If you have tried to quit drinking or using drugs but had a relapse, you are not alone. Statistics suggest that up to 80% of people who try to quit have at least one relapse before achieving long-term sobriety. Coping with relapse is often uncharted territory for both the addicted and the loved ones involved. You may be asking yourself,” Where do I go from here?”
Here are some commonly asked questions you may be thinking if you or a loved one has fallen into a relapse.
Jump to Section
What are the common triggers of relapse?
By the simplest definition, a relapse is when a person returns to using drugs or alcohol after a period of sobriety. Why is this occurrence so common during the road to recovery? The triggers that cause a relapse are often difficult to avoid. And as a person moves closer to the emotional stage of relapse, they stand to fall victim to their craving and addiction. Stress, negative or challenging emotions, and old friends and locations are the three most common triggers to avoid during this time. Learning to recognize triggers, getting help from a counselor, and building a support network are all useful tools in preventing a relapse. Do everything you can to protect yourself, but don’t beat yourself up if you do slip.
Did I fail because I relapsed?
Recovery involves creating a sober lifestyle and completely changing past habits, and it is understandable that there may be relapses during the course of building a new life. Coping with relapse is difficult, but your mindset during this time plays a large part in your struggle. Instead of seeing relapse as a failure, relapse can be a sign that it’s time to make some changes to your treatment plan. The most important task is coming up with a plan that works for YOU. Recover is an ongoing journey and there is never one single moment when you’re ‘cured’. Often through this journey you will alter your plan to accommodate changes in your life. And the end goal will always be sobriety.
How do you bounce back from relapse?
- Get Help and Support
This step may be particularly tough, but reaching out for help and support is most often the most effective way to handle a relapse. As well, you should consider contacting your addiction counselor, recovery coach, or other recovery accountability supporter to schedule a face-to-face meeting.
- Join support groups and stick to a schedule
Maybe you’ve slacked off or seriously cut down on self-help or 12-step meeting attendance. This is the time when you need to step it up again. If you’ve only been going once a week or once a month, start going several times a week, even daily. You need support from this network to reinforce your commitment to sobriety.
- Think of relapse as a back step not a slip
Addiction treatment is incredibly effective. But even still, the rate of relapse is staggering. It’s estimated that 40%-60% of recovering drug addicts will relapse at some point in their lives, and roughly 90% of alcoholics will relapse within 4 years of getting professional treatment. During recovery, it’s not uncommon to deal with the struggle of a relapse. What defines you next is how you respond. Viewing your current situation as a conscious decision you made, you will realize you are in control of your next move as well. You are not sliding down a hill, incapable of stopping yourself. Sobriety is a constant journey but it’s up to you every day to choose which direction it goes.
- Create a relapse prevention plan to use moving forward
Recovery involves creating a sober lifestyle and completely changing past habits. It is understandable that there may be relapses during the course of building a new life. However, while recovering from addictive behavior, some people get caught in a pattern of repeated relapse and rehab. This is a phenomenon sometimes called “revolving door syndrome.” Although repeated slips can be a normal part of recovery for some, ongoing relapse and rehab can become a compulsive pattern of its own. These habits make it even more difficult to successfully stay sober long-term.
Take this time to recognize your triggers and create a plan to avoid and remove them from your life moving forward. Maybe this means taking a different route home from work to avoid old hangouts, or choosing to not spend time with people who don’t support your goal of sobriety. Ask yourself these questions to get started creating your plan:
- Have you been spending time with the wrong people?
- Have you been putting off responsibilities like paying bills and subsequently feeling overwhelmed by mounting tasks or debts?
- Is your self-talk negative, particularly in the direction of not believing you could be successful in your recovery?
- Have you been getting lax with your recovery efforts, e.g., not attending meetings?
Coping with Relapse: Do you have a loved one who relapsed?
Discovering that someone has relapsed on drugs or alcohol after treatment can be so disheartening. It isn’t the outcome that either of you were hoping for, but it also isn’t the end of the road. They can still get better. Helping someone you care about recover from a substance abuse disorder can seem like a daunting task, but there are certain things you can do to help your loved ones feel supported in their mission to live sober:
- Don’t ignore, dismiss or enable the problem
When it comes to helping someone who has relapsed, remember that you can support them, but it is important to do so in a way that doesn’t enable their behaviour and that doesn’t interfere with you recovering your own health and wellbeing. When someone has returned to active addiction, remember that they are the one person who can get them well again.
- Keep communication open
Many times when a person is coping with relapse, they find themselves shutting down to outside help or communication. They are often their own worst critic, dealing with feelings of regret, frustration, and hopelessness. As a support system, it’s important to be there to show empathy. The best thing to do is love them, support them, encourage treatment, and be understanding of their struggle.
- Provide and promote sober activities to do together
Coping with relapse requires changing the daily habits of the addicted, and finding new activities are a great way to do this! Recommend new hobbies, such as going to the movies, crafting, reading, or journaling. Getting involved in new activities can be a great alternative to the unhealthy interests of the past. And finding activities that you can do together will help to strengthen your relationship as well.
- Don’t blame yourself and don’t give up hope
When you love a recovering alcoholic or drug addict, you may feel a huge sense of relief when he or she agrees to go into treatment and get sober. You want to believe that all the bad times are behind you. But if your loved one ends up relapsing, it can be devastating for you. However, relapses are not uncommon. Don’t blame yourself for the addiction, and don’t let him or her blame you. Make a commitment to learning how to remain calm and accept whatever happens. Above all, don’t give up hope
- Look on the bright side
The old cliche’. This task may seem easier said than done. A slip may feel like the end of the world, but really, it’s an opportunity for growth and reinforcing basic life skills that need more work. Many people emerge from relapse with a fresh scare regarding what they are up against, as well as a deeper commitment to becoming sober. This renewed motivation can help you come back from a relapse even stronger than you were before.
- Find help and support for yourself
When someone close to you has relapsed, often it can be helpful to get an outsider’s point of view, especially from people who have their own experiences of addiction or relapse within the family. Al-Anon and Nar-Anon provide support to people affected by someone else’s drinking or drug abuse. These can be particularly useful if you find it difficult to talk to your friends and family about the problem.
Are you Coping with Relapse? Harmony Ridge Recovery Center is here to help.
Has your addiction left you feeling helpless with no way out? Has your loved one’s addiction made them unrecognizable? We understand what you are experiencing and are here to help! A relapse can be just a minor misstep if handled correctly at this time. Thousands of people, like you or your loved one, have achieved recovery from drug and alcohol addiction with the help of our kind and compassionate team of medical professionals.