Renaissance Ranch

Understanding Relapse During Recovery

Jan 18, 2021

Recovery is a life-long process. You will face days that are simple and easy and other days that will test you. No matter how diligent and dedicated you are to your recovery, no one is completely invulnerable all the time. 

What Does It Mean to Relapse?

Relapse is a very common occurrence among those recovering from addiction. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that “people will often have one or more relapses” during their recovery. So what exactly is a relapse? It is when an addict returns to alcohol, drugs or other behaviors after a period of sobriety. 

As common as relapse is, it’s important to know that it can be incredibly dangerous. When you use substances your body builds up a tolerance for the amount that you take. Sobriety lowers that level of tolerance because your body becomes used to the drug not being in your system. When some people relapse they think that they can take as much as they did before getting clean, leading to overdoses or even death. 

Treatment is crucial to sobriety. It can help lower the chance of a relapse. When you first seek treatment for your addiction it’s crucial that you create a relapse prevention plan that can help you to avoid relapsing. It’s not fool-proof but it’s a great way to help you along your recovery journey.

Slip vs. Relapse

During recovery, you may hear about “slips” or “lapses” and “relapses.” They may seem like they’re the same, but they are actually quite different. 

A slip or lapse is when someone briefly drinks or uses after a period of sobriety. After the slip, they are able to stop and get back on track with their recovery avoiding a full relapse. For some people, these slips help to strengthen their resolve to stay sober. 

Slips in sobriety are usually very short, though there are instances when a slip can spiral and become a full-blown relapse. 

Signs of a Potential Relapse

It’s important to watch for common signs that could mean a relapse is imminent such as: 

  • Romanticizing the past substance use
  • Isolating or withdrawing 
  • Associating with old friends or colleagues that enable bad behavior
  • Extreme changes in behavior
  • Loss of interest in activities and hobbies
  • Thinking you can use again without becoming addicted
  • Lack of social support 

Dealing with Relapse

Experiencing a relapse can be frustrating and humiliating for you. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been sober– weeks, months, years– relapsing hurts. It can leave you feeling full of guilt and shame, as though all your hard work was for nothing. It can be difficult to break this mindset, but it’s important to. 

Relapse is a normal part of recovery for 40 to 60 percent of people going through addiction treatment programs, reports the National Institute on Drug Abuse. And there are many people who will experience it more than once while on the road to lifelong recovery. 

The first step after recognizing your relapse is to seek treatment, including possibly returning to rehab. Rehab centers in Utah, like Renaissance Ranch, can help provide you with the tools and encouragement you need to help with your recovery after a relapse.  It’s important to your sobriety that you get the necessary support you need to get back on track with your recovery. Treatment will be able to help you recognize what may have triggered your relapse and what you can do to fight it. 

It’s crucial to ensure that you have not fallen back into old patterns. Find people who support you and encourage your recovery with compassion. It’s also a good idea to seek out support groups of individuals who understand your experience through the ups and downs of recovery. 

One of the most important parts of dealing with a relapse is forgiving yourself. It’s very easy to get down on yourself for your relapse, but you should learn to forgive and let go of these feelings. Guilt can weigh a person down and could trigger another relapse if it is left unaddressed.

Why Does Relapse Occur?

It is a common scenario for most people recovering from addiction to return to drug use at least once over the course of the recovery period. This condition, called relapse, involves what often feels like a downward spiral into compulsive behavior and addiction. It may be a short or long period, and it will probably be a painful process that involves destructive thoughts, isolation from people, and recurrence of depression and anxiety.

A drug relapse often begins weeks or even months before the event of physical relapse. During this emotional time, or post-acute withdrawal, the mental relapse that occurs makes it harder for you to make the right choices, as the pull of addiction gets more intense.

That Euphoric Feeling

Drugs generate a large release of a dopamine, a chemical naturally produced by your brain when you’re engaged in any activity that creates pleasure. The amount of dopamine released by drugs is far more intense and greater than the amount normally released by the brain, which is why people find them so difficult to stop, even when they are also causing significant harm.

Frequent drug use causes the brain to become familiar with and get used to receiving these large concentrations of dopamine. Eventually the drugs destroy dopamine receptors in the brain so it’s increasingly difficult for you to achieve a euphoric feeling without the use of drugs.

Experiencing a Relapse Doesn’t Mean You Failed

Attending a drug rehabilitation program and successfully completing it is a huge accomplishment—but that’s just the beginning.

Healing from addiction takes time, and the decision to walk away from drugs or alcohol completely is a big step. After all, it’s easier to go back and just give in to the addiction again. It’s easier to fall helplessly into that trap called relapse.

Relapse is common; about 70 to 90 percent of individuals who try to recover experience at least one slip, with half of all individuals returning to heavy use. To put it simply, not many people say, “I want to quit,” walk into a rehabilitation center, and never use drugs ever again.

Opportunity for Sustained Recovery

As addiction alters the brain, you may deal with drug-related memories, strong cravings, and diminished control, conditions that leave you vulnerable to relapse even after years of sobriety. Relapse, however, should not be seen as a sign of failure. It is often a normal part for the recovery process, and in some cases it may even improve the odds of sustained recovery.

Faith-Based Addiction Recovery at Renaissance Ranch

Renaissance Ranch is a Utah treatment center that offers rehabilitation to men suffering from addiction. Our program revolves around the 12-step program and LDS faith-based principles. Our Band of Brothers Alumni Program offers our patients sobriety support after they complete their treatment program. Members may attend regular meetings and extracurricular outings, building relationships that can empower them throughout every stage of their recovery. To learn more about our treatment services call 1 (855) 736-7262.