So, it happened. You’ve relapsed. Maybe because of extreme circumstances or because of a compulsive urge that took control. This doesn’t mean you’ve failed or that recovery isn’t worth trying again. Here’s how to regain your purpose of sobriety.
Why People Relapse
Though you’re far from being just another number, unfortunately, statistics show that relapse is quite common in recovery. The National Institute on Drug Abuse references studies that indicate approximately 85 percent of people who stop using a drug will resume taking it within 12 months. According to JAMA, an extension of the American Medical Association, 40–60 percent of people with substance use disorder (SUD) and alcohol use disorder (AUD) will relapse within the first year of recovery.
Now, let’s compare those statistics to a few others:
- Scientific American reported that 80 percent of people who lost a “significant portion of their body fat will not maintain that degree of weight loss for 12 months.”
- Some cigarette smokers may try to quit smoking 10–30 times before they succeed for good, according to DrugFree.org.
- Diabetes UK indicates that people managing type 1 and type 2 diabetes experience “diabetes distress and burnout” and demonstrate behaviors such as not going to doctor’s appointments, refusing to check blood sugar levels, and choosing unhealthy foods.
Staying healthy can be challenging, no matter what you’re trying to accomplish, and requires perseverance and resilience. So why is it so hard?
One critical point to remember is addiction is a chronic brain disease, just as heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis are chronic physical diseases. Ongoing modifications are often necessary to address any number of issues, from the effects of excessive stress to other underlying emotional, mental, and physical health problems.
Other reasons for addiction relapse include:
- H.A.L.T. When you’re hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, these feelings compromise the best intentions to stay on the recovery path.
- Burnout. Remember the resilience we spoke of earlier? Sometimes that’s hard to maintain because we’re simply tired of being sober-minded all the time. Other forms of burnout in recovery can chip away at our plans as well.
- Environmental influences. NIDU indicates that “people in recovery are vulnerable to cues formerly associated with drug-taking experiences; for example, seeing friends they took drugs with, or places where they used drugs. Some of these cues gain in strength over time—a phenomenon known as ‘incubation of craving’.”
In many respects, addiction recovery can be managed successfully for a lifetime, but rarely “cured.” So, while a relapse might feel like a setback, try to reframe the experience as a teachable moment that encourages more thorough treatment and management solutions.
Getting Back Into Recovery
First, it’s important to take stock of the causes for the relapse. While you might not be in the mood for such “navel-gazing” right now, it’s critical to understand what happened, how to resolve it, and move forward. Maybe the relapse had something to do with:
- Certain triggers. In addition to what was mentioned above, are there specific triggers for you that create instability? These might be internal, such as emotions, sensations, and thoughts; or external, like particular people, places, situations, and things.
- Attitude. Sometimes, overconfidence in sobriety and thinking that everything is under control and doesn’t require review prompts a step back.
- Lack of self-care. If you’re not going to 12-Step meetings or some other consistent recovery group, eating junk food, not exercising, and avoiding therapy, it’s possible you’re suffering from H.A.L.T or burnout.
Then, evaluate what part of the initial recovery process really resonated with you.
- Maybe going away to an inpatient rehabilitation facility provided an escape from your previous reality. Conversely, were you more grounded by going to an outpatient facility close to home where you had continual support from family and friends?
- Perhaps there’s a deeper approach to cognitive behavioral therapy or another modality you can try, or a different counselor who understands the contributing factors to addiction.
- If you were part of a 12-step program, how productive was your relationship with your sponsor? There’s a possibility requesting further support might help.
- How about rekindling some associations within your sober network? They understand better than anyone how you’re feeling and what you’re trying to accomplish.
Finally, return to core values and foundational reasons for choosing sobriety to find your center again. Each individual has different reasons why recovery matters to them—make a list of what helps define your sober purpose and post it where you’ll see it every day as often as necessary. Think of this list as a touchstone to your greater wellness goals.
Recovery Support from Willingway
It’s easy to feel as though there’s no use in trying recovery again. But throughout Georgia and the Southeast, Willingway provides weekly continuing care support groups that reinforce your sober foundation whenever you need a boost. And if you determine that returning to rehab is the best option, our board-certified staff can help with that decision as well. Reach out anytime to learn how our whole-person approach provides stability for long-lasting recovery.