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Portrait Of Young Handsome Man Smiling OutdoorYou made the bold decision to go to drug or alcohol treatment – or maybe you mustered the strength and were able to quit cold turkey – and are rightfully feeling much better about yourself. You’re back in control, the future looks bright, your friends say how proud they are of you. Life is….{{screeching needle on a record}}. Wait. Seriously? After only a couple of months I am feeling that familiar pang, that familiar pull to a place I don’t want to revisit. Am I really going to be pulled into a relapse?

What Affects My Chances Of Relapse

There are plenty of statistics that peg relapse for both alcohol and drugs at 50% or higher. These numbers are sometimes used by addicts to help justify their continued behavior. But the answer to whether you will be pulled back in is dependent on a number of factors:

  • Were you adequately mentally prepared entering and during rehab? Were you going through the motions for some or most of treatment, not really wanting to be there? Were you appeasing a friend or family member, or even avoiding legal problems by attending treatment? Even if “the light came on” late in the treatment, those “lost” days can pressure your ability to sustain recovery.
  • Were you adequately prepared for the transition back to your home environment? Did you quickly initiate the changes in your diet, surroundings, social activities, negative influences and other areas you needed to ensure your recovery?
  • Do you have a solid aftercare program for support and medical care (if needed)? This one facet of recovery is often regarding as the most crucial component of lasting sobriety.

Maintaining recovery from an addiction takes work. It can be hard. And even if you stay sober from your drug or alcohol addiction, it is not uncommon to turn to addiction substitutes such as over-exercising or becoming a workaholic. It can be lonely in recovery; your previous lifestyle, while destructive, may have included friends who might have been addicted as well. If you are no longer associated with previous friends, it can take a while to find and nurture new friendships. If it takes a long time to connect with new friends or groups, the pull back to the addictive side can grow stronger over time.

Is Relapse Inevitable?

There is a common statement in post-treatment of which you may be familiar: relapse is part of recovery. For many, this is true. We are all human, and we react to life’s pressures and our environment differently. As much as we want to change our behavior, depending on how severely we were addicted and how complex our environment is, it may take working through a period (or multiple periods) of relapse. But there is no requirement that one experience relapse as a “normal” part of recovery. Each return to drugs or alcohol post-treatment is potentially serious, both mentally and physically.

If you return to drugs or alcohol after a period of sobriety, it can be demoralizing and harden your self-esteem. Some may become deeply depressed at their inability to stay clean. If your body has fully detoxed, returning to an episode of drugs or alcohol use at a level that you used at the height of your addiction can be extremely dangerous, even fatal.

How To Beat The Statistics

Let’s assume you had the correct mental approach to treatment and are doing at least “okay” with your social, family and professional settings post-treatment. At this point, your chances of relapse are heavily dependent on your aftercare, and your personal seriousness and willingness to do whatever it takes to stay sober.

  • Are you committed – motivated – to attending regular 12-step recovery meetings or appointments with your therapist? You must keep energized and focused on your recovery to prevent relapse.
  • Are you receiving calls and emails from your treatment facility for support and resources? A quality treatment program will include structured aftercare with emails, perhaps personal phone calls, and organized aftercare meetings for those in the local areas. (Some even offer a relapse guarantee for follow-on treatment at no cost if you relapse).
  • Have you incorporated new lifestyle changes like better nutrition, better sleep, exercise and prayer?
  • Have you broken free from hanging out with your drug/alcohol friends? The social pressure can be immense. But reminding yourself of the deadly consequences and a fruitless lifestyle should empower you to break free. Encourage them to go to treatment and join you on the “other side”.
  • Make new, quality friends as soon as possible. Easier said than done, but put yourself in healthy environments with organized social activities – your church (choir, being a youth volunteer, providing your testimony, helping before or after service, and other areas), organized neighborhood family functions, joining a softball league, and so many others. Get out and get involved. Have fun in your recovery.
  • Stay close to your mentors and positive influencers. If they are a pastor, attend their services, follow good leaders on twitter, read columns from inspirational leaders, talk with trusted, balanced and non-judgmental friends and family who truly have your best interests at heart. If you are struggling, rely upon them.
  • Recognize warning signs: FAIL – fatigue, anger, irritability, loneliness. We all experience these from time to time. But if they are ever-present, get help.
  • Seek professional help in your recovery. Your life is important. If needed, invest in your long-term health and happiness.

If you are fortunate, you may never relapse after one period of treatment. That is always the goal, and by adhering to a strong post-treatment program and these principles, your chances improve.

Are you concerned you may be relapsing, or are you in relapse? It is not uncommon, but you need to get help now. At Covenant Hills Treatment, we utilize the Gorski Relapse Prevention model to help prevent relapse. Follow-on treatment can be your powerful ally in helping overcome your relapse and addiction. A healthy and happy future is yours, as long as you truly want it.