Relapse: A Deadly Teacher
Relapse is one of the hardest things to talk about in recovery, especially in a conversation between someone who has some time and an individual in early recovery. On the one hand, you want to let a newcomer know that relapses happen. They are by no means uncommon. Furthermore, relapses can be great teachers and motivators on the road to recovery. On the other hand, relapses are often deadly. And one certainly doesn’t want to give a newcomer the impression that falling off the wagon is no big deal. It’s a tight rope to walk between these two poles, but the best way to navigate them is through compassionate honesty and openness. So with that in mind, let’s talk about relapse.
One Out of Every Two
As I’ve stated above, and can tell you from personal experience, relapses do happen. The chronic nature of addiction makes them pretty common. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the relapse rate for substance abuse disorder is between 40% and 60%. Roughly, then, for those of us in recovery, 1 out of every 2 will deal with one at some point. So if you’ve just relapsed and feel hopeless and down and yourself, please don’t be discouraged. Know that plenty of us have gone through it and try to learn from your mistakes. In fact, while it might be difficult to do right now, you should try being grateful. We have all heard the stories about the addicts who have some clean time, relapse with an amount they were using while their tolerance was higher, and overdose. Be thankful that you have another shot at recovery.
Sowing the Seeds of a Relapse
At the time, it often felt like a relapse came out of nowhere to take me by surprise. In reality, a relapse starts sowing its seeds sometimes months in advance. Some warning signs are:
- Isolation from others, especially your sober support network
- Changes in hygiene or personal care
- Blowing off responsibilities like work or school
- Changes in sleep patterns
To some of you, those may sound extreme, more like behavior from an active addict than warning signs. But that’s the insidious nature of addiction. For example, you scale back from three meetings a week to just one. That’s the beginnings of withdrawal into isolation. You only hit the gym once this week and you’ve gotten fast food five days in a row. Your personal care is slipping. This is how addiction worms its way back into your life, and it’s what I mean when I say a relapse can be months in the making.
Re-Connect and Re-Focus
I mentioned earlier that I speak from personal experience. Unfortunately, I was the 1 in 2 that had a relapse as part of my story. Part of me wishes I could have learned the lessons I gained from relapsing another way. However, I’m grateful to be alive and to be able to share what I’ve learned with others. If you’re coming off of a relapse, re-connect with your sober peers and mentors and be honest with them, as well as yourself. Re-focus and get back to what works. And if you feel like you’re continually off the wagon and on again, consider checking in to a residential program in order to take yourself out of that life and learn a new way. The admissions specialists at Ocean Recovery are on call 24/7 to get you started so please don’t hesitate.