Addiction recovery is an ongoing process and requires continued attention and commitment. Those in recovery must always be aware of their surroundings, feelings, and potential triggers to keep themselves on the road to long-term recovery. Like other chronic diseases, it is something that must be managed. And also like other chronic disease, there is always the possibility of relapse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that between 40 and 60 percent of people who go through addiction treatment relapse at some point in their life.
Relapse is not a rarity, but it also doesn’t have to be the norm. There are many clients who go through treatment and make positive changes in their lives that allow them to remain substance-free for the rest of their life. There are also those who face setbacks and may go through treatment more than once before achieving long-term recovery. Relapse is a not a sign of failure. It does not mean that treatment has failed or recovery is impossible. Rather, it means that an individual must re-evaluate their situation and adjust their relapse prevention plan. There are changes they must make in their actions, behaviors, and thought processes to decrease their risk of future relapses.
Common Triggers for Relapse
Relapse does not happen unexpectedly. There are warning signs leading up to it and changes that indicate things may be going downhill or temptation is creeping up. It can be difficult to stick with necessary life changes to support recovery, but they’re essential. Here are some common triggers that may lead to addiction relapse:
- Spending time with people who are still in active addiction or do not support your recovery.
- Going to places where you used to go to drink or use drugs, or places where there is a lot of temptation or pressure to use.
- High levels of stress and not practicing healthy coping mechanisms.
- Unmanaged mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety.
- Isolating yourself from others and not having a strong support system in place.
You may feel strong and confident following addiction treatment, but early recovery is a delicate time. Letting yourself slip back into old habits or spending time with friends who are a negative influence can take a toll on the progress you’ve made. It can increase your temptation for “just one” drink or “just one” use of drugs. This can quickly spiral back into active addiction.
Not taking care of your mental health can also be detrimental. It requires conscious effort to focus on your own well-being and know your limits. When you feel yourself becoming stressed out, or anxiety is creeping up, it is important to implement strategies to keep these things under control. You may have to say no to a person, project, or obligation, and that’s okay. Focus on what is best for you and your recovery.
Trying to go it on your own can also be unhealthy. When you isolate yourself from others – even if you’re doing so to keep temptation at bay – this can lead to boredom and depression, which can be triggers for substance use. Surround yourself with people who are supportive of your recovery and will engage in sober activities with you. Have people that you can turn to when you’re having a tough day and who will celebrate with you when you’re having a great day.
Bouncing Back from Addiction Relapse
One of the most important things to remember is never to give up. Just because you relapsed does not mean that your journey is over or that you can’t be successful in recovery. Remember, you are in a different place in your life now. You are not the same person you were before. You achieved sobriety once and you can do it again. There is always more to learn and new things to try. Don’t give up on yourself or your goals. You are deserving of another chance.
If you do relapse, stop and get yourself back into treatment. You may go back to the same treatment facility you were in before since they already know you and you know them, or you may choose a different program if you feel somewhere else may be a better fit. The important thing is to admit that you need help and to get it. Once in treatment, you can get yourself back on track and make adjustments to your relapse prevention plan. Some things to consider:
Try a new program: Be open to different types of therapy or counseling. You never know what will stick for you. If you weren’t in outpatient treatment before or didn’t stay in a sober living home, these may be good options. Talk with your treatment team about what might be most effective for you and your goals.
Explore new activities: Keep yourself from falling into a rut by trying new things. Look into community classes, activities at the gym, new hobbies, volunteering, or other things that pique your interest. These can give you something to look forward to and a way to continue having fun and learning while in recovery.
Identify breakdowns: Figure out where your recovery started to go off track and what may have led to your relapse. Then do your best to prevent these issues from occurring again. Decide what changes you can make and how to hold yourself more accountable. What strategies and support structures can you put in place in case you struggle? Set yourself up for success.
Keep a positive attitude: This is often easier said than done, but don’t let a relapse deter you from trying again. You can be successful with the right strategies and support. Recovery is possible and there is hope.
Above It All provides clients with comprehensive services and support to help you stay on track and overcome addiction. If you are going through a difficult time, speak up and ask for help. The team at Above It All is on your side and will help you along each step of the way. Whether it is your first time in treatment or you’re trying again, now is your chance to make a positive change in your life.
- American Addiction Centers, Relapse Does Not Mean a Failed Recovery. Accessed February 3, 2016.
- Elements Behavioral Health, Embracing the ‘Failure’ in Relapse. April 2017, Accessed February 6, 2016.
- Treatment and Recovery Systems, Relapse is not Failure. Accessed February 9, 2016.
- Psychology Today, Why Relapse Isn’t A Sign of Failure. October 2012, Accessed February 8 2016.
- National Institute on Drug Addiction (NIDA), Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction. Accessed February 5, 2016.