Relapse: Does It Happen To Everyone?

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There is a lot of debate about whether or not relapse is bound to happen. Is it inevitable, or does it depend on circumstance? The idea of having a relapse may sound terrifying to you. It’s the last thing you want to happen when you’re in recovery. However, by understanding the causes of relapse, the warning signs, and how to prevent it,  there is hope that you can avoid it happening to you.

The Real Possibility of Relapse

In recovery, relapse is very common. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, approximately 40-60% of people in recovery are likely to relapse. Addiction is a disease that takes hold and completely rewires your brain, affecting the reward centers. But thankfully, relapse isn’t something that just happens at random. It can be prevented, as long as you’re aware of the warning signs and what causes you to experience cravings.

What Causes Relapse

There are many factors that lead to a relapse. The process of breaking your sobriety and returning to substance use doesn’t usually happen overnight. Relapse tends to happen in stages. There are emotional circumstances that can lead to eventual substance use if you aren’t aware of your current condition.

Stress and depression are two emotional conditions that can lead to relapse. If you are feeling especially low, then it’s time to talk to your therapist or support system. If your loved one in recovery is showing signs of depression, such as a loss of interest in hobbies formed in recovery or avoidance of their support system, talk to them about their feelings before it’s too late. Stress can contribute to relapse as well, as substance use is often a coping mechanism used to deal with difficult emotions.

Isolation is an enormous factor in relapse. Social support is essential to recovery, as proven by the COVID pandemic that led to global isolation in 2020. A record number of people have died from drug overdose since that time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This dramatic increase in overdose deaths is believed to be caused by social isolation and resource shortages during the pandemic.

Another factor that can contribute to relapse is physical wellness. If your physical needs are being neglected, it can cause you to relapse. If you aren’t getting plenty of sleep, eating well, or exercising, your suffering physical health can negatively affect your mental health as well.

Remember That Relapse Isn’t Failure

Many people feel ashamed if they experience a relapse. It’s common to feel that you’ve failed and that your recovery has completely unraveled. The truth is that you’ve come a long way from when you first started treatment. A relapse doesn’t mean a complete undoing of all the progress you’ve made. Sometimes, it’s just part of the process. What truly matters is how you come back from it.

How 12-Step Programs Help

Sponsors are a fantastic tool in relapse prevention. A sponsor is a person who supports you, holds you accountable, and keeps you involved in the program. Being able to talk to a person who won’t judge you for feeling the urge to use again can help you respond to the warning signs of relapse more quickly.

Involvement in a close-knit community like a 12-Step program can also give you more people to lean on. Everyone in the program has been in your shoes. Many people have been in recovery for years and have experienced cravings. Talking about your feelings instead of avoiding them helps keep you safer. Even if you do relapse, there are probably people in the program who have experienced that, too. You aren’t alone.

Coming Up With a Prevention Plan

If you’re worried about relapse, then you should create a relapse prevention plan with a therapist and your support system. If you’ve already relapsed once, take the time to assess what led you there. Note what started your cravings, where you were emotionally, and what could be done in the future to prevent it from happening again.

If you or a loved one has relapsed, enter a treatment facility as soon as possible. A relapse can lead to additional substance use, which can put you in a position of furthering your addiction. It is vital that your relapse is dealt with right away because continued substance use could eventually lead to overdose or even death. While it might feel shameful or scary to admit to a relapse, returning to treatment is necessary to getting on the right track again.

Relapsing is probably the last thing you want to do, but the truth is that it’s likely to happen at some point in recovery. However, there are ways that you can prevent it from happening. Not everyone relapses, but unfortunately, many people do. If you know the warning signs of potential relapse, you are more likely to keep yourself from returning to substance use. 
Relapse does not mean failure. However, if you or your loved one have relapsed, it’s vital that they return to a treatment facility for detoxification and treatment. It can feel like starting over, but returning to treatment after a relapse doesn’t mean that you’ve lost all your progress. At Jaywalker Lodge, we specialize in helping men who have struggled to maintain their sobriety finally find lasting recovery. We know how to help you overcome relapse, so you can move forward. To learn more, call us now at (866) 529-9255 today.

author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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