Every recovering addict is in danger of relapse, and this is something that they have to worry about for the rest of their lives. A relapse can occur with any illness, and addiction is no different. Those who have previously suffered from a drug or alcohol addiction, for example, may be worried that they will start drinking or taking drugs again.
It is a common misconception that addiction relapse begins as soon as a person begins drinking or taking drugs again after a period of sobriety. However, relapse occurs well before the first drink has been downed or the first pill has been taken. In fact, relapse begins as soon as a recovering addict starts thinking about drinking or taking drugs again.
The recovering addict may try to control these feelings for a while, or it could be the case that his or her behaviour quickly develops after the initial thoughts about drinking or taking drugs.
Relapse prevention is something that many treatment providers are keen to teach recovering addicts. Many of the organisations we work with run relapse prevention education programmes or workshops to show patients how to identify triggers and temptations, and to give them the skills required to deal with these triggers.
One of the biggest parts of relapse prevention is learning how to avoid triggers. While many temptations are obvious, others are not so clear, so it is important that those in recovery are always alert to danger. It would make sense to avoid pubs and clubs for a while if you are recovering from alcohol; if you are in recovery from a drug addiction, staying away from places where you know there to be drugs would be wise.
Nevertheless, other things can trigger addictive behaviour, so be on your guard. For example, if you spill sugar on the kitchen worktop, you may be instantly reminded of a line of cocaine, which could be enough to trigger a strong craving. Similarly, you may be reminded of the times when you used to grab a beer as you sat down to watch your favourite football team in action.
It is vital that you can recognise your triggers and that you know how to handle them. If possible, you should take steps to ensure that you are not faced with anything that could put your sobriety at risk.
With relapse a constant cloud hanging over the heads of most addicts, it is natural for people to have a number of misconceptions about it. It is important that you are aware of these myths so that you do not let them affect your recovery in any way.
- Relapse is unavoidable – you may have heard many people saying that every addict will experience at least one relapse. This is not true, as many recovering addicts get sober and stay sober for the rest of their lives. You should not be under the impression that you have to have at least one relapse as you could be in danger of allowing it to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you do suffer a relapse, you can simply start again, but do not assume it is bound to happen because you will always be waiting for the day it does instead of getting on with your life and enjoying the fact that you are sober.
- You are a failure if you relapse – While some will never experience a relapse, many do, and for some it is enough to give them the motivation to stay sober going forward. Many people find that relapse becomes an important part of their recovery. This slip-up reminds them of why they wanted to get sober in the first place and they become more committed to their recovery. They do not look at relapse as a sign of failure but merely the motivation they needed to go on and live a full and healthy sober life.
- If you take a different substance, it is not a relapse – many people believe that recovering drug addicts who drink alcohol have not relapsed and vice versa. Nonetheless, the choice of drug is irrelevant. Addiction is in the person and not the substance, so returning to any chemical, mood-altering substance is a relapse. Using another chemical substance will still leave a recovering addict open to the behaviours and ideas of addiction and is dangerous.
- You cannot prevent a relapse – if you could not prevent relapse, experts would not hold relapse prevention classes for patients. As long as individuals know what triggers their addictive behaviour and how to handle any temptations they may face, they can prevent a relapse from occurring.
How to Handle a Relapse
While preventing a relapse is the best option, you may find that you return to drinking or drug-taking at some stage during your recovery. If this happens, it is important that you take action immediately, to avoid a full-blown return to addiction.
As soon as you are able, contact your sponsor, counsellor, therapist or doctor and explain your situation. The last thing you need is to wait until your life has spiralled out of control again before you reach out for help. If you cannot get hold of anyone on the phone, get to a fellowship meeting as soon as possible.
It will be necessary for you to detox again if you want to get back on track. If you experienced withdrawal symptoms the first time you detoxed, then chances are you will again, except this time they may be more severe. A medical detox might be necessary.
If you have found yourself drinking or taking drugs again after a programme of rehabilitation, contact Addiction Helper today. We have a team of counsellors and therapists ready to listen and provide you with advice as well as information on where you can get help to get yourself back on the road to recovery. Do not delay – call us now.