Addiction is quite complicated, and the recovery time varies from one individual to another. Besides getting treatment for an addiction, the patients must learn how to adjust to a new sober lifestyle.
Some people will get clean very fast, whereas others will have to make several attempts before completely kicking their addiction. About half of those who seek recovery experience relapse at some point in their lives. Luckily, there are various programs aimed at treating relapse.
What is Chronic Relapse?
According to the NIH, addiction is a relapsing disorder that makes people accustomed to the use of substances despite the consequences. It was only categorized and recognized as a disease by the medical community in 1987.
Addiction begins when the used drug floods the consumer’s brain with some feel-good chemicals. As a result, the person uses the substance more often for pleasure. The overstimulation affects the brain’s functions, and it becomes hard to stop using the drug even after treatment. Relapse happens when a patient seeks addiction treatment, partially recovers, and falls back to substance abuse.
A chronic relapser is a person who has continuously failed to maintain sobriety. Let’s say, for instance, your substance of choice is alcohol. Even if you are high-functioning, long term alcoholism often thins out your friends and family. Only a few friends and family members want to associate with you. You are tired of the lifestyle, so you decide to enroll in a detox program. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency. After detox, you proceed to further treatment.
You stay sober for about two months, but one day, you crave a drink and go to the liquor store. At such moments, you could be convincing yourself that it was just a one-day thing that won’t happen again. However, the next day, you find yourself craving another drink, and before you know it, you are already in three months of heavy drinking, guilt, and shame.
You decide to go back for treatment, but the cycle continues. At such a point, you know everything learned from treatment, and you pledge to live a sober life, but that goal never seems to happen. You complete several rehab programs, but you inevitably go back to alcohol despite multiple attempts. This is a very frustrating cycle for any patient, and it can be dangerous. Many people don’t feel strong enough to turn away from the substance, and feel it has power over them and will forever. “A hopeless state of mind and body,” as the oft-referenced book, Alcohol Anonymous, declares.
Before feeling too defeated, it’s important to know that relapse is a common recovery phase, even for people who seem dedicated to the treatment program. Relapsing doesn’t mean that the patient isn’t strong enough to overcome the addiction, or that the treatment has failed. Remember that addiction is a chronic disease, and breaking the habit may take quite some time. This difficulty, however, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t work hard to avoid relapse, but viewing it as failure will only make your efforts counterproductive.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Chronic Relapse
While everyone’s addiction and recovery journey is different, there are common unhealthy behaviors associated with relapse. Chronic relapsers have a lot of knowledge concerning addiction, sobriety, and recovery, but they don’t apply it in their lives. They might begin to associate the recovery process with struggles so that getting sober becomes a hopeless endeavor.
Such people only complete treatment and rehab programs to appease their loved ones. They refuse to face underlying life issues, making recovery harder. Some even lie to the counselor. Chronic relapsers will go through numerous treatment episodes, and they can even fail to complete the program. Family members will begin to feel worn out of the continued relapse cycles and failed expectations.
Some other signs of chronic relapse that you should watch out for include:
- Avoiding social situations
- Ignoring psychological and emotional needs
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Failing to follow post-treatment suggestions
- Neglecting self-care habits like eating well, getting adequate sleep, and working out
- Refraining from hobbies and other activities that bring contentment
What Triggers Chronic Relapse
Various factors can hinder someone from maintaining sobriety even after seeking treatment. With continued use of a drug, the brain treats the substance as a reward. The brain will then begin to associate some cues in the environment with the pleasure sensation achieved from the drug.
Whenever you meet a person who you used to take the drugs with or visit places where you used to take substances, you begin to have cravings. These triggers will make sobriety very difficult to achieve, and you will find yourself relapsing.
With new drugs emerging every day and their easy availability, the temptation to try something new can be irresistible to some people. Even worse, some modern drugs have more potent effects than the previous ones. If you fail to control your cravings, then you are more likely to relapse.
Someone who lives in an unhealthy environment is more likely to engage in substance abuse. Most times, patients don’t change their past environments even after treatment, which creates a constant desire to use the substance. If you spend time with toxic individuals or addicted peers, they will influence you. Also, if you spend more time alone and bored, it creates room for cravings.
Additionally, if you try quitting the drugs on your own, you will most probably experience some withdrawal symptoms. They can be highly uncomfortable, which will tempt you to take the drugs. Lack of support is another cause of chronic relapse. After treatment, recovering patients need to stay with positive people who cheer them on and who motivate them to stay sober. If you go back to a dysfunctional family, the chances of relapsing are very high.
Most people suffering from drug or alcohol abuse also struggle with other underlying mental health disorders. If you fail to address these issues, relapse is more likely to occur. Whenever symptoms of mental illnesses arise, most patients are likely to use drugs to manage them.
Other causes of chronic relapse include:
- Family conflicts
- Major life changes
- Lack of treatment following detox
- Lack of aftercare
- Inefficient treatment
Dangers of Chronic Relapse
Abusing mind-altering substances can cause adverse effects on your health. The risks associated with chronic relapse are higher. One of the greatest dangers of relapse is overdose. During addiction treatment, your body learns how to function without the substance. As a result, your tolerance level decreases. It’s so unlikely that a person will start with a lower dose during relapse. More often than not, you will consume a quantity that is similar to what you used to before treatment. This can lead to an overdose.
Additionally, relapsers endure daily struggles. The guilt can be so overwhelming to the extent of causing depression. Keeping a job or concentrating on studies becomes nearly impossible for a person struggling to stay sober. These mental concerns also affect your relationships, and they can negatively shape the rest of your life. The hardest part of relapse is going back for treatment. Most patients begin to lose trust in the treatment program and convince themselves that it doesn’t work.
Treatment for Chronic Relapse
Breaking the chronic relapse cycle will require a combination of therapy, individualized treatment, support groups, and family involvement. When you first arrive at treatment, you normally begin with an evaluation for dual diagnosis. The aim is to determine other mental conditions that have noticeable impacts on the addiction. Our dual diagnosis program can help address both issues simultaneously to aid in recovery.
Depending on your condition, you might require medication. Antidepressants can help counter withdrawal symptoms and aid in recovery. You will also have to undergo a detox program to eliminate toxins in a safe environment. Patients then receive medical attention to manage their withdrawal symptoms. After the detox program, you will undergo a treatment plan designed by the team at Granite Recovery Centers.
Residential Drug Rehab Program
Chronic relapsers should choose a long-term in-patient treatment program. You reside within the rehab facility where you receive 24-hour monitored support. The best treatment results occur when a patient stays within a treatment facility for an extended period. The residential drug rehab program can last from 90 to about 180 days, depending on your situation and the treatment type. This is enough time to work on any underlying issues that may lead to drug abuse, and help you develop healthier coping strategies.
During treatment, you will undergo comprehensive therapy to understand all the factors contributing to the addiction. Through individual therapies, your counselor will ensure that you know the triggers of the relapse, how those events relate to substance abuse and the effects on your mental health. Together with your doctor, you will develop better coping mechanisms to avoid certain circumstances or thoughts that cause your relapses.
The residential treatment also engages your family members. The main aim is to help your loved ones learn how to support you after treatment. After training, your family will know what the treatment entails, how it works, and what to expect from you after your release from the rehab center. At the end of the program, family members should develop healthier ways of relating to the patient to avoid relapse. You will also go through the 12-step program and group therapy to help you establish a peer support network.
Partial Hospitalization Program
For patients stepping down from the residential treatment setting, it’s a good idea for you to enroll in a partial hospitalization program. In this group, you spend the day engaging in various aspects of the treatment, but you go home after the session. This option aims at giving patients the necessary support as they transition from in-patient treatment into the world.
You are required to attend the program at least five days a week. During treatment, you will undergo multiple group therapy sessions. These allow the patient to interact with other people struggling with the same condition to boost communication skills and share techniques to aid in recovery.
For those struggling with other conditions, you will learn medication management. The treatment also involves family therapy to help your loved ones better cope with your situation. If you have issues that you don’t feel comfortable discussing in a group, you can share them during individual therapy sessions.
Sober Living Options
Even after treatment, patients will still find it challenging to continue with sobriety living without concrete plans in place. Remember that recovery is a continuous process, and it doesn’t end after leaving the rehab center. Instead of going back to your everyday life with all the challenges, temptations, and stressors, it’s a good idea that you participate in an aftercare program.
Those who come from a home where most people abuse drugs should consider moving to a sober living home after treatment. This is a residential facility that creates a supportive recovery environment to prepare you for post-treatment life. There are no drugs, alcohol, or other triggers that may cause cravings in sober homes. You will also undergo regular and random drug tests to maintain accountability.
When you battle addiction, you might lose friends and other people close to you because of your actions while under the influence or even because of your choice to get clean. If this happens, when you return home, you might lack enough support. In a recovery home, you won’t be alone. You will live among like-minded peers, and you will work together toward sobriety. This camaraderie helps reduce loneliness, a contributing factor to relapse. Your colleagues will start to feel more like a family.
You will also learn essential life skills like hygiene, money management, and housekeeping during your stay. You have a chance to attend interviews, find employment, and regain your responsibilities. While living with other people, you will learn how to pay bills, deal with challenges, and live independently without using drugs.
You have the freedom to shop, prepare your meals, and fill your life with activities that bring you joy. A sober living home acts as a bridge that aids in having a smooth transition from addiction into an independent, fulfilled, and drug-free life.
The best way to prevent addiction relapse is by finding healthy hobbies. Keep yourself busy, avoid people or places that can trigger a relapse, and find a solid support system. You should also continue with mental treatment to address any underlying issues.
If you notice signs of relapse, reach out to a rehab facility like Granite Recovery Centers. The facility aims at helping anyone struggling with addiction and substance use disorders. Although chronic relapse is a cycle of sadness, hopelessness, and anger, you can maintain long-term sobriety with the proper treatment, counseling, and support.