Believe it or not, many people don't stay sober after rehab. In most cases, they haven't sought the right support before falling for triggers. In fact, 85 percent of people relapse within a year of treatment, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The relapse rate for substance use disorder leads some to suggest that relapse should be an expected part of recovery.
I don't think that's true because many people live in long-term recovery without a single relapse. While a frequently cited Journal of the American Medical Association study shows that relapse rates for all substance use disorders (e.g. alcohol, heroin) are 40 to 60%, relapse rates actually vary depending on the drug of choice, stage of disease, concurrence and process disorders. Therefore, this relapse rate of 40 to 60% is not a valid predictor of a person's long-term recovery.
However, what this rate does show us is that relapse is not a fact. If 40 to 60% of patients recovering from alcohol or substance use disorder relapse, 40 to 60% of people in long-term recovery will not relapse. However, since substance use disorder is a chronic illness, the truth about relapse and recovery is that there is always the possibility of relapse, even after many decades, so it's important to continue to monitor the disease on a daily basis. It can be difficult to return to recovery after a relapse.
For someone who has lived in recovery, there is an added layer of guilt and shame. Patients say: “I should have known better. It's not that I haven't done this before. When they start adding a second, third, or fourth treatment experience, they sometimes wonder why other people can do it the first time when they can't.
A sense of doubt begins to invade. So it's not always about getting up, dusting, and going back to meetings. To deal with this during treatment, we return to the beginning of your illness. What do they really control or don't they? Were there areas that you struggled to address? Was it something specific that they were afraid to deal with, unresolved trauma, or family problems of origin? It's important to get to the underlying cause of relapse, rather than getting stuck in the counterproductive mindset that relapse is a sign of weakness, or of not trying too hard or being good enough.
We reduce guilt and shame when we separate those feelings during treatment. After all, a relapse is probably not a random occurrence, so we need to explore the events, thoughts, attitudes, behaviors and beliefs that led someone from a point of recovery to active use. It is also essential to examine the triggers in a person's life. I deal with this with the executives of our treatment program all the time.
They fly 40 weeks a year, so we created a survival plan for life on an airplane, which is a bar that travels 500 miles per hour at 35,000 feet. We work with them on strategies to deal with these triggers. There is also a big difference between understanding and acceptance. When someone first enters treatment, it's all about helping them understand their illness and what recovery entails.
When it comes to treatment after a relapse, we need to evaluate what doesn't work for them and why, and review their recovery strategy accordingly. These are difficult lists to make because they ask the person to be brutally honest with themselves, which can be very painful and leave someone feeling vulnerable. That leads to the fifth step, where they share their lists with another person, usually a sponsor. If they leave something off their lists because they experience it as embarrassing or difficult to deal with, they will continue to carry that emotional baggage, which could lead to a downward spiral.
Another dangerous period is reaching milestones such as reaching six months or a year in recovery. Many people leave their program at that time, thinking that they have changed and have it under control, putting them at a much higher risk of relapse. If something helped you achieve well-being, you should continue to do it to stay healthy. I hope I've made it clear that relapse can be part of a person's recovery process, but it's not inevitable.
Ideally, we want to help prevent relapse whenever possible through a personalized recovery strategy. However, relapse should never be equated with failure. The important thing is that the person has created a strong support network to immediately address the relapse and get back on track. Ultimately, recovery is a process that may require a re-evaluation of a person's management plan or require the need to recharge.
However, there are no shortcuts to doing the hard work of maintaining sobriety. It means moving beyond the understanding that addiction is a chronic illness to a deep acceptance that living in recovery requires daily lifelong vigilance. Unfortunately, relapse rates for people recovering from drug or alcohol addiction are quite high. Studies show that about 40 to 60% of people relapse within 30 days of leaving an inpatient treatment center for drugs and alcohol, and up to 85% relapse within the first year.
It's important for people struggling with alcohol dependence or other substance dependence to recognize the high risk of relapse, be aware of what their own personal triggers are, and learn to cope with their triggers and emotions in a healthy way. By understanding the common risks of relapse of addiction, people can be better equipped and better able to sustain their recovery. Here is a list of 10 common triggers that contribute to addiction relapse. Addiction works the same way; by not following through with relapse prevention and long-term addiction management strategies, you open yourself up to the possibility of your symptoms returning.