Relapse is not necessarily a reflection on the success or failure of the treatment someone struggling with addiction has had in the past. Addiction is a chronic disease that, like many other chronic diseases, can result in relapse as someone is trying to recover. There are other chronic diseases that need constant maintenance but will never be cured. Diabetes is one of them. A patient will always need to monitor their blood sugar after being diagnosed with diabetes. Asthma as well is a disease that a person can seem to be recovering from and then the patient may relapse. But consistent treatment and management of the disease can result in a relatively normal day to day life.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse explains that, “While relapse is a normal part of recovery, for some drugs, it can be very dangerous—even deadly. If a person uses as much of the drug as they did before quitting, they can easily overdose because their bodies are no longer adapted to their previous level of drug exposure. An overdose happens when the person uses enough of a drug to produce uncomfortable feelings, life-threatening symptoms, or death.” (https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery)
When a person struggling with chemical dependency and drug or alcohol addiction on an emotional level relapses, it’s hard for them to not go down a shame spiral, but after having been in this place before, in the place of dependance and regret, it is likely the user knows very well that that shame spiral is sometimes quite literally the kiss of death. Shame feeds addiction. Hopefully the addict can draw from what they learned in previous treatment in order to take responsibility and make a plan.
Take Responsibility and Make A Plan
The National Institute of Drug Abuse also says, “Treatment of chronic diseases involves changing deeply rooted behaviors, and relapse doesn’t mean treatment has failed. When a person recovering from an addiction relapses, it indicates that the person needs to speak with their doctor to resume treatment, modify it, or try another treatment”
If a person struggling with drug or alcohol addiction does indeed relapse the most important thing to do is take responsibility for it first. That doesn’t mean feel guilty or ashamed. It doesn’t mean the person needs to be self punishing. What it means that they must take responsibility for the relapse by admitting to themself that it happened. They must be real about it and say openly to themselves and the people they trust, “yes. This did happen,” here are the incidents or situations that led up to that point, and here’s how I am going to work to move forward in my efforts toward sober living. Taking responsibility for relapse means calling your doctor, seeking out additional rehabilitation or detoxification if necessary. If a person can admit to the relapse it is possible to move on. Knowing you need further treatment and asking for that help is still one of the hardest steps.
Continuing Aftercare Treatment with Relapse Prevention Therapy
That being said, relapses can be scary and very deadly. If someone relapses it is important to know that it is a part of chronic disease, often but it is also vital that it be taken seriously. Many drug deaths every year are due to relapse. The user goes back to their drug of choice, and even though they have been sober for some time, they use the amount of the substance that they were using before they got sober and their body can’t handle it because their tolerance is tanked. It’s virtually impossible to predict exactly the way a drug will react when you come back to it after a time, but you can guarantee that it won’t be forgiving. Consistent treatment is the best relapse prevention you can get. Relapse prevention therapy includes building skills necessary to avoid relapse. Behavioral therapies are often in the most utilized therapy strategies for relapse prevention. Learning the skills to be able to alter the perception of difficult situations as well as the way you react to them can change the game when it comes to addiction.
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