Relapses are common in recovery. Approximately 40% to 60% of those who seek addiction treatment will relapse at least once. This could be anything from developing a full-blown addiction once again or merely having a sip of alcohol or returning to hardcore bingeing. While you can expect minor hiccups on the road to lifelong sobriety, you need to be concerned if you find yourself relapsing time and time again. This shows that there’s clearly something missing from your treatment plans and that you do not have the skills or tools needed to achieve long-term recovery. If you find that you’re struggling with relapses, here are 5 reasons why you might keep relapsing:
#1. You Have Not Found a Way to Handle Stress and Negative Emotions Yet
Many people drink or use drugs because they have a difficult time managing their environment. Stress is one of the top causes of relapse. A recent study found that both alcoholics and non-alcoholics have different stress pathways in their brain. They respond to stress differently and when alcohol abusers are stressed, they are much more prone to seeking out liquor.
Pay close attention to how you’re feeling or what’s happening when you relapse. Do you find it difficult to breathe? Is your heart rate increasing and do you feel tightness in your chest? Are you facing a stressful situation, like a confrontation or a deadline?
If you answered yes to the questions above, then there’s a good chance that you haven’t found a way to handle stress yet. There are many tools that you can acquire to better deal with stress. Some examples include:
- Practicing deep and controlled breathing techniques. Breath control can have a profound impact on your stress levels. The right techniques can slow down your heart rate and help you feel more relaxed.
- Using meditation to become more mindful of your thoughts and your emotions. This can help you better understand your own self.
- Using the exposure ladder to slowly learn how to adjust and adapt to stress. If you find that your fight or flight response immediately kicks in, you might want to expose yourself to mildly stressful situations in order to acclimate your body to stress.
- Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to rewire your brain and learn how to deal with negative emotions in a positive manner.
Learning how to better deal with negative emotions can have a huge impact on your recovery. You’ll find that you’ll have a better ability to curb the desire to seek out substances.
#2. You Don’t Have a Strong Support System
An important part of any aftercare or continuing care program is to help recovering addicts create a strong support system. This includes finding people who are willing to support the addict should anything go wrong. Being around the right type of people can also have a huge effect on your recovery. Those who are trying to abstain from liquor and drugs will want to rely on friends and family to help them get through difficult times.
If you find yourself relapsing time and time again, you should take a look at the people around you. Do they listen to your needs and let you talk about your struggles? Are they sympathetic? Are they there when you call them? Do you call these people when you’re having a difficult day or when you start thinking about alcohol and drugs again? If you don’t, it’s important to start looking for these people in your life. It may be one of the reasons why you keep relapsing. Reach out to your loved ones.
Talking to family and friends may be difficult. You may feel as if they don’t fully understand you. If this is the case, there are many alternatives. Join a mutual support group or a recovery meeting. There, you’ll find like-minded people in similar situations. Studies also show that these peer support groups can be incredibly effective. Those who attend at least one meeting a week tend to see the most success. It’s not unusual for those who are having a difficult time with recovery to go to a meeting every day. You may need to go to several meetings and groups before finding one that makes you feel most comfortable.
#3. You May Have An Undiagnosed Mental Health Condition
This one is a bit tricky. Many people don’t even consider the fact that they may be struggling with an undiagnosed co-occurring mental health disorder. This can be anything from a bipolar disorder, PTSD to schizophrenia.
A mental health disorder can cause neurochemical imbalances in the brain that may encourage an addict to use. These imbalances may cause overwhelming cravings over alcohol or drugs. The body believes that it needs these substances to survive.
Those who find themselves relapsing quite often may need to see a therapist or a psychiatrist. Get a mental health evaluation to get a better idea of what’s going on inside the brain. Individuals diagnosed with a co-occurring mental health disorder will need dual diagnosis treatment in order to succeed at long-term recovery.
#4. You’re Surrounded by Too Many Triggers
Anything that reminds you of drinking or using can cause you to develop cravings again If you were always drinking at a certain pub, walking on the same street may trigger thoughts of alcohol. Another potential trigger is drinking non-alcoholic beer. It looks, smells, and tastes like beer – it just doesn’t have the same alcoholic content. Still, even if you’re not getting intoxicated, your taste buds can cause your body to remember how it felt to drink, and you’ll start obsessing over liquor once again.
Many recovering addicts don’t realize that they may need to completely switch up their routine or their environment in order to avoid relapses. For example, let’s say that a recovering addict walks to and from work every day. After work, she passes by a pub where she would grab a drink or two. This individual may need to find a completely different route to work. The same route may be a trigger.
Some common examples of triggers include:
- People that you may have partied, used drugs or drank with. Some recovering addicts may need to completely change their social circle.
- Certain places. Many substance abusers will often choose to recover in an inpatient treatment facility, so they can let their brain reset in a new environment.
- Certain times of the day. Those who would drink or use drugs on the weekends may find themselves thinking about drugs and liquor on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
- Specific items. Wine glasses and beer mugs may remind many alcoholics of drinking. They may need to remove all of these items from their home.
- Specific emotions. Some people drink when they’re stressed. Other people drink when they’re happy. Certain emotions may trigger cravings.
To avoid relapses, figure out what your triggers are. You’ll need to avoid them or learn how to deal with them
#5. You May Need More Behavioral Therapy or Medication Maintenance Therapy
If relapses seem to be happening again and again, you may simply need more support and help. This may be a sign that you have yet to receive the support and the skills needed for lifelong sobriety. If this is the case, look for a therapist that specializes in behavioral therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), and even Motivational Interviewing (MI) can all help you achieve the same goals. You may feel more motivated to abstain from drug or alcohol abuse, and you may pick up some techniques on how to deal with your thoughts and emotions.
Another thing to consider is Medication Maintenance Therapy (MMT). This type of therapy is most popular among opioid abusers. Methadone and Suboxone can both help stabilize brain chemistry levels to help those who are struggling with staying sober. A chemical imbalance may be one of the reasons why you keep relapsing.
Amethyst Recovery Center Can Help You figure Out the Reasons Why You Keep Relapsing
Among those who relapse, some will need to get admitted into a drug and alcohol treatment center once again. They may need to go through the full continuum of care, from inpatient to outpatient, in order to develop the skills needed to manage addictive behaviors. Others may be able to get their lives back on the right track all on their own. They may not need any professional assistance at all. Have you relapsed more than once already? Are you looking for additional support and help? Are you not sure what you’re missing?
Contact Amethyst Recovery Center, and our addiction experts can analyze and assess your situation to see what you need. We create comprehensive aftercare plans for all patients so that they have a good shot at recovery once they complete our programs.
What are your experiences with recovery and addiction? Let us know in the comments below.