Let’s get one thing straight: relapse happens. It’s not taboo or unspeakable and to think so actually increases the chance of relapse occurring. Relapse happens because we’re human and are subject to human missteps, distractions, and triggers.
Addiction cannot be cured like a cold or an infection. It’s a chronic disease that requires constant attention. Relapse steps in when that attention starts to falter. But it’s important to understand that relapse doesn’t define you. It’s always okay to seek help again.
Relapse is a return to old, unhealthy habits. One of the primary objectives of recovery treatment is to break unhealthy habits. This doesn’t just mean that an addict stops using or drinking. It’s also about learning how to stop lying, manipulating, blaming yourself, closing yourself off to new things, etc. Therefore, if an addict starts using again, they’ll also start to adopt these secondary bad habits again. Needless to say, it’s incredibly important to get help after a relapse before the regression gets too far.
You are not alone. While relapsing is not a good thing, don’t be ashamed of it. In fact, about 40 to 60% of addicts experience a relapse at some point in their recovery, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). You are not defined or restricted by a relapse and while you shouldn’t place blame on yourself, you should hold yourself accountable to get back on the right track by seeking help.
Reasons Why Relapse Happens:
You feel that you are cured and can now drink or use drugs responsibly.
Tip: Understand that addiction is a chronic disease and is never actually “cured” but rather is managed and worked on throughout life. The best thing to do is focus on sober lifestyle and healthy activities.
You start to romanticize the “good old days” of partying and using
Tip: Create a list of all of the good things that have come out of your recovery, such as new friends, your happy family, or a new sober activity that you’ve picked up. This list can serve as a constant reminder of how much better life is now that you’re in recovery.
You start to lose motivation in the recovery process
Tip: Start a recovery journal. You can log your days or list the things you’ve learned so far in recovery. Seeing your progress will help you to stay motivated throughout your whole recovery.
You’re influenced by distractions/temptations from your past
Tip: Find new friends that share your sober lifestyle. Not only can a new support group help you stay on track, but you can help them as well. If your friends are also in recovery, then the social activities they do will automatically steer clear of temptation, which makes it easy and natural for you to stay clean and sober.