You have been an addict for years. You have been on the straight and narrow for a while now, could be years, perhaps just months. Still, you are crystal clear and on your way to sobriety. Then something happens. It could be anything – an old friend you used to use drugs with, that taste of fries sauce from the local late night eatery you used to frequent when high, or something that someone says. It could be anything and at any time, an addict gets triggered and relapse is about to happen, right? Not really.
A slip into relapse.
First thing anyone should understand is that there is a common misconception about what a relapse is. Most people refer to a slip as if it’s a full-blown relapse. While both are similar in nature, it’s important to understand the differences.
A slip is a one-time weakness. It’s a misstep, a mistake. For an addict to make a step back from their treatment is a huge deal, since every step made forward has been hard-fought and exchanged for intense work and sweat so a slip will occur only against the addict’s knowledge, like getting spiked or tricked into using a substance or during a moment of extreme weakness. Typically, as soon as the slip has occurred the addict feels bad about it and his morale is boosted with more dedication for their rehabilitation program. One slip is not necessarily a confirmed relapse.
A relapse is a slip that got out of hand. Instead of feeling shame for the moment of weakness, the addict feels relief and seeks shelter in drugs once more. Abandoning any rehabilitation programs and contact with their sponsor, counselor and support group is a relapse. Returning to regular abuse of drugs or alcohol, avoiding friends and becoming anti-social is a textbook relapse.
I relapsed. What now?
It is never too late to resume your battle with your addiction. Each addict has a very special case, no such thing as a universal approach to addiction. Since addiction is both a physical and a mental affliction, the methods of countering the addiction must be tailor made. A slip or even a relapse is simply a sign of the addict’s resistance to the rehabilitation program. The only specialist staff of a rehabilitation center can determine the best steps forward but usually, the best course is to return to the program with extra determination or a new program to be introduced. The longer the relapse has had its hold on the addict, the harder and further back the rehabilitation process will be set back. No time like right now.
Why do we relapse?
As mentioned before, we are all different. Our minds have extremely varying properties, dreams, hopes, fears and aspirations. Previous experiences and upbringing also play a huge part in how an addiction develops in a person. It is important to remember that an addiction is a disease and it affects the addict’s brain in a very bad way. Continuous abuse of drugs or alcohol damages the brain by overwriting its behavioral patterns and how to react to certain stimuli. Essentially our minds forget how to cope and exist without the drug of our choice.
A well-planned rehabilitation course aims to alter the addict’s brain in a good way, to restrict stimulus to the affected areas of the brain and give it time and a chance to heal and restore normal processes. In many cases complete recovery is not possible, there will always be that voice in the back of an addict’s mind, that urges to return to using. It becomes easier and easier to control this voice over time, but sometimes the old addictive patterns kick in and a slip up happens. Statistically the relapse rate is 40-60%, however, it is up to the addict if he is to become part of this statistic.
It all depends on how a slip is treated. If it is treated as a challenge and reminder of why strict discipline and willpower is needed to continue normal and fulfilling life, it can even be beneficial. Ignored, however, the slip up will become a relapse and return to addiction is guaranteed.
To fight addiction is to sign up for an almost never-ending battle with yourself. Best anyone can do is to stack the odds in your favor by regularly receiving help and guidance from professionals and family alike.