When people escape an addiction there is usually a great sense of relief felt by the individual and their loved ones. The newly sober person can begin rebuilding their life. No matter how fall they have fallen as a result of their addiction they should be able to recover much of what is lost. A successful life in recovery is not achieved overnight, but if people are persistent they will be rewarded for their efforts. The one thing that completely destroys this chance of recovery is for people to relapse back to their substance abuse. If the individual is wiling they will be able to pick themselves up and start again. If they fall into a pattern of chronic relapsing though, they will never make any real progress in recovery. It has been suggested that relapsing is a normal part of recovery but there is also the argument that such a way of looking at things can be unhelpful.
Chronic relapsers often get caught in what is called revolving door syndrome. This means that they get caught in a pattern of going to rehab, getting sober, leaving rehab, and then relapsing. The individual can go on like this for many years and may even conclude that rehab just doesn’t work for them. There are many reasons for why people can get caught in revolving door syndrome but a common reason is that they fail to adequately prepare for the transition back to home.
Any period of sobriety that addicts can manage may be beneficial, but in order to build a good life the individual will need sustained sobriety. The danger associated with chronic relapsing includes:
* When people relapse it could be that they have just lost their last chance to recover. There is no guarantee that the individual will be able to summon the motivation to quit again.
* It can be soul destroying for family and friends to see their loved one escape their addiction only to later return to it. It can damage trust and put a further strain on the relationship.
* In order to build a life in recovery the individual will need to stay sober long-term. The gains of short-term sobriety are very limited.
* Life is short and by relapsing the individual is wasting precious time. The sooner they can achieve lasting sobriety the sooner they can get on with their life.
* The chronic relapser misses out on the real joys of sobriety. It takes time away from addiction to experience these joys.
* Once the individual becomes settled in sobriety there is no longer any struggle to staying away from alcohol or drugs. Chronic relapsers usually don’t reach this stage so they view recovery as a constant struggle.
* If people need to go to rehab after every relapse it will soon become a financial strain.
* When people relapse it gives their confidence a knock. This can lower self-esteem and self-efficacy and make it harder to stop the next time.
There are many reasons for why the individual will repeatedly relapse including:
* They are ambivalent about their recovery. This means that the individual is caught between the desire to keep going with their substance abuse and remaining sober.
* The individual is only stopping the substance abuse to please other people. As soon as they feel that they can get away with it they will resume their drinking or drug use.
* The individual keeps choosing recovery treatment options that are not really suitable for them.
* Some people have a dual diagnosis where they suffer with another mental health problem along with their addiction. Until such people have both of their conditions treated they will struggle to settle into recovery.
* If the individual is too full of pride and arrogance they may find it impossible to pick up the tools they need to make their recovery successful. It is best that newly sober people cultivate a beginner’s mind and be humble enough to accept help.
* It is often said that recovery is a process and not an event. If the only thing that the individual does is to give up alcohol or drugs they will be unlikely to experience the sober life as worth maintaining.
* Some people may actually be scared of fully recovering from their addiction. Substance abuse has become such an important part of their personality that they fear letting it go.
* Another common reason for why people become chronic relapsers is that they do not prepare well enough for the transition from rehab to home. A quality rehab will provide all the necessary resources to prepare for this, but it is up to the individual to make use of them.
* Some people start off in recovery highly motivated, but they later run out of steam. This occurs because they have allowed their sobriety to fall down the list of their priorities.
* Those individuals who have unrealistic expectations for recovery can be setting themselves up for later problems. Life in sobriety can be wonderful, but it takes time and effort.
* If the individual gives up one drug but continues to use other mind altering substances it will prevent them from making progress in recovery. If people are inebriated they are far more likely to relapse back to their old habits.
* The individual did not take care around the common relapse triggers.
* The individual meets problems in recovery that they refuse to face. When people become stuck in recovery they are far more at risk of relapse.
One of the main reasons for chronic relapsing is ambivalence towards sobriety. This means that the individual holds two opposing views about life in recovery. They may believe that living without alcohol or drugs will improve their situation, but they also want to continue enjoying the relief they get from substance abuse. The individual ends up being pulled between these two opposing desires, and this is what leads them to become chronic relapsers. The way to overcome this ambivalence is for the individual to be clearer about their desires for recovery and to look more closely at the destruction that addiction is having in their life. This should mean that they move off the fence between addiction and recovery.
There are steps that the individual can take that will help them escape the cycle of recovery followed by repeated relapse such as:
* Staying sober has to be the number one priority for people who wish to maintain it. As soon as the individual stops putting effort into their recovery they will be increasing their likelihood of relapse.
* Some rehabs offer booster sessions for people who have been sober for a few months. These are highly recommended because they renew motivation and help the individual gain important new tools.
* It is vital that the individual has a clear idea of why they want a life in recovery so as to avoid ambivalence. It is a good idea for people to write their reasons for choosing sobriety in a journal and refer to this when thoughts of relapse occur.
* A gratitude journal can be a useful tool for helping the individual stay focused on how staying sober is benefiting their life. It is too easy for people in recovery to take these improvements for granted.
* There is a wise saying that states, if people keep on doing the same things the same things will keep on happening to them. It may be wise for the individual to try a different approach to their recovery if they keep on relapsing.
* If the individual finds that they have uncomfortable symptoms such as depression or anxiety they should seek medical advice. There are many people who achieve sobriety but have an undiagnosed mental health problem that gets in the way.
* The individual should keep an open mind about recovery and be willing to try different things.
* In order to make progress in recovery the individual needs to avoid all mind altering recreational drugs. Just because the person has not abused a substance in the past does not mean that they are free to use it in recovery.
* It is often advised that people avoid making any major changes in the first year of recovery. They will already have enough on their plate and any further stress could lead them to relapse.
* It is important for people in early sobriety to avoid HALT (hunger, anger, loneliness, and tiredness). These are common relapse triggers.
* It is vital that people become willing to face and overcome any challenges that come their way in life. It is by doing this that they will be able to gain the coping skills that make life so much easier to manage.