What you can learn from Relapse
No matter how long someone is in recovery, the risk of relapse is always a reality for people with substance use disorder. Like any other chronic disease, remission can last for long periods before a condition can return and require further treatment. Addiction is a disease, just like all diseases that will require life-long care, even though it can remain entirely dormant for many years. That’s not to say that everyone in recovery will experience relapse, but relapse prevention education is vital in preparing for such cases.
Addiction and Control
Although relapse is a devastating setback for nearly every person in recovery, it’s also completely normal for any chronic condition. As patients go through treatment and recovery, they learn a lot about control and how to regulate their triggers, emotions, and other aspects of their lives that may lead them back to addiction. Because substance use disorder rewires the brain’s reward center and pathways, the work done in recovery is a long process of undoing that damage to recreate a sense of “normalcy” without the influence of opioids. When relapse does occur, despite all of the hard work invested, the instance must be used as a learning experience rather than a reason to give up on returning to the safety of recovery.
Relapse is not Failure
Patients who return to drug misuse after treatment and recovery will often feel that they’ve thrown all of their hard work away, failing themselves and all of the people in their support network. This is not the case, and the mentality can potentially lead to further harm. Relapse is seen as a normal part of recovery; it’s not a stop sign; it’s merely a road bump. No one would shape a cancer patient or someone who suffers from any other similar chronic condition for having to seek out treatment for their disease after they’ve overcome it, and neither should those with substance use disorder.
Learning Points of Relapse:
Managing triggers: Sometimes, triggers can affect without warning, or unknown triggers can develop during recovery. Relapse is the best time to reevaluate what new potential triggers may have developed recently that could have caused the setback. New elements such as jobs, relationships, and old unresolved issues may pop up as an unexpected surprise and turn things upside down with recovery.
Seeking more support: For those who relapse after having been in recovery for a significant period, relapse can expose and highlight that they miss the support they need to stick to their recovery goals long-term. Sometimes this can happen due to loneliness or complacency, but reaching out to professional recovery services can help delve into a patient’s deeper needs.
Renewed motivation: Those who get knocked down but get up again are sometimes the strongest after a setback. That’s why relapse can be used as an essential tool in honing in on aspects of recovery that may have been overlooked. It can take a delicate balance for most people to find success long-term.
Despite the disheartening experience, relapse can shine a light on crucial points in a patient’s life regarding preventing further setbacks in the future by tweaking their focus during their work to get back into recovery.