There is a lot of talk about the “addict personality” and how the disease of addiction dictates thinking and the tendency to relapse. To some extent, there is truth to this: the addicted individual’s brain has been rewired. As a result, it associates psychoactive substances with pleasure and relief, to the point wherein the absence of those substances life is at least inadequate, if not intolerable.
However, addiction specialists and researchers are increasingly understanding that addiction is a complex disease. As such, it does not have a single root cause.
Many people who become addicted do not have a so-called “addict personality.” In fact, many addicts are very successful in other areas of their lives. Nor is addiction the result of one bad decision or a single moment of weakness. Rather, it is the culmination of many factors: genetic vulnerability, personal history, and environment, as well as social and cultural influences.
It’s important to remember that addiction is a disease that can be treated. With the help of professionals and with hard work on the part of the addicted individual, it is possible to achieve long-term sobriety. Relapse is always a risk, but it is not an inevitable outcome.
How Addiction Treatment Helps
The methods used in the treatment are geared not only toward interrupting the addiction cycle on a physical basis but also toward providing a basis for living that precludes the necessity to self-medicate in order to tolerate one’s existence. This involves promoting a deep understanding of the problem of addiction, counseling in individual and group settings, and introducing a host of tools that can help the addict face life on reasonable terms.
It’s best, however, to view treatment as a launching point—a beginning, not to be confused with a cure. Remember that addiction cannot be cured. It can, however, be controlled and overcome.
To achieve a successful recovery, aftercare is recommended, along with the mindful nurturing of habits and attitudes cultivated in treatment. And, critically, participation in recovery peer-groups of some kind is part of ongoing treatment.
Reasons for Relapse
When addicts relapse, it is usually because of one of two things. First, they feel well—or cured—and the problem of addiction seems like a thing of the past. Second, they drift back into a state of frustration, anger, and isolation to the point where recovery doesn’t feel attractive enough to work for.
If addicted individuals can understand and identify these potential relapse triggers, they can work to avoid them in advance. That might mean staying connected to a support group or therapist even when they feel like they’ve got their addiction under control, or it might mean avoiding situations that are likely to be stressful.
Relapse Prevention With Alumni Support
Participation in a support group addresses both of these problems. Continued exposure to peers who are alert to the reality of the nature of their addiction—and especially to newcomers and returnees fresh from the disaster of a recent bottom—serves as a healthy reminder that one’s disease can be held in remission but not eradicated.
Furthermore, attendance at meetings can serve to reinforce the willingness to use the tools of recovery. As a result, one’s experience of life’s occasional frustrations can be looked at in the proper perspective. By doing so, it becomes easy to understand that a relapse doesn’t mean to you can’t achieve a successful recovery.
The bottom line is that relapse in addiction is a product of human nature. For example, many people with respiratory ailments, and diabetics return to their old, dangerous behaviors. After a severe health event, patients willingly comply with doctors’ recommendations. However, complacency sets in when people feel better. Vigilance is the key to continuing recovery.
Don’t let the idea of relapse discourage you. To learn more about what treatment and alumni support can do for you, call New Start Recovery today at 833.433.0448. We can help.