Successfully completing an inpatient treatment program for substance use feels good. Going through treatment is a pretty intense process involving much self-reflection, and a sustained effort to make lasting changes in unhealthy patterns. When receiving the discharge paperwork on that last day, it is common to feel a real sense of accomplishment, and much hope for the future.
During treatment much time and effort is spent on the topic of relapse. relapse is the slipping back into substance use while in recovery. For good reason, this aspect of the recovery process gets significant attention while in treatment. Group sessions and classes help patients examine emotional triggers, identify other stressors that may initiate a relapse episode, and then carefully prepare a strategic plan for managing the potential triggers.
relapse is extremely common, especially in early recovery when the individual is more vulnerable to slipping. For this reason it is important to carefully prepare for the post-treatment phase of recovery by having a solid aftercare plan in place. Vigilance in recovery is essential for avoiding the possibility of relapse.
What Causes relapse Back to Substance Use?
In most cases, the substance use behaviors that kept someone cycling through drug or alcohol misuse are not new. After awhile, these thought/behavior patterns become deeply ingrained and reflexive. Spending a month or two in treatment is usually not enough time to completely change the habitual self-destructive thought patterns. Add to that cravings, romanticizing the old days, or a negative life event and the situation ripens for relapse to happen.
Continually checking in with oneself, maintaining accountability with one’s support system, and taking preemptive steps if warning signs are flashing is imperative for avoiding substance use relapse.
Here are some common behaviors that lead to substance use relapse:
- Keeping ties with the same people you hung out with while in active use. Continuing to socialize with the same crowd is a serious mistake that will swiftly undermine sobriety.
- Discontinuing continuing care efforts. Recovery meetings and ongoing therapy provide both peer and clinical support in early sobriety. These activities provide accountability, which can act as a deterrent to relapse.
- Isolating behaviors. Loneliness and boredom are significant risk factors for relapse. Isolating behaviors and withdrawing socially are often signs of impending substance use relapse.
- Neglecting physical and mental health. It is important to maintain the new healthy habits introduced during treatment. Self-care includes getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, and practicing relaxation techniques. When these are neglected, the potential for relapse increases.
- Romanticizing prior substance use. After awhile in recovery it is common to remember with fondness the times of active use of substances, while forgetting the consequences. This can lead the person into mistakenly believing they can enjoy just one beer.
- Not accessing recovery tools to manage stress. Rehab equips clients with many recovery tools to help them manage stress and emotions. Choosing not to utilize these coping skills will allow life events and stress to overwhelm them, and potentially result in relapse.
Many assume that a person in recovery may be humming right along when suddenly, on impulse, decides to begin using again. In most cases, that is not an accurate depiction of relapse. relapse often sneaks up on someone, stealthily. Some or all of the above 6 warning behaviors may have come into play over a period of several weeks, culminating in the return to substance use.
What To Do When You Slip
There is an immense amount of shame and guilt around substance use relapse. Most who do slip up feel badly about letting themselves down, in addition to their loved ones who have been rooting for them in recovery. It is hard to face the family members or one’s recovery community and humbly admit to a relapse. But it must always be remembered that recovery occurs on a continuum, and rarely in a nice, straight line. It takes time to establish new habits and to dispense with the old behaviors.
Depending on the length of the relapse—say one night versus a two-week bender—the plan of action will differ. It may be as simple as renewing your commitment to sobriety and returning to proactive outpatient measures that can help you remain on track, or, if a protracted relapse, may necessitate a return to inpatient treatment.
The very first step following a relapse is self-forgiveness. Everyone is human. If a relapse has happened, forgive yourself, then take tsome time to evaluate what events or issues may have contributed to it so these can be more readily recognized and managed moving forward.
Ashley Addiction Treatment is a comprehensive inpatient treatment center for individuals desiring freedom from a substance use disorder. For more information about our program, please reach out to the team today at (866) 313-6307.