The first thing that happens in the case of a relapse is we lose our sobriety date. The sobriety clock resets as we lose the clean time we have accrued. We do not, however, lose the education we received from attending a drug treatment program. Using drugs and alcohol used to be fun, but now that we have completed a drug treatment program, attended meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous, and learned about the nature of drug addiction, we know too much, and a head full of A.A. and a belly full of booze cannot comfortably coexist.
The next thing to happen in the case of a relapse is we lose our sense of pride and accomplishment for the hard work we put into getting clean. Others may lose confidence or trust in us and redevelop the fear, anger and sadness they experienced before we came to treatment. In cases of extreme and reckless drug abuse, we experience more loss as our lives take a turn in three different ways: coming in and out of drug rehab programs, we lose our livelihoods and independence by becoming institutionalized; breaking the law and inflicting physical damage to ourselves and others, we lose our freedoms by establishing a criminal record through a series of arrests and jail and prison sentences; and in the worst case scenario, we lose our lives through our excessive drug abuse, leaving behind irreparable emotional damage to those who love us.
Relapse is a great possibility for anyone in recovery who does not put his or her sobriety first. Typical of those who stop attending A.A. meetings, working the steps, or calling the sponsor, relapse is not only likely, it is inevitable. In the 1986 study on drug addiction and relapse entitled Relapse and Recovery In Drug Abuse, research indicated that the relapse rate for those who completed a drug treatment program was 53.6% for heroin, 25.1% for other narcotics, 20.1% for cocaine, and 16.7% for non-narcotic substances. The data provided indicates posttreatment daily use following a relapse during the first year of sobriety.
As alcoholics and addicts, we didn’t need a specific reason to use-we used simply because the sun came up. To the alcoholic mind, anything and everything can be identified as a reason to use again. Physical and emotional triggers play a tremendous role in relapse. Dangerous settings, such as bars or parties, where alcohol and drugs are being used can cause a person new to recovery to relapse; stressful situations such as family feuds or emotionally-charged arguments with a significant other can be a recipe for relapse; high-stress jobs and tasks can be relapse triggers; even feelings of happiness and accomplishment can give us a reason to pick up a drink or a drug in celebration. To the recovering alcoholic or addict, relapse triggers are all people, places and things, and we must be vigilant in recognizing and avoiding these triggers.
In experiencing a relapse, we may need to reenroll in a drug rehabilitation program where we can safely detox from the substances we abuse and receive quality medical attention and psychopharmacological assessments. In the case that detoxification is not necessary, a stay in a drug rehab center can still be beneficial to the alcoholic or addict trying to achieve sobriety.
If you experience a relapse, or are concerned that a relapse may occur, you might consider enrolling in an intensive outpatient program (IOP) where you can address issues surrounding your addiction and recovery in order to prevent a relapse. In addition to an aftercare program, entering a sober living house where a healthy, sober lifestyle is encouraged and fostered can contribute to a stronger foundation in your sobriety and make you accountable to others through regular and random urinalyses, chores, and group meditations.
Relapse is a common occurrence among individuals trying to quit alcohol and drugs, but it does not have to be a part of your recovery.