Relapses: What to do when they happen

Relapse is all too often a reality for those who have fought their way back from addiction. It seems almost inevitable that most recovering addicts face the temptation or threat of relapsing. If relapse does occur, individuals should know how to get back on the road to recovery.

First, it’s important to understand that relapse does not mean failure. Relapse often means that smart people have made unwise choices and found themselves back in the middle of bad situations. Knowing how to access treatment for drug addiction is paramount when looking at recovering from a relapse. Once addicts realize that they needs help, there are several steps that can be taken to get back to recovery.

  • Out-patient treatment: Many times, recovering addicts can find quality out-patient mental health programs. These include certified therapists, out-patient drug and alcohol treatment centers and addiction group therapy. If an individual has a dual diagnosis for some form of mental illness along with substance abuse, it is essential to get treatment through a organization that is also licensed for mental health. Patients who take on out-patient treatment should be prepared to address their addiction issues in their current situation and with their current support system.
  • Rehab facilities: Out-patient treatment is sometimes not sufficient to help address the needs of people who have relapsed. For those individuals who need more intensive help, long-term drug rehab is necessary. Many of these programs are last for 30 days or longer and have a step-down component after treatment, typically into a halfway house. Benefits of these longer rehab programs include the intensive therapy involved as well as removal from triggers that may encourage another relapse.
  • Peer support: Anyone who is struggling with a stressful situation can benefit from sharing their struggle with someone else who has been there. Addicts are no different. Some of the most successful relapse recovery programs utilize peer counselors and mentors who have personal experience with addiction. These peer mentors have a unique perspective and ability to empathize with the struggles of someone in the middle of a relapse.
  • Lifestyle changes: Regardless of therapy or treatment choices, relapsed addicts must make fundamental lifestyle changes. These may include housing changes, employment decisions, changing where they spend their time and who they spend their time with, and how they use their money. These changes are not easy, but are necessary regardless of the drug of choice. Addicts cannot continue to live in the same world where they once used.

Relapses are, unfortunately, not uncommon for recovering addicts. However, with determination, hard work and honesty, an individual can and will be able to come back onto the road to recovery with a renewed vision and resolve.