Addiction specialists recognize relapse as a symptom of addiction. It is the hope that a recovering addict will not relapse, but sometimes it occurs. A short-lived relapse doesn’t do too much harm and the addict is able to begin the recovery process again without too much trouble. A long-lived relapse may put an addict back into a downward spiral of addiction causing serious consequences. If a relapse takes a turn for the worst, the addict may never have the chance at recovery. Relapse can be a serious matter if the addict does not get back on the path of recovery quickly.
The word relapse means to “slip back” in Latin. It does not matter how long the addict has remained sober. Once the addict starts using drugs or alcohol again, he has relapsed. A “slip” refers to an addict who starts using again for a short time, but is able to stop before he falls back into full addiction. When an addict slips, he can prevent a relapse by immediately getting back on track. When an addict regrets their choice to use and still wants to recover from substance abuse, they will make the right choice and stop using. These individuals are still motivated to remain sober and avoid relapse.
There are numerous reasons that provoke an addict to relapse. Cravings are a big trigger for relapse. They can occur at any time and are difficult to control, especially during early recovery. If an addict does not use his coping skills at the onset of a craving, he may succumb to a relapse.
Having a bad day can make anyone feel irritated. Maybe it was a difficult day at work, or the addict had an argument with a loved-one. Stressful situations can make an addict feel anxious, depressed, angry, etc. When negative emotions flood an addict’s mind, they stop thinking clearly. Former negative behavior patterns brought about by emotional stress may surface and provoke an addict back into relapse as a form of escape. If this begins to happen, an addict must block the negative thoughts and behavior patterns and begin to engage positive, healthy ones in order to cope with his problems in a constructive way. By changing how the addict responds to stress is a big step in his being able to overcome problems and avoid relapse.
When a recovering addict relapses they are often filled with guilt and shame. They may believe that they will never be able to recover from addiction. Often family and friends become disappointed and stop believing in the addict’s ability to get well. Instead of turning their back on the addict when he needs them the most, they should still support him with encouragement to get back on track. Addiction is a disease and should not be treated with scorn and judgment. Relapse begins to eat away at an addict’s self confidence to recover, and this mindset often results in more self-destructive behavior that may lead to death by overdose. It is very important to keep encouraging the addict to begin the recovery process once again.
There are ways that you can encourage an addict who has relapsed. Tell them that even though they feel helpless and hopeless, they are not. This relapse is just a setback and they have the power to get back on track. They can learn a lesson from this experience and re-commit them self to begin the recovery process again. Tell them that they are not a failure and that the only true failure in life is giving up.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.