Do You Know What To Do When Someone Relapses
When you suspect that a loved one has returned to old, self-destructive behaviors, do not start by beating them up over it. They have enough sorrow, guilt, and remorse as it is without you adding to it. Making things more difficult is not going to get them to listen and do what you want them to do. More likely, you are going to push them away and back to using drugs.
If you want to know what to do if someone relapses, think about how you deal with impossible situations where you felt trapped with no way out. Do you also have your coping mechanisms? There is nothing different about a person who has relapsed. They have simply found a way to cope with highly stressful situations where they see no other solution.
Unfortunately, addiction to drugs is physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually damaging to the individual. It takes a long time to heal from active addiction.
What Are The 3 Stages Of A Relapse
Even if you relapse, returning to a problematic pattern of drinking, the relapse itself does not occur all at once. Instead, alcohol relapses tend to occur in three distinct stages:
The 4 Most Common Causes Of Addiction Relapse
They are expectations, boredom, fear and resentment.
All of these represent emotional challenges for the alcoholic/addict and might present kryptonite to some people in recovery, regardless of how long theyve been sober or how strong their program. In addition, remember that maybe one or more of these dispositions might have been a major contributor to their original route to addiction in the first place.
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How To Help Someone Avoid A Relapse
There are two ways to approach helping someone not to relapse. An ineffective way would be to continue the enabling and codependency that didnt work in the past. The other option is to take care of yourself, hold the loved one accountable, set boundaries, and not enable the alcohol or substance use. Substance users are going to do what substance users do the goal is to avoid helping them.
A familys most effective course of action is to enter their own recovery program. The biggest mistake families make is believing they can control the loved one, the addiction, or the outcome. A person in recovery is responsible for his or her own recovery. A mistaken belief of substance users, shared by many families, is thinking they can somehow fix, manage, or control others.
A family in recovery will learn many effective ways to accept and understand their loved one and his or her addiction. They will become aware of behavioral warning signs that lead to relapse and know what to do in the event of a relapse. Here are some of the precursors to relapse and what a family can do to help themselves and possibly help the substance user think differently about the situation.
If you have questions about relapses and what family recovery looks like, reach out today. Our team of experienced intervention counselors is here to support you.
What We Know About Relapsing
Despite a relapse being a cause for concern for a person with an addiction, or their friends and family, it can be triggered by certain life events. That is why we always say that a relapse is nothing to be ashamed of, and it is possible to get back to a teetotal way of life even after a slip or a relapse happens.
Common triggers for a relapse
It is also helpful to be aware of some of the common triggers and reasons behind a relapse. One of the easiest acronyms to kind in mind is HALT, which stands for hungry, angry, lonely, tired. If you can satisfy these simple human needs, you will be going some way to keeping the cravings of alcohol or drugs at bay.
Of course, there is much more to life than these elements, which is why other triggers and reasons are considered, and built into a recovery plan to avoid a return to active addiction.
The team at Delamere is available if you feel like you are at risk of relapsing take action quickly and give us a call to talk about how you are feeling.
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Boredom Is Actually Necessary And Good
In fact, boredom during early recovery can be considered an essential part of the addiction recovery process. Things may have decelerated quickly since you completed rehab and returned home, and sometimes even the satisfaction of everything you have accomplished in achieving sobriety simply is not enough. You are probably not used to experiencing emotions that have not been generated either by substance use or by the drama that surrounds it. But that kind of excitement is synthetic and hollow. You have to learn how to build richness and fullness into your life that is based on a healthy approach, and that takes time and perhaps a certain degree of trial and error.
What Happens When Emotions Go Unchecked
If your emotions get the better of you, its possible that you may enter the next stage of the relapse process. In this stage you will start to feel uncomfortable in your own skin, and you wont be sure why. Its possible that your underlying emotions have caused a conflict, or disconnect, within your mind. This is the mental stage of relapse.
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The Stages Of Recovery
Recovery is a process of personal growth in which each stage has its own risks of relapse and its own developmental tasks to reach the next stage . The stages of recovery are not the same length for each person, but they are a useful way of looking at recovery and teaching recovery to clients. Broadly speaking, there are three stages of recovery. In the original developmental model, the stages were called transition, early recovery, and ongoing recovery . More descriptive names might be abstinence, repair, and growth.
Being In An Environment Connected To Their Addiction
People associated with your addictive behavior could potentially be triggers for relapse. Even if they dont partake anymore, their presence could still affect you. Or they could be a reason why you started using in the first place, like an abusive parent.
On the same note, being in an environment that reminds you of your addiction can be triggering. So, being in a place you frequented to drink or smoke could tick a part of your brain and tell you that you should do those things again here.
Another powerful trigger is the substance. Even just knowing its near you could send you to relapse.
When you find yourself in a triggering situation, its vital to have effective ways to handle your thoughts and emotions. For example, a group of friends invites you to a night out. It would be wise to have a specific response ready or a healthy activity to do instead, like exercising.
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Does Relapse Mean That Treatment Is Not Effective
A common misconception about high relapse rates after receiving treatment is that relapse means that treatment has failed or that treatment was ineffective. However, what percentage of addicts stay clean doesnt have a real bearing on the effectiveness of treatment.
To better understand why treatment is not considered a failure if relapse occurs, we must examine why relapse usually happens. One of the reasons why a person may relapse is due to their belief that they no longer needed to actively maintain their sobriety. A recovering person may deem it unnecessary to continue to go to support group meetings and follow their relapse prevention plan after being clean for months. This may ultimately lead them to relapse.
To understand why this is the case with addiction recovery, we must look at other chronic, relapsing diseases with similar relapse rates, such as hypertension. If during treatment for hypertension, the symptoms become manageable, and treatment is deemed effective if the person then decides to stop their maintenance of the disease, then symptoms will likely return, but that doesnt mean that treatment isnt effective, it just means that the effective treatment was abandoned.
Addiction works in the same way by not following through on the long-term relapse prevention and addiction management strategies, one opens up to the possibility of their symptoms returning.
How Likely Is It Someone In Recovery Will Stay Clean
The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as A primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry. This means that relapses may occur down the road for some addicts, but that doesnt necessarily mean they cannot recover and live a happy and productive life. Think of the disease diabetes. When one is diagnosed with the disease, they may not ever be completely healed of it, but they can be treated, take their medication regularly, and live a good life.
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Signs Of Heroin Relapse
For people concerned that their loved one may be using heroin again, the signs of heroin relapse are similar to what you may have seen when they began using initially. Your loved one may return to the same type of lifestyle as when they were in active drug addiction like seeing old friends, not taking care of themselves, and slacking off at work, school, or with family responsibilities. They may also show physical and emotional signs of heroin relapse.
Look for these signs of relapse if youre concerned about a loved one:
- Hanging out with former friends with whom they used drugs or alcohol
- Changes in mood, personality, and sleeping habits
- Neglecting family, work, and school obligations
- Skipping therapy and 12-step meetings like Narcotics Anonymous
- Lack of interest in former hobbies or friends
- Alertness followed by extreme drowsiness or nodding off
- Constricted pupils
- Teary eyes, sniffling, and runny nose
- Skin abrasions from needles
- Changes in eating habits
- Wearing clothes to disguise track marks and weight loss
- Yawning and extreme lethargy/tiredness
- Dark circles or puffiness around eyes
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Stealing from family and friends
- Selling personal items or gifts
- Secretive behavior
Things To Do After An Alcohol Relapse To Get Yourself Back On Track
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, approximately 90% of alcoholics will relapse within four years. But relapse doesn’t have to spiral back into full-blown addiction.
There are many reasons why people recovering from alcohol addiction relapse. Some people are triggered by stress or exposure to situations they associate with the euphoric feeling previously brought on by alcohol. Others revisit drinking as a coping mechanism for underlying anxiety, depression, or chronic pain.
If you find yourself having relapsed, it is crucial to first accept that the relapse happened and then find a way forward. Let go of guilt and shame surrounding the slip and create a strategy for avoiding relapsing again.
The following steps can help you move past your relapse and get back on track.
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Coping With The Disappointment Of Relapse
Addiction recovery isnt always successful the first time. Relapse is common, but it doesnt mean you failed or wont have a chance at living a sober life. Despite the possibility for eventual success in addiction recovery, relapse often creates feelings of disappointment. You didnt live up to the expectations you had for recovery, which resulted in relapse. Its natural to feel let down or disappointed.
In some cases, relapse happens after a turning point in recovery. Everything clicks. You worked through the detox phase. Recovery seems easy. You feel a sense of joy, but sometimes that joy can cause disconnect from reality. You convince yourself that recovery is easy. When you hit a road bump that suddenly makes you remember that recovery is a process that requires hard work, you may feel deflated or disappointed. Some people slip back into drug or alcohol use at this point, because they feel that recovery isnt working.
When you feel disappointed with your relapse, you may struggle to see any good in your life. You likely feel exhausted and may feel increased stress. Some people blame others for the relapse or for the feelings of disappointment. These reactions interfere with your ability to bounce back after the relapse and once again work toward addiction recovery.
How should you deal with the disappointment of relapse or disappointment in general during addiction recovery? Here are some healthy methods of dealing with those feelings:
Rule : Change Your Life
The most important rule of recovery is that a person does not achieve recovery by just not using. Recovery involves creating a new life in which it is easier to not use. When individuals do not change their lives, then all the factors that contributed to their addiction will eventually catch up with them.
But clients and families often begin recovery by hoping that they dont have to change. They often enter treatment saying, We want our old life back without the using. I try to help clients understand that wishing for their old life back is like wishing for relapse. Rather than seeing the need for change as a negative, they are encouraged to see recovery as an opportunity for change. If they make the necessary changes, they can go forward and be happier than they were before. This is the silver lining of having an addiction. It forces people to reevaluate their lives and make changes that non-addicts dont have to make.
Recovering individuals are often overwhelmed by the idea of change. As part of their all-or-nothing thinking, they assume that change means they must change everything in their lives. It helps them to know that there is usually only a small percent of their lives that needs to be changed. It can also be assuring to know that most people have the same problems and need to make similar changes.
Examples of Change
What do most people need to change? There are three categories:
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Make A Plan To Prevent Relapsing Again
With the help of a therapist, a professional addiction counselor, or a sponsor, try to analyze your relapse and create a plan to avoid a similar scenario in the future. This should include triggers, coping tactics, and specific people in your support network who you can ask for help.
âBy connecting with sober supports and clinical resources, a framework for prevention can start to take shape in oneâs life,â Harshal Kirane, MD, medical director of Wellbridge Addiction Treatment and Research tells WebMD Connect to Care. âRecovery from alcohol use disorder is ultimately a personal journey, but it can only begin by reaching out for support.â
Whats The Difference Between The Types Of Relapses
Several types of relapses exist. Knowing which one you are facing can help you prepare yourself to overcome the situation and reenter sobriety:
- Slip: A slip is a single instance of drinking after you have been abstinent. It is a one-time situation.
- Lapse: A lapse is several instances of drinking after you have achieved abstinence. It means that you have drunk more than one alcoholic beverage, but you have not returned to your previous alcohol abuse patterns.
- Relapse: A relapse occurs when you not only start drinking again but also return to a pattern of alcohol abuse.
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Prediction Of Subsequent Relapse Risk
Several treatment studies have shown that higher levels of psychological withdrawal or abstinence symptoms, such as subjective distress, irritability, drug craving, sleep, and cognitive problems, occurring during early drug abstinence, even beyond the acute withdrawal phase, are associated with worse treatment outcomes among smokers, cocaine addicts, heroin-dependent individuals, and alcoholics . In general, findings indicate that the greater the severity of dependence and of such drug abstinence symptoms, the worse the treatment outcomes will be.
Many human studies have shown that stress and trauma are associated with drug relapse . While an important strength of these studies over previous correlational studies of stress and relapse has been the prospective assessment of drug use for a follow-up period in order to predict future relapse risk, studies have varied in their assessment of stressful life events, the time period of follow-up to assess future relapse risk, and in the methods used for relapse assessment, which may have led to some negative results .
What Are Unrealistic Expectations
Unrealistic expectations happen when you dont know what youre getting into or you expect recovery to turn out differently. Those expectations can be about the treatment process or life after treatment. Some common unrealistic expectations include:
- Expecting treatment and recovery to be easy
- Expecting to immediately feel better in treatment
- Failing to understand how much work goes into recovery
- Thinking you can handle addiction recovery on your own
- Forcing perfectionist ideals on yourself and punishing yourself when you fall short of those perfect expectations
- Expecting addiction recovery to be a quick process
- Expecting recovery to be a constant positive trajectory the process often comes with highs and lows which you need to account for when setting expectations
- Thinking life will be perfect and back to normal after you complete treatment
- Thinking that addiction recovery will instantly solve other problems in your life, such as financial difficulties or marital problems
- Believing you wont still have to work on your addiction once treatment is complete
- Thinking addiction recovery has a definite end date
- Expecting loved ones to suddenly regain trust in you because youre in addiction recovery rebuilding the damage done to trust can take time
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