Addiction is a lifelong struggle that can seem impossible to overcome. Sometimes all it takes is one moment—a death in the family, the end of a relationship, the loss of a job—to push you back into substance use to cope with the stress of such situations. This feeling of helplessness can be suffocating. “I can remember the day I knew I would never quit drinking,” said recovering alcoholic Sarah Hepola. “I was sitting in my closet, contemplating the bottle of Cabernet I had just picked up at the liquor store and realizing I was absolutely, positively going to open it.”
But eventually, Sarah was able to overcome her addiction. She realized that relapses, even when experienced to a chronic degree, can be overcome and utilized as learning experiences. “What I wish I had known when I was drinking . . . is that change requires failure. It requires screw-ups and a mouthful of grass and shins covered in bruises,” she said.
If you find yourself in a position where you feel like recovery is a pipedream, a goal that you just can’t seem to achieve, a residential treatment program can help you learn how to cope with your chronic relapse and shine light on your true potential for recovery. Much can be learned from relapses, and through these experiences, you can better prepare yourself for the road to recovery and the steps needed to successfully traverse it.
Establishing and Maintaining Recovery
Many treatment centers offer two treatment plan options: 30-days and 90-days. Although shorter treatment plans can be effective for some, if you’re struggling with chronic relapse, 90-day programs are ideal. Studies have shown that the greatest percentage of relapses occur during the first 90 days of recovery, and longer treatment periods have consistently been linked to more positive recovery outcomes. Learning to face the triggers of your substance abuse and pull yourself out of the mindset that you don’t have the power to learn from your relapses (and prevent them reoccurring) isn’t something that comes easily.
“Change is not a bolt of lightning that arrives with a zap,” said Sarah. “It is a bridge built brick by brick, every day, with sweat and humility and slips. It is hard work, and slow work, but it can be thrilling to watch it take shape. I believed I could not quit drinking, that people would not like me sober, that life would be drained of its color—but every ounce of that was untrue.”
By taking advantage of 90-day treatment programs, you will have all of the time needed to adequately use the tools and supports needed to keep you on track to recovery and prevent relapses from happening, including:
- Peer support groups, which provide you with connections to others dealing with the same struggles as you and give you an outlet to express how your addiction affects you, a process that helps various facets of the treatment process such as therapy. Research shows that for those with substance abuse disorders, peer support fosters “increased treatment retention, improved relationships with treatment providers and social supports, increased satisfaction, and reduced relapse rates.”
- Therapies. Greek physician Hippocrates said that “what remains in diseases after the crisis is apt to produce relapses.” In other words, it’s important to resolve the issues that underlie your addiction—your “crisis”—in order to break the cycle of repeated relapses. During treatment programs, you will have access to numerous therapies that can help you get to the core of your addiction, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).
- Family and couple programs are an integral part of any recovery program and can help those closest to you better understand what you’re experiencing. This understanding can, in turn, illuminate the coping methods that will work best for you and for them, as well as how your loved ones can use their roles in the family to help you avoid relapse in the future. One study found that among people addicted to alcohol, opiates, and cigarettes, those with partners more experienced in supporting abstinence had the lowest relapse rates, highlighting the importance of helping your loved ones understand how to properly cope with your illness.
Discovering Your Potential for Recovery
Chronic relapse is attached to so many things that can potentially drag you down, from guilt and shame to stigma and detrimental health effects. It’s easy to lose hope in the face of such adversity, and lose sight of your own potential—but with the right comprehensive treatment program, you can address these issues and break the cycle of substance abuse that you find yourself trapped in.
Like any changes in life, even when things seem impossible, there is always hope. “Friends talk to me about changes they are trying to make, and how they are slipping, and I watch them lash themselves for it,” said Sarah. “They say things like: I’m never going to change.” Yet change is always possible, and as Sarah learned through her own relapses, putting yourself down and lashing out won’t help—instead, try to accept yourself and embrace the potential for positivity in front of you. Through this self-acceptance, you can begin to take your first steps towards breaking free of relapse and addiction and lead a healthier, happier life.
Alta Mira offers comprehensive addiction rehabilitation for people struggling with chronic relapse to a number of substance abuse disorders. Contact us today to learn how you can learn to uncover the causes of your addiction and use this understanding to avoid situations that give rise to potential relapses.
Lead Image Source: Unsplash user Pablo Heimplatz