Author: Justin Mckibben
Every once in a while there is that daunting cliché you may hear in the recovery community; that relapse is a part of recovery. It may come from someone who has experienced a relapse themselves, or it may come from someone trying to reassure an individual who has relapsed that they still have a place in recovery. It is never meant to be harmful or frightening. In fact it is typically a phrase used to comfort people who have tried to get clean and sober but sadly found themselves again using substances.
It is an idea used to remind those who slip and fall on the path to recovery that they are still in the fight; that they still have a chance. A lot of people do experience relapse in their journey to get off drugs or alcohol. So, is it true? Is relapse a part of recovery?
Is Relapse a Part of Recovery: What is Relapse?
When looking at the basic definition or relapse, we can break it down a little to show some depth.
- In general – a relapse is to suffer deterioration after a period of improvement.
- In medicine– relapse, also referred to as recidivism,is a return of a past condition.
- With the context of drug use (yes, including alcohol) – relapse is a reinstatement of drug use and drug-seeking behavior. It is the recurrence of pathological drug use after a period of
So the common thread here is that a relapse is when someone:
- Is able to start a period of improvement…
- Is healing from a previous condition…
- Has a period of abstinence… THEN… they use drugs or drink, which ends their period of abstinence and they fall back into drug-seeking behavior and using; activating their condition which can undo their overall improvement.
While some people might have a drink or take a pill and call it a “slip” it is essentially a relapse. Some would say having “recovery” means making improvements to behavior beyond just abstinence, so they might say the real relapse actually starts before you even use drugs; when your behavior regresses to the old destructive or compulsive patterns.
Whether you believe the relapse is the behavior or the actual physical manifestation while getting high, it may determine what your views are on the question is relapse a part of recovery.
Is Relapse a Part of Recovery: What is Recovery?
Before we have discussed that some people will define recovery differently. We will note that in general, recovery is:
- a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administraion (SAMHSA) there are 12 “Guiding Principles of Recovery” stating recovery:
- There are many pathways to recovery
- Is self-directed and empowering
- Involves a personal recognition of the need for change and transformation
- Recovery is holistic
- Has cultural dimensions
- Recovery exists on a continuum of improved health and wellness
- It’s supported by peers and allies
- Recovery emerges from hope and gratitude
- Involves a process of healing and self-redefinition
- Recovery involves addressing discrimination and transcending shame and stigma
- It involves (re)joining and (re)building a life in the community
- Recovery is a reality. It can, will, and does happen
All these definitions emphasize the fact that recovery is about healing, and some even concede that there are many paths to recovery and many different beliefs around how people can successfully recover. Now some people may not like it, but hear me out.
Relapse is not a part of recovery.
Is Relapse a Part of Recovery: Why Not?
Now before anyone gets upset and drops a few choice words in the comments, let me explain.
This answer isn’t so black and white. It is just one way to look at the question and try to answer in a supportive and logical way. Because when we say “is relapse a part of recovery” we are not asking about the general concept of recovery as a whole, but about the definition, and specifically the requirements for “recovery”.
To elaborate; relapse is an option. Relapse is a reality many of us face. I have been sober over 3 years myself… after I had a relapse. My opinion is not meant to exclude people who have relapsed. I do not intend to say they weren’t in recovery. I don’t intend to say they aren’t recovering now. What I am saying is that relapse is not a requirement for recovery. While it may be a part of my recovery, it is not a defining feature of recovery. Recovery can exist without relapse.
Let’s say I have a car. If the car has a sun-roof, then of course the sun-roof is a part of that car. It adds a new element to the experience that not every car has… but if the car doesn’t have the sun-roof… does that make it any less of a car? Is the car considered incomplete without it? Some cars come with accessories and features that not all cars have, while having wheels and a gas pedal is a standard. And that is what this whole conversation is about; setting standards.
A relapse is a similar concept. Plenty of people in the world of recovery from drugs and alcohol have never relapsed. Hopefully they never will. They are recovering the same as the man or woman who has relapsed countless times.
Is Relapse a Part of Recovery: Make it Count
The point of all this is to put forth the idea that maybe we shouldn’t put forth the idea that relapse is part of the recovery process. Surely it is a possibility for everyone, and surely some will consider a relapse one of the most critical moments in their recovery, but that does not mean people should minimalize or “normalize” the idea that relapses are the standard.
Setting higher standards is crucial to lasting change. We don’t want to kick anyone while they are down or fault them for their relapse(s)… however we also don’t want someone who has never tried to get clean before thinking they are going to relapse because it is “part of the plan” and everyone is doing it.
This is especially important because a lot of people have died because of relapsing after periods of abstinence. When the body goes without such potent drugs for longer periods the body is no longer as tolerant to them, and when people relapse and don’t realize their threshold has dropped they often overdose and die. If we let people assume they will have to relapse eventually in order to really get it right, they might never get the chance to get it right again.
We should stop telling people relapse is part of recovery. We should continue to tell them there is recovery after a relapse, but once you stop you never have to start again.
Have you completed treatment but went back to using drugs and alcohol? Have you relapsed more than once, maybe even been labelled a “chronic relapser?” If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Justin Mckibben
Drug dealing is not as glorified or malicious as it often seems made out to be in music videos and movies, and the stereotypical drug dealer archetype is not always what you see when you have actually been there and done that.
I sold some drugs in my day, and some of my main suppliers were suburban house moms often supporting a few children close to my age at the time. That is the opposite of what stigma will tell you, and while it does not matter how different our race or age or upbringings were, we faced a lot of the same struggles, including addiction.
Taking all this into account, along with several other elements I will get into later, the idea of denying all convicted drug dealers access to welfare benefits on top of their prison sentencing seems a little intense… and a little unconscionable. There is already a lot being done in defense of nonviolent drug offenders to reform the way the system reprimands them, yet it appears some politicians feel it is necessary to deny welfare to convicted drug dealers, and they may soon make it a law.
Yes. This is probably my next ‘flag ship article’ in the war against addiction stigma. Shall we?
Looking at the Legislation
Republican State Representative Mike Regan sponsored this new legislation in Pennsylvania designed to make it so individuals convicted of drug distribution crimes would be restricted from qualifying for welfare… indefinitely!
Now this isn’t for every drug offense. Drug dealers convicted of felony offenses are the primary target, while summary or misdemeanor crimes would not constitute the same restrictions.
Mr. Regan said.
“This legislation, I’m not trying to be hardhearted. I’m trying to preserve the funds that are not infinite for those that are truly in need.”
Some are worried the qualifying amount of drugs is low; National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) notes that if you sell 2 pounds of marijuana it constitutes a felony with incarceration of up to a year and a $5,000 fine.
2 pounds is a lot, but to anyone who has seen 2 pounds of marijuana in real life they know it doesn’t exactly put you at Escobar levels. It is definitely enough to assume you are a dealer, but I’ve known high school kids to keep more than that in their mom’s basement.
When taking a closer look this is not necessarily a huge step from what the current policy already is, which many insist is enough to deter people from taking advantage of the system. The Department of Human Services already requires welfare seekers who have been convicted of drug felony charges to comply with drug testing to be eligible for these benefits. Florida Governor Rick Scott had tried to implement a similar restriction, but eventually gave it up for results that did not justify its budget.
Regan did say he is not opposed to amending his proposal. Replacing the lifetime ban from welfare assistance with a 15-20 year ban is not completely off the table, and other negotiation can probably be made before signing it into law.
The debate is coming to a head sooner than later, since the bill already passed the House Health Committee with bipartisan support. Now, the Republican Party is hoping for a victory as the bill heads to the House floor, perhaps as early as this week!
Opposition stands strong as Democrats and outside organizations have voiced several concerns, most driven out of the fear the bill could have counterproductive and adverse effects on recovery efforts, not just for individual offenders but the recovery of the system as a whole.
Though Regan is trying to sell this one in terms of fiscal responsibility – and there’s an argument there. The financial questions are important, such as:
“What should be the limits of the public’s generosity?”
“In a time of diminished resources what should be the parameters for those resources for public assistance?”
Half the people reading this might say,
“Why should law-abiding citizens pay to take care of convicted criminals?”
The intent of Regan’s proposal here may be to target major drug dealers. But in my personal experience and opinion, considering a lot of drug dealers have evolved from an individual with their own addictions or a desperate need to supplement income (or both) this would only further exacerbate and perpetuate the destructive cycle of prisons, poverty and drug abuse.
Sure, not every drug dealer does it for these exact reasons, but plenty do, and this kind of law will leave them little alternatives for hope.
Lack of education and opportunity in some communities often becomes a motive, and some say these circumstances in some areas have only gotten worse due to the war on drugs. If someone is caught and sent to prison it’s hard enough already to find honest and stable work. Add a criminal record and forcing them to forgo their welfare assistance seems like it would only create more of a need to revert to dealing again.
Like breaking someone’s legs and telling them to move a mile… without using their arms.
Why would we need to keep kicking someone while their down, especially when we toss them back out into society and tell them to pick themselves up again?
Is it practical to keep punishing people while expecting them to reform themselves? Is it effective to drag people in and out of the criminal justice and prison system to “teach them a lesson?”
Has it worked for us so far?
That is all this writer’s opinion, but in all honestly I think most would agree that a better answer would involve actively treating and supporting the rehabilitation of individuals with drug issues. If we can’t show compassion, we can’t expect any change.
With the toll of the war on drugs being costly on both sides of the fight, how can we improve upon the ideals set forth to fight addiction and drug abuse? We all have a roll in this war, and as part of this culture we all have a chance to help this nation survive this fight. For some it is as simple as choosing to recover rather than suffer, and Palm Partners is a place to begin that transformation. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Photo of Author: Justin Mckibben
In the past I have written about my personal experiences in relation to my recovery. I’ve written about my first time in treatment, about my relapse and about my opinions on a few other topics. My story is nothing too special, there are thousands of people out there with the same story, and at the same time it is a miracle unique to me.
Today I have been asked to write about my experience with returning to treatment after a relapse, what it taught me and what differences I noticed. There are a few specific elements of my second time around in treatment that I want to emphasize. As always there’s a lot more to this story that I could go into, but the article would take forever to write, and longer to read.
Frankly a lot has changed between then and now. My second time around has been awesome, and a lot of that has to do with those differences and similarities that set it apart from the first time, but in the end it has taught me that not everyone gets another shot, so I’m blessed to share my story of my second time around in hopes someone else won’t have to risk it.
Woke Up Wanting to Live
When I first came to treatment I was exploiting it as a week to take a breather before a big run. I had no intention of getting clean and staying sober, and I had actually made an elaborate suicide plan, which I had every intention to carry out after detox. Thankfully something happened in treatment that changed my mind, and I ended up staying sober for a while. The second time around was different to the effect that I really wanted to change. After a relapse cluttered with alcohol and pills I had been swallowed up by the old familiar depression, and the desire to die was slipping its way back into my every waking moment. Even though I knew that there was a way to have an incredible life, I was ashamed and miserable, and partly feeling sorry for myself.
Then one day after a few months of a serious binge, I woke up on the floor of my drug-dealers basement, curled into a ball on an old mattress. That day was different though, because I was astonished to have this feeling of a deep desperation to live, like a healthy fear that I was going to die, but this time I didn’t want to.
As far back as I can remember, before I got sober the first time on ‘accident’, I had felt like death was my only way out. But after months of sobriety and growth in recovery, life was too beautiful to throw away, too amazing to ignore. So when I woke up wanting to live and welcoming the memory of what I was missing, knowing what was right on the other side of sanity, I had another spiritual awakening. I knew my life could be full again.
The ‘Apple Analogy’
Once in therapy there were analogies shared with me that I have often refer back to, and one is meant to teach people about the concept of accumulated experience. Accumulated experience is basically saying that every time you experience something, you retain that instead of losing it.
This is translated in this context to anyone who has ever been to treatment multiple times and who says it’s not working for them. The Apple Analogy is this:
If you have an apple, and you eat it, the apple is gone.
You can never have that exact apple again.
You may have several apples in the future, they all might be similar, but none of them are the exact same apple.
So no matter what, you cannot lose the experience of that first apple. It may be gone, but that experience will always be yours. The same goes for every apple after that. No one and nothing can take those experiences from you, and you can use the collective experience whenever you chose to apply it.
I believe the same goes with drug and alcohol treatment. Not that I think people should relapse as often as they eat an apple, but that no matter how many times you think you have failed at staying sober, your experiences add up and you can apply them to each other to help you get clean.
I went to treatment again, and I learned new ideas and had new experiences that I related with my first experience, and all that collective experience helped me feel more confident than I ever thought possible about my recovery. Relapse should not be considered ‘part of recovery’ in my opinion, because it is not a requirement to get sober. That being said, it can be a part of some of our stories.
In reality part of me was afraid to go back to rehab, to come back to the rooms of a 12 Step fellowship, and to face the people who I had gotten sober with. The shame I thought I would experience held me hostage for a while. I assumed that everyone would view me as an outcast and a disappointment, especially by those who had helped save my life the first time. That fear actually kept me from getting help, but as much fear as I had it was all wasted on insecurities and expectations that were baseless.
When I came back to rehab, the people there were of course not thrilled that I has relapsed, but they were content to know I was alive, and made sure to make me comfortable in treatment. The clinical staffs, the residential techs, everyone who knew me and who came into contact with me were just happy that someone that needed help was able to get it.
Most incredible, the people in the fellowship, who I had only gotten to know over a period of about 5 months my first time around, were so welcoming and supportive I didn’t know how to react! I had expected to hang my head and avoid eye contact when I came back to the rooms of recovery, but I was met at those doors with such love and compassion that it moved me in ways I am still so grateful for today that I cannot find the words to express it. I thought I should be ashamed coming back, but I was immediately reminded that there is no shame when your able make it back.
Respect the Disease, Accept the Journey
At first I didn’t understand the ‘one-day-at-a-time’ philosophy, because I believed I would stay clean forever. When I relapsed, I gained a new respect for that saying, and for the disease of addiction. It showed me that not only was that obsession to drink and do drugs cunning, baffling and crazy powerful, but that I could not expect to stay sober on the actions I took yesterday, or assume I am cured forever. I know I have to consistently work for my recovery, and for my freedom from the obsession. I cannot fool myself into believing that one drug is safer than another for an addict and alcoholic like me. The desperation and devastation of true addiction is too grave, and I have an affliction that in my opinion requires a spiritual solution for emotional catharsis.
Again, no one should EVER be ashamed to relapse and return to rehab. It is a miracle that people who relapse make it back at all! Too many people never do, and the disease eats them alive. Too many people stay using drugs because they are afraid of the guilt, and too often it kills them. I owe my life now to the fact that when I came back to treatment, and ultimately to the rooms of recovery, the people there respected my journey and met my return with unconditional love.
I believe I owe a debt to the recovery community and the fellowship I may never repay. They took me in and taught me what it meant to live, and be free… twice! It was shown to me the amazing resolve of a fellowship of alcoholics and drug addicts to stand by their fallen friends, to not shoot the wounded, and it has shown me the importance of acceptance in both who I am, and of my disease. I am grateful, and I’m only here because the program of recovery is made for people who sometimes need another chance, because it’s never too late to change for life.
I pray that anyone who has any doubt about coming back to rehab can somehow see that the world always has more to offer, and when we think we have everything we need to know, more will always be revealed. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135. We want to help. You are not alone.
Author: Justin Mckibben
Every once in a while people who are actively addicted to using and abusing drugs or alcohol have co-dependent drug-related relationships with their loved ones, and once in a while they both decide they want to change their lives, or one talks the other into at least giving it a shot. The question then becomes should you go to treatment with a loved one when trying to give up drugs or alcohol?
The following article is simply based on my own experience. I’m obviously not an authority on these subjects by any means, and I am not an expert on any level of therapeutic values and what will or will not work. What I can say is my opinion here is based off of having experienced treatment with a loved one, and knowing how it affected my recovery at the time. I am not in the business of telling anyone what to do, but I have also witnessed other loved ones in treatment together.
One Big Addicted Family
I will start by explaining my personal experience, and the various elements of that situation. My first time in treatment for drug addiction, I was talked into going- by my ex-fiancé, who went to treatment with me. So it was myself, and the girl I had been using drugs, drinking, and experiencing up’s and down’s of a love-life with in rehab. Next, her brother- who has been a close friend of mine- decided to come too, so a few days after we arrived he showed up to treatment with us. Yes, you read that right. It was:
- My (on and off) Fiancé
- Her Brother (My Best Friend)
All of us in rehab together?! Yes, we were like one big addicted family. We had all used together, and did other things in order to get drugs and drink together, so we figured why not get clean together. Now again, I will say that this is just my personal opinion, and what happened to me when I was in treatment with my loved ones.
Enabling Old Behavior
While in treatment with loved ones who had known me for years, it was easier to remain stuck in my old mind state. Because regardless of what happened I knew the connection I had with these people was going to exist. Even though my loved ones sometimes took the opportunities to call me out on the things I was doing wrong, or the issues I was avoiding, there was still a fair amount of moments when they co-signed and enabled my old behaviors because it suited our relationship better that way.
In all honesty, when a situation in treatment is brought up that has the potential to threaten that relationship, a lot of people will instinctually say or do things that protect the ones they love from the truth that they need to hear. If I was doing something that was not conducive to my recovery, my loved ones would probably enable me if it was easier to save face and avoid painful conversations.
This was especially true with my ex-fiancé, because we wanted to get through our relationship problems, but we hoped that they would disappear when we were clean and sober. Sadly, this was not the case. Too many issues had been swept under the rug or festering in silence by the time we both got the clarity that sobriety afforded us. Even though we initially avoided the hard truth by letting each other do questionable things, we inevitably felt the reality of our discrepancies and parted ways before treatment ended.
With my intimate relationship, with my fiancés brother and her relationship, even with the relationship between her brother and I there became these rifts that caused some emotional compromises that would be otherwise alleviated until a better time in early recovery. Even though having the support of family members and those closest to you in treatment can be inspiring and help some people feel safe and secure, it also has the potential to create co-dependent sobriety.
Co-dependent sobriety is not (in my opinion) an effective or healthy kind of recovery on any level. This kind of relationship in recovery is counter-productive, selfish and dangerous. When your recovery depends on your relationship with a loved one, and their sobriety, then it is not real recovery (in my opinion). This is when you are with someone you love, and you both get clean and sober together, and then one of you relapses and the other is helpless to stay sober themselves. Or when you get clean and sober together, and then you separate and you cannot stay clean alone.
This is the problem with being in treatment that I saw coming, I felt it growing, and I had to circumvent the issue for my own sanity as well as the ones I loved. I was very afraid that if the 3 of us got out of treatment together and stayed as a group, one of us would eventually use, and the others would either abandon them, or we would all tumble like dominos. This has happened to plenty of people. They build their entire recovery off their relationship with the family member or loved one they get clean with, and then when things change and they are emotionally compromised, they give up.
The Freedom of Independence
While my experience may suggest that the only outcome is a bad one, I assure you that there is always some silver-lining I look for. Other people’s experiences may exhibit more or less good or bad results, but in all honesty I think the most effective and unselfish way to go to treatment is alone. While being there for one another may seem like it is doing a great deal to keep each other on the right path, it has the potential to eventually damage your recovery, and endanger your loved ones as well.
Freedom is a huge piece of sobriety. Freedom from drugs and alcohol, and the freedom from our former selves to grow as an individual is how we recover. In order to get that kind of freedom one must learn to stand on their own two feet and be an independent human being. Relying on your loved ones for happiness, or using loved ones as a crutch and excuse for misery is detrimental to growth and independence. You spend too much time worrying about what the other person thinks and feels, and don’t put enough focus on what needs to be done to change your life!
My sponsor told me once that I needed to develop my recovery independent of any human influence. I could not be sponsor dependent, I could not be family dependent or relationship dependent, I needed to be spiritually independent, and rely only on my higher power to sustain my life. I had to put in the work, and I had to not use drugs or drink, and there were other things involving helping others and amending relationships that kept me sober.
In many ways, I feel that by ending my relationship before I got out of treatment was risky, but it was the best things I ever did for my recovery and for my ex-fiancé. We both continued to struggle afterwards, but allowing for her to grow in treatment and afterwards without me, and letting myself take my first steps toward true freedom on my own two feet changed everything. She has a different path than I do, and her life now includes a beautiful baby girl, and a real relationship that gives her happiness beyond her recovery from addiction.
I ended up back in treatment, and this time I went alone. I put aside all the preconceptions I had about recovery and relationships, I stopped trying to be right about things that I was clueless about and had an opportunity to address things I was afraid of talking about before, because no one was there to hold me back out of fear of hurting their feelings. My two experiences in treatment were vastly different, and while I was blessed to experience some of it with people I loved, I was able to focus more on the truth and hearing what I needed when I walked into that alone.
These opinions are based off of what happened to me, and what I felt and have witnessed others feel in treatment with their loved ones. Be it brother and sister, boyfriend and girlfriend, or parent and child it can seem to be a way to protect each other, but honestly take a look at the possibility that you are further jeopardizing each other by hindering growth, accountability, and freedom. If you truly love someone who is struggling alongside you, give them the space to be the greatest version of themselves, with that being dependent on you. If you or someone you love, or both of you are struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135. We want to help. You are not alone.
When you’re looking for movies or documentaries on Netflix, it would be nice to have a guide on ones that pertain to certain subject. I’ve sat and searched for the 5 best movies/documentaries on Netflix about eating disorders and made a list of what I’ve found.5 Best Movies/Documentaries on Netflix about Eating Disorders
1. America the Beautiful –
Photo Credit: www.imdb.com
Director Darryl Roberts’ stimulating film studies America’s obsession with external appearance and the impractical ideals of beauty verbalized to the public by the media, pop culture and the fashion industry. It features discussions with celebrities (such as Mena Suvari and Aisha Tyler), media personalities and fashion experts, the documentary looks at everything from plastic surgery’s rising reputation to common concerns about eating disorders.
2. America the Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments –
Photo Credit: www.rottentomatoes.com
Darryl Roberts proceeds with an additional look at the American beauty industry, this time investigating how the nationwide fixation with weight loss has harmfully affected our opinion of what really constitutes a healthy weight.
3. Hungry for Change –
Photo Credit: www.rebootedbody.com
This documentary uncovers secrets with weight loss, diets and food industries that they don’t want customers to know about, such as: deceiving tactics to keep you coming back for more. In this film, you find out what’s keeping people from having the bodies and health they truly want.
4. My 600-LB Life: Melissa’s Story –
Photo Credit: www.pinterest.com
Melissa Morris, who weighs 673 pounds, overcomes her life-threatening obesity with gastric bypass surgery and her recovery is packed with struggles of its own. This mother who lives in Texas must also deal with her condition’s effect on her self-confidence and her marriage.
5. Freaky Eaters –
Photo Credit: www.en.wikipedia.org
“Freaky eaters” is a documentary featured on TLC that shows the difficulties those with a compulsion towards certain foods have. With professional help, they are able to confront the agonizing truth behind their food obsessions and regain control of their diets and lives.
Of course, this is only a small portion of the many, many movies and documentaries that are based on eating disorders but it’s a small start. There is so much more all over television and the internet and I was pleased to find as much as I did when searching because it is good to be informing people about eating disorders. I wasn’t anywhere near as educated about them before I started working at Palm Partners and am glad to say I have more knowledge on them now.
Whether you want to learn about eating disorders because you know someone with one or you are just curious to learn about it, any of these movies/documentaries can be very helpful and beneficial to watch. If you are looking for other ways to find information, there are so many books at the library or bookstores on eating disorders and we even have a lot of blogs on it, too. It’s great to be informed about these things; this is an illness that is becoming bigger and bigger in society today. If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll free 1-800-951-6135.