Relapse from drug or alcohol addiction is common. It’s estimated that about half of all people who get sober eventually relapse. It might seem like a terrible setback, but it’s important to remember that relapse is not a failure- it’s a part of the process. Addiction is a chronic disease. Just like cancer can go into remission for years and suddenly reoccur, a person can be sober for years or even decades and have a relapse.
It seems obvious that a relapse soon after stopping drugs or alcohol is a real danger, and in fact, the first 90 days after recovery are when it is most likely. When you first return to the wider world after a period of treatment, triggers are everywhere. Mental health issues are a big factor, which why it’s important to treat any underlying psychological problems. Relationship issues or the loss of a support system can lead to depression or be triggers in themselves. The environment in which a person lives or travels can also contain triggers. Visiting places you once used drugs, seeing people you once used with or bought from, and even seeing drug paraphernalia can all lead to relapse.
This is why it’s so important that part of addiction therapy is learning to identify your triggers and come up with strategies to cope with them. Group therapy and 12-step programs also provide resources to help. If you share your fears of relapse with a group of people in a similar situation, you might hear several different perspectives on how other people deal with triggers and stay on the right path. These groups can also provide a built-in support system of people you can call if you feel you’re backsliding, particularly if you have a sponsor.
You might think that a long period of sobriety would mean less chance of relapse, but this isn’t necessarily true. Those who have been in recovery for a substantial amount of time will have lost their tolerance for their drug of choice, and if they try to take the amount of a substance they were used to before quitting, they’re at serious risk for overdose and death.
Typically, there will be emotional symptoms first. Someone begins to feel depressed, anxious, or irritable, which then leads to thoughts about returning to their drug of choice. It can be easy at a time like this to forget the negatives and focus on the good feelings drug use produced. It’s vital to recognize these signs and get back into treatment because even one instance of substance use can lead to serious cravings.
If you suspect a loved one is on the path to relapse, keep an eye out for sudden changes in mood or behavior, and sudden secrecy or isolation.
If you or a loved one need help to quit drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949-438-4504).