Shaken. Scared. Humiliated. Angry. Ashamed.
Relapse can bring on some of the most difficult feelings to deal with for both the individual who is addicted – and their loved ones. It may feel as though you did everything right: You completed and graduated from a treatment center, regained control of your life and even put some time under your belt.
While addiction often carries a heavy stigma, relapse can carry the connotation of failure.
But is relapse truly a failure
Think about it this way: Is a recurrence of cancer a failure? Is a flare up of Crohn’s Disease a failure?
While a relapse of addiction or relapse of alcoholism may feel like a failure of your recovery – it’s worth noting that according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), between 40 and 60 percent of people suffering with addiction will relapse one or more times in their recovery. Just like other chronic diseases – addiction recovery is not an easy path nor a straight line every time. A relapse does not mean your recovery as failed, but instead, it’s suffered a setback.
Taking the time for self-reflection to understand what triggered your relapse can be crucial in preventing it from happening again. Based on our experience working with those who have relapsed at one point or another in their recovery, below are some of the most common triggers and reasons for relapse.
Stress can be one of the leading triggers in addiction relapse. While we typically think of stress stemming from negative situations, it can also arrive from positive situations, as well. Whether you got a promotion at work, are dealing with financial burdens, are entering a new relationship, or coping with the loss of a loved one – all of these scenarios deal with change, which is always stressful in one way or another. Stress makes you more vulnerable to relapse, as your instinct may be to reach for your drug of choice. There is no way to completely avoid stress in life – but you can put the pieces into place to deal with it effectively. Talk with a sponsor, therapist, counselor or close friends in recovery, attend meetings, and avoid making major life changes in early recovery.
Self-confidence is a powerful tool in addiction recovery. However, there is a fine line between holding your head high and know your boundaries – and justifying that you are in complete control and a small amount of your drug of choice or another drug won’t hurt you. By allowing your self-image to become distorted, you may become overconfident and indulge in irrational thoughts. In recovery, it’s important to build a healthy balance of self-esteem – and humility.
It’s a fact of life that all of us, at one point or another, will feel bad for ourselves. It’s when we become obsessed with these feelings that we start to focus on our past: Things we may have done wrong, our blame on others, our poor circumstances or mistreatment. These can become dangerous thoughts because they give us room to justify taking hit or having a drink. It’s difficult to focus on your future and improving yourself when you’re caught up in negative thoughts about the past.
In active addiction, it’s easy to get caught up in a whirlwind of lies. After all, the disease of addiction depends on dishonesty in order to keep it alive. Breaking the habit of lying isn’t easy – especially if you’ve been doing it readily for many years in order to support your addiction. By failing to face the truth, own up to wrongdoings and take responsibility, you’ll remain trapped in the cycle of addiction. Being honest can be painful – but in the long run, it will keep you healthy and in recovery.
- Unrealistic Expectations
A friend of mine in recovery with a good sense of humor described it best: “Everyday isn’t sunshine and unicorns. But even if today is hard, it’ll all be worth it tomorrow.” Recovery is a lifelong process. Attending an addiction rehab program won’t “cure” you of addiction – it will give you the foundation for your recovery and the tools to live a balanced life. It’s up to you to use those tools and exhibit patient and put forth the effort each day. Understand that recovery won’t be easy every single day. It will be hard work because you’re fighting for your life. And – it will be worth it.
- High Expectations Of Others
Holding realistic expectations doesn’t just apply to your own life – it applies to other’s lives, as well. When we expect too much of our spouses, our parents, children, loved ones, friends, acquaintances or co-workers, we set ourselves up for disappointment. Understand that everyone can and does make mistakes in daily life. Instead of holding your loved ones to unrealistic expectations, focus on healing and rebuilding your relationships one day at a time.
Self-awareness is one of the most important tools to learn and use in addiction recovery, and can be critical in avoiding triggers for relapse. Even if you’ve found yourself experiencing one of the above triggers, or are in the midst of a relapse – know that it’s not a failure. Your recovery is worth trying over and over again. After all, it’s a lifelong commitment to your life.