It’s a frightening cycle – you keep relapsing despite knowing addiction is harming you and others. You’re determined to stop taking drugs or drinking. Or you’re desperate to walk away from addictive gambling, gaming, sex, spending or eating. You get a few days free, sometimes weeks or months. But then something always goes wrong, and you’re back in your addiction. It’s exhausting and demoralising, to feel so trapped.
Addiction is sometimes described as a chronic relapsing disorder – however, this doesn’t have to be the case for you. Sustaining addiction recovery is possible with the right addiction treatment at the right time, ongoing peer support and effective self-care.
10 Reasons Why Addicts Keep Relapsing
If you keep relapsing, it’s worth getting professional help to identify and manage your relapse triggers. Addiction treatment improves your chances of sustaining recovery, giving you insights into your illness and effective recovery strategies.
Below are ten common reasons why addicts relapse – you might relate to one or many of these points. If you do, please speak to Addiction Helper, your GP or a trusted relative about getting the help you need.
You keep relapsing because you’re not getting the right support
Most recovering addicts benefit from a supportive community, which includes addiction therapists or counsellors, peers in addiction recovery, close friends and family members. It isn’t impossible to quit an addiction alone, but isolation is one of the most common reasons people keep relapsing.
Adapting to life in addiction recovery is a testing time. Emotions run high and day-to-day situations can be challenging. If you don’t have a support network, cravings can be tough to resist.
You’re surrounded by people who are still using
Your decision to quit an addiction may not be recognised or supported by friends or relatives – particularly people who are still addicted themselves. Spending too much time with friends who question your decision, or relatives who try to persuade you to use again can catch you off guard.
If you keep relapsing with certain people, then why not take a break while you establish your recovery?
You’re trying to detox without medical help
If you are physically addicted to alcohol, then it’s not advisable to detox without clinical supervision. Stopping alcohol suddenly can result in serious withdrawal symptoms, including sweating, shaking, severe anxiety or fits.
Similarly, prescription drugs like codeine, fentanyl, tramadol and benzodiazepines can be highly physically addictive – meaning you’ll go through more severe withdrawal symptoms if you go ‘cold turkey’. A medically-assisted detox is always advised as withdrawal can be unpredictable and last much longer than people realise.
Coming off heroin is also physically and mentally exhausting. Without a medical detox, you may keep relapsing to escape painful withdrawal symptoms.
You’re cross-addicted (with or without realising it)
This is a widespread reason why people keep relapsing – you accept you have a problem with one addiction, without admitting or recognizing you’re addicted to something else too.
Say you want to quit cocaine. It’s obvious to you how much harm it’s doing. You stop using coke and things go well for a few weeks. But then you go out drinking with a mate and have a line when you’re drunk.
You keep relapsing because you need mental health help
A dual diagnosis is where you have co-occurring addiction and diagnosed mental illness. You may have become addicted to try and cope with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Stopping your addiction is a very positive step for your mental health – but you’ll need to seek addiction treatment or at the very least support from your GP.
Alternatively, you might not realise you’re suffering from a mental health disorder. You feel low or anxious after quitting your addiction. You can’t see things improving, which makes matters worse. You keep relapsing because you hate how you feel without your addiction. But you know it’s not the solution either.
You’re in physical pain
Chronic pains affect around 1 in 2 adults in their lifetime. You may have become addicted to cannabis, trying to relieve the symptoms of a debilitating illness. Or you’re self-medicating with prescription drugs like codeine for severe joint, muscle or nerve pain. Over time, tolerance builds to the medicines you’re taking and your pain returns. You take higher doses to get relief.
Eventually, your drug of choice doesn’t relieve your pain anymore. You decide to stop. But addiction withdrawal symptoms make your discomfort even worse, so you return to your addiction again.
You don’t believe you’re an addict
You might think giving up alcohol, drugs or another harmful habit is just a case of more will power. Perhaps you try to motivate yourself by signing up to the gym or saving for a holiday. You start off feeling inspired to change, but you keep relapsing once the initial momentum fades.
These kinds of goals can work well for people who aren’t addicted. If you’re an addict, however, there are usually physical and psychological reasons why you are hooked. Most people need some help to face up to being an addict – whether that’s professional or peer support (ideally both).
Your self-esteem is damaged
You hit a wall in your addiction recovery – a relationship breaks down, or you lose your job. You crave an addictive substance or process. You pick up your addiction, which gives you temporary relief. Almost immediately, however, you feel disappointed and angry with yourself.
Your self-esteem takes a lot of knocks when you keep relapsing. It’s a vicious cycle that depletes your confidence and self-respect. This makes it progressively harder to sustain addiction recovery.
You’re keeping something to yourself that you need to talk about
Is there something playing on your mind? Do you deeply regret something in your past? Or feel angry about how someone treated you?
If you have painful memories or current issues that evoke strong feelings, your addiction may be the way you cope.
You resent having to quit your addiction
There are many reasons people resent having to quit an addiction. Maybe your GP has told you that alcohol is damaging your liver, so you have to stop drinking. Or your partner has given you an ultimatum about gambling – if you do it again, you’ll have to leave. Your employer may have given you a final warning about attendance or work performance.
If you feel the decision to stop isn’t your own, then you might feel resentful. You keep relapsing because you don’t want to change. This is where intensive residential rehab can be transformative – revealing the precise reasons why you want to stop for yourself, as well as giving you the strategies to sustain addiction recovery.
Please contact Addiction Helper to discuss addiction treatment programmes – to help you stop your addiction and stay stopped.