Drug and alcohol addiction has touched the lives of countless individuals, families, and communities throughout the world. The far-reaching impact of chemical dependence and its associated costs are so large that they are difficult to measure in their entirety, but if you or someone you care about has struggled with this concern, you are likely keenly aware of the damages it can cause.
While additional research is still needed to more fully understand the reasons for the onset of addictive behaviors, experts agree that substance abuse and co-occurring mental health conditions are more often than not a combination of certain genetic and environmental factors, such as trauma.
Regardless of the reasons that one becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol, know that the cycle of chemical dependence can be interrupted and that sobriety can be achieved with the proper supports. With quality, professional care that reflects the unique strengths and challenges that each individual brings to the treatment setting, he or she can achieve sobriety and set the course for success in recovery.
Residential treatment has proven to be a particularly helpful option for individuals who have continued to struggle with drug and alcohol abuse. During their time in this setting, men and women who attend this form of treatment should expect to make a considerable effort toward planning for life after leaving residential care. This is because, as the saying goes, recovery is indeed a lifelong process.
Sobriety is not a static goal, but something that each person will need to work toward each and every day throughout his or her life. As such, there will be times of increased temptation when it may be difficult to remain true to your goals for addiction recovery, and sometimes you may falter in your resolve, once again beginning to abuse your drug or alcohol of choice. Known as a relapse, this is not an uncommon experience for many individuals who are working towards a sustained recovery, and need not represent the end of sobriety for you or someone you care about.
Fortunately, quality addiction treatment programs ensure that their patients are armed with the tools and skills they need to reduce the risk of relapse after leaving their program in the form of a comprehensive aftercare plan. These plans identify each patient’s challenges and supports and serve as a guide to sustained sobriety after being discharged from treatment.
Reasons Why People Relapse
While successfully completing a residential addiction treatment program is certainly a major milestone and an occasion deserving of celebration, it is far from the end of one’s recovery journey. In fact, some of the most challenging times may lie ahead after you return to your home and community where certain stressors and factors may increase your risk of relapse such as:
- Feeling isolated and alone in the struggle to remain drug-free
- Trauma, loss, or grief
- Stressful life events or trauma
- Pressure from individuals with whom one used to use his or her drug of choice in the past
- Exposure to situations that prompted one to use in the past, either due to history or habit
- Untreated symptoms of a co-occurring mental illness
- Questioning one’s commitment to sober living, wondering if being sober is worth it
While everyone is sure to experience some of the above feelings or circumstances from time to time, there are things you can do to prevent the stress associated with these scenarios from prompting a relapse.
How to Prevent Relapse
As stated earlier, having a thorough aftercare plan in place after being discharged from residential addiction treatment is a key component of warding off relapse, especially in the early days of recovery. Your aftercare plan should include a list of your existing supports and should provide direction for how to access the community-based services that will be most beneficial to you. Also, the following suggestions have proven to be helpful for many men and women in remaining true to their recovery goals after leaving the treatment environment:
- While you are creating an aftercare plan, speak up if there is a component of your plan that does not resonate with you or that you do not understand. Your addiction treatment team is there to help ensure that you have the most effective plan possible.
- Invite others to review your plan with you so that they are aware of the supports you need during this important time.
- Practice the coping skills you learned in treatment each day.
- Steer clear of people and places you already know may lead to the temptation to drink or use drugs.
- Foster healthy friendships with individuals who support your desire to make healthy choices.
- Find a sponsor you can count on during difficult times.
- Embrace structure in your day.
- Engage in activities that rejuvenate you, make good self-care a daily habit.
If Your Loved One Relapses
If a friend of family member is able to successfully achieve sobriety in treatment, he or she is worthy of your praise, respect, and support. This is no small accomplishment, and it requires considerable strength and dedication.
However, even after your loved one has maintained his or her sobriety for some time, there may be instances that prompt him or her to resume his or her drug or alcohol abuse. When someone you care about relapses, know that this is a time when he or she needs your unconditional love and support more than ever. Without criticism or judgment, you can help by doing your best to assist this person in finding whatever services will help him or she refocus and rededicate his or her efforts toward achieving sobriety once more.
Depending on the situation, some individuals may require an additional stay in a residential drug and alcohol addiction treatment program, while other may benefit from outpatient services after a relapse has occurred. It will be important to listen when your loved one asks for help and to do what you can to facilitate him or her getting the care needed to move forward in recovery.
If you or someone you care about needs additional care after a relapse, know that you are not alone. The compassionate addictions professionals on staff at The Refuge, A Healing Place are available to answer any questions you may have about the relapse prevention service offered at our program or to discuss any other aspect of our programming. Please contact us at your earliest convenience to learn more about The Refuge.