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How Overconfidence Can Lead to Relapse

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Confidence is a great attribute to have after you complete your drug or alcohol treatment. It demonstrates that you have grown since you were addicted to drugs or alcohol. It means that you have the strength to continue on your sobriety journey. The time that you may need to worry is when you are feeling overly confident. This is sometimes referred to as the Pink Cloud. With overconfidence, the boundaries that keep you from seeking your drugs of choice become blurred, and the possibility of a relapse could be in the future.

When people have been overconfident, they exhibited the following characteristics:

  1. They begin to expect results immediately – The process of recovery is not instant. After your treatment is over, you are still “in recovery,” and you need to think of yourself that way. If not, you might believe that you don’t have any further growing to do, and that mentality often leads to relapse.
  2. They begin to believe that they deserve preferential treatment – Anyone can be addicted to drugs or alcohol. If you start to believe that you are different from everyone else, relapse may be in your future. Relapse is typically defined as a time when people begin to believe that they may not have ever really been addicted to drugs after all.
  3. They believe that what they are living is different from what other people are experiencing – No one can truly be in recovery if he or she is not taking a true assessment of the situation. If someone starts to think that he or she is different from other people also addicted to substances, there is a risk of relapse. Addiction can happen to anyone, and no one is special. If you start to believe that your addiction is not as severe as another person’s addiction, you can let your guard down easily and begin to make choices that can lead to relapse.
  4. They believe that they know everything, so they do not have to listen to what anyone else says – People in recovery often start to feel strong again, and they believe that they can stop listening to their peers and their sponsors. The fact that they don’t think that they need to listen to anyone because they already know it all is a huge red flag that a relapse is coming. Your peers have the same amount of wisdom that they had while you were in counseling sessions. Although you feel strong in your convictions, you must remember that your peers have valuable experience to impart to you. They are removed from your situation, so they may see things differently than you do.
  5. Dangerous things happen when someone is overconfident in recovery – The strength and confidence that you gained during your time in treatment is necessary to keep you traveling on the road toward sobriety. If you are overconfident, you may feel comfortable enough to place yourself in situations that could be dangerous for you. You have to be thinking about maintaining your sobriety at all times and keeping yourself out of harm’s way.


The Problems With Overconfidence

Overconfidence can lead you toward making faulty decisions that lead to relapse. Such decisions can include:

  1. Making decisions complacently – When you are overconfident, you are likely to make decisions complacently. A large part of what addiction recovery programs teach is about the danger that comes with complacency. When you become complacent in drug or alcohol treatment, you can believe that your recovery is “finished” and that the hard work that you put in to overcome your addiction is over. This type of thinking leads people to relapse because they are no longer actively involved in keeping themselves off of drugs or alcohol.
  2. Failing to attend NA or AA meetings – At the beginning of the recovery process, Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are essential. Now that you are feeling confident and strong, you might believe that you can miss these meetings because you don’t need them as much as you did before. You need to attend these meetings because this action ensures that you continue to move in the direction of sobriety. The meetings help you remain emotionally stable and behaving in the best manner possible. If you are overconfident and you are missing AA meetings, this can lead you toward a relapse.
  3. Thinking that having only one drink will be okay – Overconfidence causes you to think that you are “cured” of your addiction, so you can drink or take a few drugs on an occasional basis without falling back into dependency again. When you think this way, it is very likely that you will relapse.
  4. Indulging in slips – When you use drugs once or take one drink, this is called a “slip.” A relapse means that you are on your way to being a regular user again as you begin to think how you used to think when you were in the middle of your full-blown addiction. You are not there yet when you are indulging in slips, but you are on your way if you continue to allow yourself to partake of the substance.
  5. Losing your pride to continue in recovery – If you have an abundance of confidence after drug or alcohol treatment, this is a very positive sign that your treatment is working. Confidence can also be a barrier to recovery if you have more than is needed. As you continue down the road to recovery, you must be active in your treatment and remain humble so that overconfidence cannot prevent you from continuing to make strides in a positive direction.

The process of obtaining sobriety is not a short one. It is a journey that you take and not a destination.


Overconfidence and Sobriety

Overconfidence is one of the most dangerous obstacles to remaining sober. The reason this is true is because overconfidence causes you to feel as if you do not need to be as vigilant about your efforts to remain sober as you were at the beginning of your treatment. However, when you let your guard down, you can easily relapse into your addictive behaviors.

As you are successful in staying away from your drug of choice, you become accustomed to the belief that you have everything under control, and this includes your behavior. As you become more comfortable, you also become more confident, and this is a good thing because it takes you even further forward into recovery. When you become overconfident, you may begin to have thoughts that take you away from your goal of sobriety.


Relapse and Drug Treatment

If you relapse and begin to indulge in drug or alcohol use again, this does not mean that your treatment failed. Addiction is a chronic disease, and the treatment of a chronic disease requires that you continue working on changing your negative habits. When a relapse occurs, the answer is to return to the same treatment you had before, to make changes to the same treatment, or to try an entirely different treatment.

The medical community has compared substance use disorder relapse rates to the rates of relapse for high blood pressure and asthma. A total of 50% to 70% of patients diagnosed with hypertension and asthma experienced a relapse. In comparison, 40% to 60% of those diagnosed with substance use disorders relapse. Therefore, the medical community considers relapse to be a normal part of recovery for substance use disorders.

Although it is normal, relapse can be very dangerous for your loved one. When they were thoroughly addicted to their drug of choice, that individual was able to consume large doses of the drug. Since they have been abstaining for some time, the body isn’t used to consuming as much of the drug. Your loved one could easily overdose if they were to take the same amount of the drug that he or she took while the body was accustomed to ingesting the drug on a daily basis, so it is very important to make sure that your loved one gets help if on the verge of a relapse.


How Addiction Happens

Addictive substances target a portion of the brain that is called the “nucleus accumbens.” Also known as the “reward circuit,” it produces pleasurable feelings when the experience promotes survival or reproduction.

As a person enjoys a rewarding experience, the reward circuit releases dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that causes the brain to encourage repetition of the pleasurable behavior. The brain remembers the pleasurable behavior by placing the memory in its hippocampus and amygdala. The frontal cortex decides whether or not this reward is good, and it makes plans. More dopamine is released when the person engages in the pleasurable activity, but it also occurs when the person believes that the reward will be coming in the future.

Addictive drugs work on this portion of the brain, and they provide the nucleus accumbens with a particularly strong shock. If a user begins to use the drug on a regular basis, the brain’s dopamine supply dries up, and the other parts of the brain cannot effectively communicate with each other about the person’s expectations, desires, and priorities. As this goes on, the person’s desire to take the drug becomes more important than any other.

By this time, the drug doesn’t cause the person to experience very many pleasurable feelings, but nothing else in the person’s life is causing pleasurable feelings either. At the same time, the brain continues to send signals for the person to take the drug again.

One becomes an addict as he exists in his environment and sees several reminders of the drug or alcohol and the pleasurable feelings from the dopamine release. This is known as behavioral conditioning.


Get Your Loved One the Help He or She Needs

If you believe that your loved one is overconfident and doesn’t believe they need further treatment, you may be concerned that this overconfidence will lead to a relapse. At Granite Recovery Centers, we have inpatient treatment programs that may be right for your loved one if they are in danger of relapsing. If your loved one remains in an environment where they will be constantly reminded of drug use, inpatient treatment would be an excellent option.

Your loved one may have already gone through a treatment program, and you are concerned that they are in danger of relapsing. Granite Recovery Centers also has an aftercare program that assists those addicted to substances transition back to their former lives. With relapse as a possibility, your loved one will have counseling that teaches strategies to help them resist the temptations to use drugs again.

If your loved one is willing to continue with drug or alcohol treatment, give us a call at Granite Recovery Centers today.