When people manage to quit alcohol or drug abuse they get a second chance in life. Some individuals will make the most of this opportunity and may go on to achieve amazing things. They manage to build a new life in recovery that is a complete contrast to their life in addiction. There are other individuals who do less well in recovery and end up returning to substance abuse after a period of sobriety. This is a terrible waste of an opportunity, and it may be that the individual never has another chance to recovery. There is always a relapse trigger that causes the individual to recommence the maladaptive behavior. If they are able to recognize these triggers beforehand they will be able to prevent the relapse.
A relapse can be defined as to fall or slide back into a former state. When a substance abuser relapses it means that they have returned to using alcohol or drugs after a period of being sober. A relapse trigger is an event that gives the individual the justification to return to this behavior. In many instances this person will have been just looking for an excuse to relapse, and the trigger provided this excuse.
It is crucial that people in recovery avoid relapse because:
* If people return to alcohol or drug abuse there is no guarantee that they will ever get the motivation to quit again. This means that they will have squandered their only chance at a rewarding life.
* For some people a relapse back to addiction can mean a death sentence. There is only so long that the body is able to put up with the abuse of this type of behavior.
* A relapse will reduce an individual’s self esteem. The lower their self esteem the harder it will be for them to stop again.
* The family and friends of the individual can be deeply impacted by this relapse. It will have meant that all their hopes will have been dashed, and they will find it difficult to trust the addict ever again.
* Many people have found that when they relapsed after a period of sobriety things felt worse than before. This is because the individual has tasted when it means to be free but now they are trapped again.
The most common relapse triggers include:
* Becoming Overconfident
* Feeling Full of Self Pity
* Unrealistic Expectations for Recovery
* Lying and Other Forms of Dishonesty
* Symptoms of Depression
* Feelings of Frustration in Recovery
* Expecting Too Much of Other People
* Taking Recovery for Granted
* Abusing Other Substances
* HALT: Hunger, Anger, Loneliness, Tiredness
It is usual for addicts to suffer from low self esteem so developing a bit of confidence is a positive thing. If people become overconfident though, it can become dangerous for them – particularly in early sobriety. This often happens when the individual is dealing with pink cloud syndrome. They become convinced that their problems are over, and they may come to the conclusion that they no longer need to put much effort into their sobriety. This means that the individual stops doing those things that have been helping to keep them sober.
In Alcoholics Anonymous they describe self-pity as, poor me, poor me, pour me a drink. Self pity can be defined as, pitying oneself in an exaggerated or overindulgent manner. It means that the individual feels like a victim, and they are blaming other people, places, or things for their situation. Self pity is a wasted emotion in recovery because it makes the individual powerless and unwilling to deal with the real cause of their problems.
Unrealistic expectations can be one of the most common triggers for a return to addiction. When people give up an addiction they justly expect for their life to improve. It is less reasonable to accept that things will improve overnight without any real effort. Giving up alcohol and drugs is a vital step, but it is only the start of the process. The individual will have to work hard to create the type of life that they want for themselves.
When people enter recovery they are making a decision to have a more honest approach to life. While trapped in the midst of addiction the individual will have been trapped in delusion and denial. In order to maintain the addiction they would have also needed to behave dishonestly. If people become sober and continue to behave this way it is usually a sign that they are caught in dry drunk syndrome. This means that they are physically sober but their behavior is just as it always has been. Dishonesty prevents them from finding real happiness in recovery and may eventually cause them to relapse.
It is fairly common for people in recovery to deal with symptoms of depression. This can occur in early recovery because the individual as a result of withdrawal symptoms – post acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) can last as long as a year. It can also be possible for the individual to be dealing with undiagnosed depression. If people are dealing with the symptoms of depression it can make life feel unbearable in recovery. It is therefore vital that they take action to overcome these symptoms – this usually means seeking professional advice.
If things are not going as expected in recovery it can mean that people feel frustrated. These frustrations can mean that the individual feels disheartened, and they may use this as an excuse to drink. Nobody gets a free ride and life and dealing with frustrations is something that people just need to learn how to do.
Another common relapse trigger is expecting too much from other people. It is common for addicts to have low expectations for themselves but high expectations for everyone else. This way of thinking is destructive because it always leads to disappointment and pain. Nobody is perfect, and it is not right for adults to rely too much on other humans. It is up to each individual to sort out their own life. It is unreasonable to expect other people to do this work on behalf of the individual.
Another unrealistic expectation that people in recovery can have of family and friends is that these people will just forget the past. The addict is unlikely to appreciate just how much their behavior hurt other people, and it will take time for healing to take place. There may even be some loved ones who can never let go of that pain. So long as the individual focuses on building a good life in recovery that is the best they can do. This is the only way to win back trust and earn forgiveness – it takes time.
After people have been sober for a bit of time they can start to take things for granted. There is a great deal of truth in the old adage that time heals all wounds. The individual forgets just how bad they felt at the end of their addiction, and they may even wonder if they over reacted to the situation. By this stage the person takes the benefits of recovery for granted and they can begin to romance the bad old days. This means that they start to remember the times when alcohol or drugs seemed to be a positive thing. Once people start to take their recovery for granted they are on thin ice. It means they will stop doing the things that help keep them sober.
Another dangerous activity for people in recovery is to try other mind altering substances. They may not have been previously addicted to these substances, but this does not mean that they can’t become that way in the future. Each addict will have their drug of choice but when that drug becomes unavailable they can easily transfer their allegiance – this is often called addiction substitution. It means that when people enter recovery they need to give up all mind altering substances or risk a return to addiction.
Four of the most common relapse triggers are indentified using the acronym HALT. This stands for:
When the individual is experiencing any of these things they will be at higher risk of relapse.
There is no reason for why people should relapse as a result of these triggers. Here are just a few ways that they can avert catastrophe:
* The first step is being aware of the different relapse triggers. Most of them are easily dealt with – for example, if the individual feels hungry they can just eat something or if they feel lonely they could visit a fellowship meeting.
* In order to be aware of these relapse triggers the individual needs to be looking for them. It is too easy for people to slip towards relapse without even noticing what is happening.
* It can be a good idea to keep a recovery journal that the individual updates on a daily basis. This way they will be better able to spot the warning signs or a negative pattern that has developed.
* Techniques such as mindfulness meditation are are great for helping people get to understand their inner landscape better. This means that the individual will have more insight into their own behavior and thought processes so they will be less likely to be caught unawares.
* So long as the priority of the individual is staying sober they should never need fall victim of relapse triggers. The trouble really starts when people, take their eye off the ball.