Overcoming a Relapse

Posted in: Recovery

June 18, 2014

A man piecing two puzzle pieces that spell RECOVERY

When a person goes through a rehab program, she may think that she has defeated her addiction and is able to live a carefree life without the worry of using the substance ever again. However, the reality of addiction recovery is that many people experience relapse at various stages of the process. While this can be frustrating and discouraging to a recovering user, it is important to know that relapse does not have to equal failure. Instead, someone who relapses can take the opportunity to learn more about herself and to improve her recovery in the long run.

Definition of Addiction

Some people think that addiction is a choice that people have complete control over. However, scientific research suggests otherwise.

As the American Society of Addiction Medicine explains, addiction is a “chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry” that is characterized by the following behaviors:

  • Inability to consistently abstain
  • Impairment in behavioral control
  • Craving
  • Decreased ability to recognize serious problems related to one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships
  • Dysfunctional emotional response
When someone has an addiction, she will often lose control of her ability to make logical and healthy decisions, and she will instead do whatever it takes to maintain the addiction. And, just like other chronic diseases, addiction can cause relapse. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse explains that the rates of relapse for chronic diseases are similar, as 30 to 70% of people diagnosed with a chronic disease will experience a relapse at some point during the recovery process.

How to Overcome Relapse

Addiction recovery is a long process filled with both victories and setbacks. Kat McGowan clarifies that, when it comes to addiction recovery, “relapsing is the rule, not the exception.” She goes on to explain that, instead of looking at relapse as a sign that the recovery process has failed and that the person should give up all hope of maintaining sobriety, she should instead look at the experience as a learning opportunity.

Specifically, people should treat relapse in the following ways:

  • View it as a brief lapse in judgment instead of a defeat, because doing so allows people to understand that short-term failure does not mean long-term success is impossible
  • Analyze the situation to identify what led to the relapse. When people figure out what they were feeling and thinking, what their surroundings were and which people were around them during relapse, they can then learn to identify similar situations in the future, and they can avoid or manage problems without relapsing.
  • Develop a specific coping plan for counteracting or avoiding negative situations. These plans can include anything from using distractions to thinking about the consequences of the behavior, but they should help people avoid drug abuse in the future.
In other words, relapse can help you strengthen your recovery.

Avoiding Future Relapses

Even if a person has relapsed before, it is possible to avoid future relapses by adhering to the following steps, as listed by Donna M. White:

  • Stay away from tempting situations
  • Find a positive support network
  • Develop a healthy routine
  • Avoid complacency
You can stay sober with the right help.

Find Out More Information About Addiction Relapse

A person who is going through the addiction recovery process should realize that recovery is not simple. It often involves difficult situations that can lead to relapse, but relapse does not have to mean failure. Instead, it can be an opportunity to reevaluate their strategies and to strengthen their long-term recovery plan. If you or someone you care about has experienced a relapse in the recovery process, know that all is not lost. Give us a call today at 615-490-9376 to find out more about how to work through relapse to continue on the road to long-term recovery.

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