Addiction is a complex disease, and the riddle of relapse is equally difficult to unravel. Why does someone who seems to be successfully working a recovery program and has all the necessary head knowledge about how to avoid falling into old habits end up using again?
Obviously, if it was just a matter of looking at the facts and weighing the dangers, no one would ever use in the first place. But substance abuse is much more complex than that. Relapse doesn’t start once the substance is first used again. It starts long before that and is marked by a series of behaviors. Addiction specialists Terrence Gorski and Merlene Miller collaborated on the development of eleven phases of relapse:
• Internal Change
• Avoidance and Defensiveness
• Crisis Building
• Confusion and Overreaction
• Behavioral Loss of Control
• Recognition of Loss of Control
• Option Reduction
• Alcohol and Drug Use
Relapse from Stressors
When stressors add up and the addicted individual has trouble coping, the urge can be strong to turn to an artificial substance to numb those feelings or create the good feelings they’re not producing naturally. Unmanaged stress on a continual basis causes a great deal of emotional and physical suffering for the chemically dependent individual, but learning how to deal with life stressors in a healthy way can greatly decrease the risk of relapse. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be particularly helpful with this.
Relapse from Cravings
Another factor is the craving a body may still feel for a substance, even after someone has stopped using. Substance abuse produces a physiological change in the brain and body, and it can take months or even years before cravings disappear completely. The good news is, each day spent sober gets the individual one step closer.
Recovery is a lifelong process and one that requires ongoing attention. You’ve never “arrived” at sobriety, and just when you think you are never in danger of using again, that can be the most dangerous time of all.
If you or someone you love is facing a relapse, call The Oaks at La Paloma at our toll-free number. Someone is there to take your call 24 hours a day and answer any questions you have about treatment, financing or insurance.
Articles posted here are primarily educational and may not directly reflect the offerings at The Oaks. For more specific information on programs at The Oaks, contact us today.