When people relapse after a period of sobriety it can be a disappointment for them and their loved ones. The fact that this person has tasted freedom will usually mean that the life in addiction feels even worse than it did before. Some people will develop an ambivalent attitude to recovery – they want it but they also want to enjoy alcohol and drugs. This means that they will be able to stop the substance abuse for few weeks or months but will then relapse. They can carry on like this indefinitely unless they finally develop the willingness to stop for good.
Relapse can be defined as a fall or slide back to a former state. It is commonly used to refer to a situation where an individual who has managed to escape alcohol or drug abuse returns to this behavior. It does not matter if this person has been sober for weeks, months, or years. If they once again return to substance abuse it will be classified as a relapse.
If the individual only very briefly returns to substance abuse it may be classified as a slip rather than a relapse. This usually refers to a situation where the individual picks up but automatically regrets the decision. If they are able to stop right away and return to recovery they will be able to avoid the slide back into addiction. The problem is that as soon as the individual uses alcohol or drugs again they are on a slippery slope, and it can be difficult to stop their descent. If the individual does manage to get back into recovery but fails to learn from the event they are likely to slip again.
Some addicts get caught up in a cycle of attending rehab and then returning home to relapse. This pattern of behavior is sometimes referred to as revolving door syndrome. In most instances the individual will be committed to the idea of long term sobriety but they just lose their motivation after a few weeks or months. A common reason for why this happens is ambivalence. The individual is caught between two conflicting desires; they see the attraction of living a sober life but they still hold onto the idea that there might be some enjoyment left in substance abuse. They individual can become caught up in revolving door syndrome for years and some never manage to escape it.
Repeated relapse is dangerous for a number of reasons including:
* There is no guarantee that anyone who relapses will ever get another shot at recovery. The willingness to stop again may never return, and this means that the relapse could be a death sentence.
* The longer that people remain addicted the more damage they will do to their body and mind. A relapse usually means that the individual will have a larger mess to clean up if they ever do manage to become sober again.
* It is often claimed that when people relapse after a period of sobriety there is a noticeable worsening of their situation. This may be because the individual has had a taste of sobriety and this only emphasizes the misery of addiction.
* When it person relapses it is a blow to their confidence and self esteem. This can make it more difficult for them to stop next time.
* Family and friends tend to suffer greatly when a loved one relapses because they will be so disappointed. It can mean that they will struggle to ever trust this individual again.
* If the individual manages to stop their substance abuse for a few weeks or months they may view this as evidence that they can stop at any time. This can mean that they continue their behavior with the dangerous belief that they will be able to return to recovery when things get really bad.
* When people relapse they will usually feel a great deal of guilt and disappointment. They may use this as justification to crawl even further into substance abuse.
Self efficacy is the inner beliefs that people have about their ability to achieve something. The stronger a person’s belief in their ability to do something, the more likely they are to do it. The opposite also applies. This is because self efficacy is closely related to motivation. If the individual has low self efficacy they will not have the motivation to do what it takes to stay sober. One of the real dangers of repeated relapse is that it can lower the individual’s self belief in their ability to stay sober. They may even develop the notion that they are a hopeless case, and that the life of the addict is the best they can hope for in life.
There can be a number of reasons for why people repeatedly relapse including:
* Ambivalence is probably the most common reason for why people keep returning to substance abuse. So long as they hold onto the idea that there is even the slightest amount of enjoyment left in this behavior they will be tempted to return.
* There is no one recovery path that has proved effective for every addict hoping to build a life in sobriety. If the individual keeps failing at one particular treatment option they might want to try something different because it might not be right for them.
* The claim that relapse is a normal part of recovery can be used as a justification to relapse. It is true that those who manage to enter sustained recovery will often have a history of failed attempts, but this does not mean that people need to relapse multiple times before they can get sober for good.
* Some individuals will enter recovery as a means to appease other people. They do not really want to stay sober and will relapse as soon as they believe it is safe to do so.
* If the only thing that a person does is stop drinking or using drugs the chances are that they will relapse. This is because more work is needed to build a successful life away from addiction.
* If people fail to make sobriety their number one priority they are less likely to make it through early sobriety.
* Some people struggle to maintain their sobriety unless they have plenty of support. This may mean that they need some type of recovery fellowship or therapy sessions – at least until they have firmly established themselves in recovery.
* The individual has taken on too much in early recovery, and this has meant that they became overwhelmed.
* If people are unprepared for dealing with relapse triggers and other obstacles they will be more likely to be caught out by them.
* The transition from rehab to home can be a particularly precarious time in recovery. It is vital that the individual adequately prepares for this.
* Sometimes people become over confident because they have managed to stay sober for a few months. They then stop doing the things that have been keeping them sober so they end up relapsing.
There are things that the individual can do to escape the cycle of repeated relapse such as:
* It is vital that people eradicate any ambivalence towards their recovery. This means being 100% convinced that substance abuse is not an option anymore.
* It is sometimes stated that repeatedly trying the same thing and expecting different results is a form of insanity. If people keep failing in their attempts to recovery they might be best advised to try a different approach – there is no one recovery path that works for everyone.
* In order to guarantee success in recovery the individual has be fully committed and willing to do whatever it takes. When people have this attitude they will never fail to build a successful recovery.
* It is recommended that the individual does not dismiss any recovery option out of hand. The thing that the person does not want to do may the missing link to success in sobriety.
* The individual should never use the idea that relapse is a normal part of recovery as a get out of jail free card. There is never any justification to relapse.
* It can be highly beneficial for people to enter rehab. This will give them a chance to learn the tools they will need to achieve success in sobriety.
* Going to rehab is not a guarantee of success in recovery. It is up to the individual to make the best use of their time by getting the most out of available resources.
* Those individuals who do attend rehab should begin preparing for their return home from day one.
* People should have realistic expectations for early recovery. They can build a great life, but it is going to take time and effort.
* There is no graduation day for people recovering from an addiction. This means that they need to be prepared to keep motivated and doing what it takes to stay sober.
* Staying sober needs to be the number one priority in the individual’s life. As soon as they start taking this for granted they are in danger.
* It is vital that people do not allow their previous failed attempts to stay sober influence their confidence about the next attempt. This means that they need to remind themselves that most of those who make a success of recovery will have a history or repeated relapse.