Temptation is with us daily. As long as there is something that a person would rather do instead of the thing he is doing, there will always be a temptation. For non-addicts, this may manifest in nothing particularly harmful – that extra slice of pie, season tickets for your sport of choice, making a detour on your way home just so you could pick up a drink from your favorite coffee shop. For an addict, it can mean a wasted potential, trashed house because you realized what you have done and in blind rage and panic you threw everything at the wall, deep and disturbing depression and a complete lack of self-worth. You are back to square one, after all, so what is the point, right?
Not the end of the world.
Contrary to what most relapsed addicts might believe at first, their mistake is neither surprise nor the end of their or anyone else’s world. It is simply a statistic. Most people will relapse since it is more of a question of “when”, rather than “if”. It is also a myth that if a full and dedicated inpatient rehabilitation program is completed and the recovering addict is checked out due to his therapist deeming him ready to return to the world at large, there is less chance of relapse taking place. Temptation is something we all live with and will encounter sooner or later. Statistically, most relapses take place withing first 90 days of rehab course completion. People return to their normal lives and often find themselves surrounded by the same factors that drove them to addiction, to begin with. Old friends who still dabble in drugs, a school bully or a particularly dysfunctional family situation. It can be something as simple and innocent as a smell, a feeling or a combination of these things. For example, if you always had a cigarette after you had your heroin shot, odds are next time you are sitting at your usual shooting-up spot and light a cigarette, your brain will put the two and two together and nag at the back of your mind “hold on, I should be high on heroin right about now”. It can be any number of reasons – poor planning of aftercare, boredom, stress or even overconfidence.
This 90 day danger period is usually followed up by the rehab through various outpatient check-up or relapse prevention programs. This is to make the transition from the serene and peaceful environment of an inpatient rehab to an outpatient one. It is to ensure the patient still retains structure, discipline, and order in their lives.
It is important to understand that a relapse can serve as a great benefit to the addict’s well-being in the long run. For many to become addiction free and then to return to its destructive grasp through a bad relapse is the wake-up call they needed to remind them why they wanted to become clean in the first place. A relapse in these cases temper the recovering addicts resolve like red-hot steel is made harder by plunging it into ice cold water. Adversity grows character, any army drill sergeant will attest to that. There is a reason why instructors in countless military organizations worldwide believe that to make a great soldier, first you must break him. A relapse can serve the same purpose if the addict chooses it.
To have a breakthrough, a breakdown is sometimes necessary. A relapse that is turned around and used as fuel to re-ignite the recovering addict can be a great asset in identifying the flaws in the existing rehabilitation program and their individual plan. This trial by fire can be used to highlight the cracks that allowed it to happen, and a new and improved rehab plan can be devised and implemented to further ensure that no more relapses will take hold and the path to addiction recovery remains clear.
A problem is only as big as you allow it to be. A relapse can be fatal and utterly destructive. It can also be a reason to double down and become stronger, to identify flaws in oneself and be able to work on them with renewed energy and determination. Don’t let your mistakes rule you, own up and rise above them.