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Relapse Does Not Mean a Failed Recovery

May 19, 2014

One of the largest obstacles facing people with histories of substance abuse is the idea that relapse signals that they have failed to get clean. According to these critics, those who turn their backs on recovery efforts are nothing more than water seeking its level, and they should not receive a second chance at sobriety. Not only is this attitude unnecessarily callous, but it may be incorrect as well. Contrary to popular opinion, relapse is a common event in the lives of people recovering from long episodes of substance abuse. Instead of the final straw in someone’s battle against addiction, relapse is another challenge that people must overcome. Though relapse is still a serious event in the lives of those who have begun recovery programs, the long journey to sobriety extends much further than that.

Looking at Incorrect Assumptions

Anybody who has been touched in some way by the effects of substance abuse has probably also experienced the relapse of a relative or loved one. While it may feel like the person with a history of drug abuse has squandered his or her last hope at sobriety, the National Institute on Drug Abuse explained that this is not the case. Though the term is different when it comes to traditional medical conditions, the relapse rate for people who have completed a drug treatment program is roughly equal to that of patients who sought prior medical care for conditions such as Type 1 diabetes, hypertension and asthma. When a patient needs follow-up care for high blood pressure, he or she usually receives overwhelming support. However, when a person with a history of substance abuse relapses back into old habits, the act is not seen as a medical event, but as a choice. Breaking free from this mentality may make it easier for people to move through a relapse event and return to treatment. After all, if relapse is a medical event that incorporates no agency from the individual in question, it should be conceived of as another complication related to substance abuse, Psych Central explained. In fact, many factors can conspire to force people into relapse. For example, certain treatment centers may not be equipped with the right facilities or staffed by the right specialists for a particular issue related to a rare drug. Also, differences between outpatient and inpatient treatment settings may not mesh with the lifestyle of the person in recovery, and relapse may be the inevitable result.

Moving Past Relapse

If people with heart disease return to treatment after a heart attack, people with histories of drug or alcohol abuse should not shy away from treatment if they experience a relapse event. In particular, Psychology Today magazine outlined that many people who have successfully achieved long-term sobriety have learned to control the triggers associated with their past histories of substance abuse. However, this ability to control cravings only comes over time. Unfortunately, this means that people will always be at risk to relapse, but making the mistake once means that the person can learn valuable lessons and skills to more easily resist cravings in the future.

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