It can be so distressing to start the process of recovery from addiction only to see everything fall apart again. Family and friends may be bewildered as to how it could happen, and you may be struggling to come up with an explanation that makes any sense at all. This may be a situation you have faced many times in the past and, if it has, it means you are dealing with chronic relapse.
Chronic relapsing is a bit like building sandcastles and kicking them down again. It means you have put a lot of hard work into breaking free of addiction but, for some reason, you ended up returning to this old way of life. In most cases, this return to addiction is not planned – for some people it is a spur of the moment decision to drink or use drugs again.
If you have been involved with the recovery community at any time then you will almost certainly have heard the following claim: ‘relapse is a normal part of recovery’. This does not mean that you need to relapse many times in order to be able to recover, but it does highlight the reality that chronic relapsing is a common part of the process. Of course, if you can get sober after one attempt this is the ideal situation and you should look upon relapse as an unacceptable thing to do.
There are many reasons why chronic relapse occurs, with some of the most common being:
- the person wasn’t fully committed to staying sober so was unwilling to put in sufficient effort
- people who are dealing with any type of severe learning difficulty can find it harder to commit to long-term recovery
- some individuals have a dual diagnosis (this can involve something such as depression), meaning that they have been self-medicating with alcohol or drugs – there will always be a high risk of relapse until the other condition is properly managed
- if the person has a dysfunctional home life, it can be hard for them to commit to sobriety long-term because there will be too many relapse triggers
- those individuals who don’t have adequate tools for managing stress are at higher risk of becoming chronic relapsers
- some people just seem to have poor impulse control so are easily tempted back to addiction
- major events such as loss of a job, end of a relationship, or the death of a loved one can trigger a relapse
- some people fail to make use of the right resources when trying to quit alcohol
- some individuals persist in going it alone even though they need help to be able to quit.
Every time you relapse, there is a real risk that you will have lost your last chance at sobriety. There are many examples of people relapsing and never managing to get sober again – many died within weeks of relapsing. This is a serious business, so you need to do all you can to escape this dangerous cycle. Here are a few suggestions for how you can do this:
- fully commit to sobriety and lose any fantasy you have of being able to use drugs or drink alcohol again in the future
- if you are dealing with a learning difficulty, you may need additional support in order to break free of addiction
- if you have a dual diagnosis (or suspect that you might have), it is vital that you get this other condition managed at the same time as the addiction
- if you have a dysfunctional home life consider family therapy or possibly even removing yourself from this environment
- get better tools to help you deal with stress
- speak to a therapist or GP if you feel you have poor impulse control
- be willing to get help so you have a better chance of overcoming your addiction problems
- make sure you have access to the resources you need to break free of addiction – keep in mind that the resources that work for somebody else might not be appropriate for you.