The biggest threat to most recovering addicts is addiction relapse and prevention forms a big part of recovery for most people. The fact that addiction cannot be cured should never be underestimated. It is very easy for those in recovery to become complacent and return to drug or alcohol use because they are convinced they are better.
Most addiction specialists will emphasise the need for vigilance during recovery, irrespective of whether one has been clean for one year or for twenty. The threat of addiction relapse is always present, and those who want to stay sober must be alert to the dangers, or they could risk putting their entire recovery in jeopardy.
Dangers of Addiction Relapse
When drug addicts complete a programme of detox and rehabilitation, their tolerance for the drug they were once addicted to begins to decrease. However, most fail to realise that this can happen even after a few days of abstinence.
Some recovering addicts have a relapse pretty quickly and will return to drugs before completing their detox. Nevertheless, those few days of going without drugs can change the person’s ability to tolerate the same amount that they used to take. This means there is a danger of overdosing, which could end up being fatal.
An addiction relapse can also occur many years after a person has completed rehabilitation. Donna Lambert had been clean for seven years before suffering an addiction relapse, which eventually led to her death. The mother of four fell from a window at a homeless centre in York in December 2015.
She suffered severe injuries and died on Christmas Eve. Results of the toxicology report showed traces of cannabis and prescription methadone. She had also been drinking before she fell.
Lambert was in her partner Peter Egan’s flat on the night she fell, and he said they had had an argument. He stated that she told him, “I might as well go jump off the terrace”.
She then tried to climb the railings, but fellow resident Mark Catlett managed to calm her down and took her back to Egan’s room. However, later in the evening, she stood on the bed and, according to Egan and Catlett, stumbled and fell 40 feet from the window.
Lambert’s actions are typical of those who are under the influence of mood-altering substances. Many will take unnecessary risks, and some will threaten to harm themselves in a bid to get attention. According to Lambert’s mother Diane Wedgewood, this was something that she often did when not getting her own way or when she had fallen out with others.
Lambert was receiving treatment for her heroin addiction and in the weeks before her death had met with her GP. Following the accident, the GP was quoted as saying, ‘her mood was at that time reasonable for her’. Her GP also stated that Lambert seemed to be happy with the fact that she was staying at Peasholme homeless centre.
Mrs Wedgewood said, “When she wasn’t into drugs, she was lovely. She had seven years without them. She was a lovely mother but she’d just gone down the wrong path.”
The verdict into the cause of her death was ‘misadventure’. Coroner Jonathan Leach said that her death was ‘an unintended consequence of her actions’.
Avoiding Addiction Relapse
Some people are of the opinion that addiction relapse is inevitable, and while relapse is an important part of recovery for some, others manage to live the rest of their lives after rehab without ever having a slip-up.
Many things can trigger a relapse for those in recovery. Some triggers are more obvious than others. If you are in recovery, it is important to stay away from places or people that you used to drink or take drugs with, but other things should be considered too.
For example, many individuals suffer a relapse if they become disillusioned with their recovery. If they are bored or lonely, the affected person may begin to romanticise the times when they were using drugs or drinking alcohol. Many will forget the reasons they wanted to get clean in the first place. Over time, the bad memories tend to fade and some people start to remember the pleasures they initially had while addicted. This may result in them believing it would be a good idea to drink or take drugs again.
A big part of addiction recovery revolves around avoiding relapse, and it is very important for those in recovery to use the techniques they have learned in order to stay sober going forward. This may mean doing things to distract them when the urge to use occurs. Or it could mean practising meditation or calling a sponsor to talk things through.
Avoiding addiction relapse is essential for those in recovery as many will never find the motivation to get well a second time.
- York mum of 4 in recovery died after falling from window (The Press York)