Imagine a recovering addict or alcoholic. They struggled for a long time with substance abuse, but they admitted their problem, sought help and committed themselves to long-term recovery at a drug rehabilitation center. They’ve been sober for years now, and their history of addiction seems little more than a bad dream. Then, one day, seemingly without warning, the unthinkable happens: a relapse. How could it have happened? Didn’t they know not to go back to drugs or alcohol? Why spend all that effort on sobriety just to relapse? While it might seem like a relapse is the end of recovery, it’s something addicts can work past, and it doesn’t mean a healthy life is out of reach.
Every addict and alcoholic should be aware of the possibility of relapse. Addiction can never be “cured,” and it can never be fully eliminated from a person. The urge to use will always be an unfortunate part of an addict’s life. Fortunately, drug and alcohol addiction treatment will give addicts strategies they can use to resist these temptations and stay sober. However, in times of high stress or in the midst of a depressive episode, the task of keeping sober can seem like too much of a burden to manage, leading to a relapse.
If someone relapses after years of sobriety, that means they’ve made one mistake among dozens or hundreds of good decisions. While a relapse can feel like all the effort of recovery was for nothing, it doesn’t have to be that way. If an addict stays committed to health and sobriety and doesn’t give up because of one mistake, relapse can become little more than a roadblock, a one-time event that puts a wrinkle in recovery but doesn’t end it.
Sometimes people go through relapse after relapse, believing addiction treatment doesn’t work for them. Call The Ridge, we are able to help recovering addicts through the everyday struggles of substance abuse.
Treatment providers can help addicts through this time, too. They’ve seen relapse dozens of times, and know exactly what an addict is going through, physically and mentally, during a relapse. Their expertise and empathy can help a relapsing patient get through that difficult situation and put them back on the road to recovery.
Some relapses, like for those addicted to hard opiates, will require a return to inpatient care for detoxification or intensive care. For less severe cases, outpatient programs offer year-round support. Programs like AA or NA exist to help addicts with the day-to-day struggle to stay sober. One silver lining of relapse is that an addict learns what their weaknesses are. This gives them a warning about where they’re vulnerable to the temptation of using again, and they can use that knowledge to avoid being in that situation and making those mistakes in the future.
It’s essential that an addict’s family is educated about relapse and continues to support their loved one throughout the process. It’s up to them to recognize the relapse and get their loved one help as soon as possible. Also, an educated family will know that relapse does not mean that the addict has given up or that their recovery efforts are over. An addict needs their family’s support more than ever in the difficult times of relapse. But, if that support is there, recovery from relapse can be a very real possibility.