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All across this country in small towns, rural areas and cities, alcoholism and drug abuse are destroying the lives of men, women and their families. Where to turn for help? What to do when friends, dignity and perhaps employment are lost?

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Is Relapse a Part of Recovery?

Is Relapse A Part of Recovery?

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.

  1. In general – a relapse is to suffer deterioration after a period of improvement.
  2. In medicine– relapse, also referred to as recidivism,is a return of a past condition.
  3. 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:

  1. Is able to start a period of improvement…
  2. Is healing from a previous condition…
  3. 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:

  1. There are many pathways to recovery
  2. Is self-directed and empowering
  3. Involves a personal recognition of the need for change and transformation
  4. Recovery is holistic
  5. Has cultural dimensions
  6. Recovery exists on a continuum of improved health and wellness
  7. It’s supported by peers and allies
  8. Recovery emerges from hope and gratitude
  9. Involves a process of healing and self-redefinition
  10. Recovery involves addressing discrimination and transcending shame and stigma
  11. It involves (re)joining and (re)building a life in the community
  12. 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

Rehab After Relapse

Rehab After Relapse

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Rehab After Relapse: Is it necessary?

As someone who works in the field of addiction treatment, this is a question I hear all the time. Many people who relapse on drugs and alcohol after completing treatment don’t think they should go back to rehab.

I’ll hear things like “I’ve been to rehab before and it didn’t work” or “I already know everything they have to tell me.” The thing is, rehab is a lot more than therapy and learning about recovery. Even if you feel like you have learned everything you need to know about the disease of addiction and yourself, there are still reasons you should go back to rehab if you relapse.

Here are 4 main reasons to consider going back to rehab after relapse.

Rehab After Relapse: Statistics

Although relapse is not a requirement for recovery, the nature of addiction is so insidious that relapse rates are staggeringly high. Information gathered by drug and alcohol rehabs show that the percentage of people who will relapse after rehab and even after a period of sobriety ranges from as much as 50% to an astonishing 90%.

This is a frightening statistic. However, there are things that you can do to avoid being a statistic and greatly increase your chances of sustained sobriety. For those who are serious about their recovery, going on to complete rehab, including an aftercare program can greatly increase their chances of success. The same goes for people who return to rehab after relapsing.

Rehab After Relapse: Environmental

One of the most important things about rehab is the physical distance it puts between you and the people, places, and things that are a part of your life in active addiction. With that said, rehab gives you a safe place to be during those early days of recovery – not to mention during your detox phase, which can be uncomfortable and dangerous if done on your own.

If you plan to go back to treatment, but only for detox, which generally lasts a mere week at the most, you might find it difficult to stay on the straight and narrow and perhaps relapse again. That’s because those first thirty days are often the hardest, and many addicts and alcoholics relapse during this time, especially if they are in the same environment in which they were using before.

If you want different results, you need to do something differently, and changing your environment is one of the first changes you should make. Just because you (think) know how to get sober, it doesn’t mean you actually can or will. This is why it is important for you to go back to rehab if you relapse.

Rehab After Relapse: Support

One of the most important reasons you should go back to rehab after relapse is because of the support system it provides. The real thing that keeps people clean and sober is not knowledge of recovery; it’s their relationships with other people. In other words, their support system.

What most people need in early recovery is support from people who understand what they are going through, not tips on “how to avoid triggers.” They need to see people who were once where they are and who have had success in recovery. They need to build relationships with people who can show them how they can attain lasting recovery.

Rehab After Relapse: Knowledge and Experience

Ok, you may think that you know everything about recovery, but you don’t. Recovery is not about memorizing the 12 steps or reading every page of recovery literature. If you went back to drugs and alcohol, then most likely there were some fundamental things you did not learn in rehab.

For example:

  • You did not surrender completely.
  • You did not take suggestions from people who were trying to help you.
  • You weren’t completely honest.
  • You were not open minded enough to learn everything you needed to learn.

Most people who relapse, if they’re being honest with themselves, know that they did not grasp one or more of these fundamental concepts. Going back to rehab if you relapse is the safest and smartest option and it gives you the best chance for recovery in the future.

Even if you actually did do all of these things and still experienced a relapse after rehab, consider this: research shows that the experiences, education, and support that people receive in treatment is cumulative, meaning that going back to rehab two, three, even 15 times can be essential at eventually achieving long-term sobriety. That’s because going to rehab is never a waste of time; it all goes into your recovery bank account – and it adds up.

Have you completed treatment but went back to using drugs and alcohol? Have you relapsed more than once and been labelled a “chronic relapser?” We here at Palm Partners believe that everyone has the ability to “get it,” even if they have relapsed more than once. Please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak with an Addiction Specialist today.

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