by far the best way to bounce back after a relapse is to remove all the triggers that could potentially compromise your sobriety. That means removing certain people from your life, avoiding certain activities and finding ways to manage your emotions in a healthy and more positive way. Avoiding triggers is often easier said than done, but it’s an effective way to ensure you’re not tempted to abuse drugs or alcohol. Be honest with yourself about who or what your triggers are and be prepared to let go.
- Find new hobbies
After leaving treatment, it’s important to find ways to keep yourself busy. Spending too much time alone with your thoughts is one of the reasons why people are compelled to start using drugs and alcohol again. Focus on finding new hobbies, whether it’s art, exercise, cooking, volunteering or anything that occupies your mind and makes you feel good.
Hobbies that lend themselves to social opportunities are also a good way to meet new people that you have a common interest with that is not based around drinking or using.
Returning to Treatment
After a relapse, there is no shame in asking for help and returning to treatment. If you’ve benefited from treatment in the past, you’ll benefit from it after a relapse. There are no hard and fast rules about whether you should return to the rehab where you had treatment before or if you should try a new treatment provider. At The Lighthouse Bali, many of our clients have attended various other rehabs in the past and for others, we are their first rehab experience.
No matter what stage of relapse you are in now (active relapse, detoxing, slipping in and out of sobriety, or back on the path to sober living) it’s important to reach out for help to ensure a successful and lasting transition back into sobriety. Whether you need full time, residential care to get you back on track or just online support, we have a range of solutions to get you where you need to be.
Don’t face relapse alone, reach out for help and contact us. Make a call today and give yourself a brighter, happier tomorrow.