5 Ways to Support Your Loved One After They Relapse

If someone you love is struggling with addiction, the rollercoaster on the road to recovery can be incredibly stressful for everyone that lends them support. Standing by someone as they abuse substances, or relapse after a period of sobriety can be challenging and emotional. While you may be feeling angry or hurt, you may also be wondering what to do next. It is important to care for yourself while also supporting your loved one in the most productive way possible. Here are five ways you can be a part of a strong support system while also maintaining healthy boundaries. Understand that Relapse Doesn’t Mean Failure When you witness someone you love struggle with addiction and then finally achieve sobriety, only to relapse into substance abuse again after a period of days, weeks, or even years, the effect on everyone involved can be devastating. It is normal to feel frustrated with them and their addiction and to even feel like giving up. But the science behind addiction tells us that relapsing into substance abuse after addiction has developed in the brain is not entirely the fault of the individual. It is very likely that your loved one does not intend to hurt you or let you down, and they may be criticizing themselves more than you realize. But relapse is a normal part of recovery for many individuals, and instead of being perceived as a failure, it can become a helpful learning opportunity to create success in the future. Take Care of Yourself First Caring for yourself when someone you love has an addiction is very similar to the care required for addiction recovery. It is important to take the time to recognize your thoughts and [...]

5 Lessons to be Learned from Relapse

Relapse is complicated. Whether it happens soon after you first achieve sobriety or years into recovery, it can be a devastating experience. Research into shame and guilt surrounding addiction, however, tells us that beating ourselves up after a slip-up is detrimental to our recovery and increases the likelihood of future relapse. Instead, it is important to brush yourself off and determine what there is to learn from your relapse before moving forward. No matter how many times you have relapsed, with the right tools and support, your next shot at sobriety might just be the one that sticks. Here are some of the most important lessons to take away from relapse: Relapse is Normal Relapse is extremely common in recovery. This is not to say that relapse is necessary, and many people become sober without ever relapsing. For those that do, however, it can be comforting to know that you are not alone, and many people who struggle with addiction relapse once or multiple times before finding lasting recovery. Relapse may happen because problems and stressors arise in your life and you have not yet developed the tools needed to cope, but many times relapse occurs when all seems to be going well. People in early sobriety often experience a honeymoon period in which they can feel nearly invincible in their freedom from addiction. This false sense of security can lead to relapse by causing us to let our guards down and allow thoughts of “just having one” to creep in.   You are Not a Failure Relapsing can feel like the biggest letdown to yourself and others. Addiction on its own can sometimes feel like a moral failing, and when relapse occurs it becomes [...]

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Addiction: The Breakdown

The concept of therapy can be intimidating for anyone, and even induce the occasional eye-roll. For those of us who have struggled with addiction, one of the most difficult battles a person can face, it can be easy to approach therapy with resistance and cynicism. Whether you have already been introduced to therapy or it is your first time considering it as part of an addiction treatment program, it can be helpful to understand the way therapy works and why it produces results. It is natural to experience a bit of uneasiness at the thought of revealing your secrets and insecurities to a total stranger, and you may be wondering why this is necessary when undergoing treatment for addiction.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, has been shown to have great success when used as part of a holistic substance abuse treatment plan. So, what is it, and how does it work? You Are What You Think CBT is all about thought patterns and how they shape our lives. When someone decides to seek treatment for addiction, it is likely that they are experiencing serious consequences in their lives as a result of substance abuse. While the substance abuse may have started as a way to numb negative emotions, the negative effects of the addiction on aspects of their life such as relationships, career, and finances will inevitably induce feelings of shame, guilt, anger, and isolation. These feelings are often accompanied by negative self-talk in which we exacerbate the problem by beating ourselves up or blaming others entirely. While problems that result from addiction are serious and require a great deal of effort to resolve, erratic and exaggerative emotions can turn a difficult problem into a [...]

What Are the Most Common Co-occurring Disorders with Addiction?

When someone has a substance use disorder, it’s rarely the only problem. At least half of people with a substance use disorder also have another mental illness and many estimates are much higher, some as high as 80 percent. There are three possible reasons for this large overlap and none excludes the others. First, a mental health issue may lead to substance use, typically as a way of coping with the symptoms. Often, the mental health issue hasn’t been diagnosed, but someone learns through trial and error that drugs or alcohol relieves their symptoms. Second, substance use can lead to mental health issues. For example, excessive use of stimulants may lead to higher levels of anxiety or paranoia or even cause stimulant psychosis. Finally, both substance use and mental illness may share a common cause such as childhood abuse or genetic predisposition. Whatever the specific mechanism, here are some of the most common co-occurring mental health issues with addiction. Anxiety Disorders Anxiety disorders include a broad range of disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, panic disorders, and social anxiety disorder. Because of the broad range of ways anxiety can get the better of you, anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health issues in the US. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about 18 percent of Americans have some kind of anxiety disorder and that number appears to be increasing. About 20 percent of people diagnosed with an anxiety disorder will also have some degree of substance use disorder; that’s about twice the rate of the general population. The number goes the other way too- about 20 percent of people with substance use disorders will also develop an [...]

6 Misconceptions About Relapse

Relapse is common for people recovering from addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, between 40 and 60 percent of people relapse within the first year of treatment. That number can seem pretty high, especially to people who know how much time and effort goes into completing treatment. Most people in recovery are understandably concerned about the possibility of relapse but they often have mistaken beliefs based on anecdotes or popular misconceptions. Here are some common myths about relapse that might hold you back. “Relapse means you’ve failed.” People with substance use disorders and their families typically have high hopes that treatment will be successful and they can all finally put addiction behind them. Treatment is time consuming and often expensive, but they know it’s worth it if the person with the substance use disorder can enjoy a long-term recovery. If relapse does happen, it can be terribly disappointing. What seemed like the one best chance of recovery didn’t work out. However, relapse is not a permanent failure, and people often do recover after several tries. The important thing is to get sober again as quickly as possible and try to figure out what went wrong. You haven’t failed to recovery from addiction until you stop trying. “Relapse means treatment didn’t work.” When someone relapses after treatment, it usually happens soon after treatment. As a result, it’s natural to try to place blame on the treatment after relapse. This may or may not be fair. Clearly, some treatment programs are better than others, and the quality of the program is certainly something to evaluate before trying again. However, a lot can happen between treatment and relapse. It’s possible the treatment was high quality, [...]

How to Repair Relationships After Addiction

Having a strong social network is one of the best tools to achieve success in addiction recovery. A sense of belonging decreases stress and anxiety and makes you feel like you have a greater sense of purpose. Strong social ties also give you more resources to handle life’s inevitable setbacks. Therefore, creating a strong social network should be one of your top priorities in recovery. Some of that network will comprise new sober friends, including people you meet in treatment and in 12-step groups. However, you will also want to strengthen ties with friends and relatives, at least some of whom you may have alienated during active addiction. It’s often possible to smooth things over and build stronger relationships with those people. Here are some tips for rebuilding relationships damaged by addiction. Manage your expectations. First, as with many aspects of recovery, it’s important to manage your expectations. Keep in mind that others don’t know what’s going on in your head. They only know that they’ve been hurt, disappointed, or betrayed and they don’t want to get their hopes up. You know how much work you’ve put into recovery, how much you want to stay sober, and how much progress you’ve made, but they don’t see any of that. As a result, you might come to someone feeling like a different person, but they still see the old you. That can feel unfair, but it’s just the way it is. Getting sober and working hard in recovery won’t automatically solve your relationship problems, but it’s a great start. Be patient. Your friends and family are wary of being hurt again. It will take them a while to accept that you really have changed. Even then, [...]

6 Common Misconceptions About Addiction Recovery

With the opioid crisis getting worse every year, there has been increasing media coverage of addiction and treatment. The treatment landscape has also changed a lot, with ever increasing modalities, centers, and more government programs at every level designed to help people recover from addiction. There’s also new research. For decades, we actually knew very little about addiction, but that’s finally changing. Although this is an exciting time for new developments in addiction treatment, many people still have outdated beliefs that might prevent them or a loved one from getting help. The following are some common misconceptions about addiction treatment and recovery. “You have to hit rock bottom.” The idea that you have to hit a certain “rock bottom” before you can recover from addiction is one of the most dangerous myths. In 2017, more than 70,000 Americans died of drug overdoses and each year, about 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes. For some, “rock bottom” could be an arrest, the loss of a job, significant other, or organ failure and other physical ailments caused by substance abuse. The belief that someone has to hit a generalized concept of “rock bottom” is misleading and dangerous, as it is truly subjective. Addiction is a progressive disease, and the longer you live with it, the harder it is to escape. The real truth is that most people enter treatment before they’re completely ready. It’s true that some people have some experience that makes them suddenly realize they can’t go on living with addiction. However, there are many others who are persuaded by loved  ones to enter treatment or are ordered into treatment by drug courts. Studies on the effectiveness of drug courts, for example, have found participants [...]

6 Common Mistakes than Can Lead to Relapse

Treatment is a great first step, but it’s only the beginning of recovery. Staying sober long term requires persistent effort and commitment to a recovery plan. The effort you put into recovery is crucial and includes things like attending regular 12-step meetings, volunteering, and adopting a healthier lifestyle. However, it’s also important to avoid the big mistakes that can quickly sabotage your recovery. Here are some common mistakes to watch out for. Leaving Treatment Too Soon. One of the biggest reasons people relapse is that they leave treatment too soon. Sometimes this means leaving treatment early because you find the process too uncomfortable or you feel like you don’t belong there. This may be a sign you’re not really committed to recovery, so it’s not surprising that people who leave the program early often relapse. However, it’s frequently the case that the program is just not long enough. Most inpatient treatment programs last 30 to 90 days, after which you leave, whether you’re ready or not. Often, this is not nearly enough time to break old habits, treat serious co-occurring mental health issues, and firmly establish healthy habits and coping mechanisms. Treatment isn’t just about learning new things, but about fundamentally changing the way you live and that takes time. Becoming Complacent. Complacency is another big pitfall in recovery and it’s one that’s very hard to avoid. At first, most people find treatment challenging but also exciting. After detox, many people feel better than they have in a long time. They may feel some lingering effects from withdrawal, but they also feel a sense of hope, like things are finally turning around. You also make a lot of progress in the early stages of recovery [...]

Spirituality and the 12-Steps: What You Can Gain in Recovery

A holistic approach to recovery means addressing the mental, physical and spiritual concerns that we have – because all three make up our human existence. Recovery is more than just addressing the physical effects of addiction; we all have so many unique aspects of our lives that need focused on – such as trauma processing, lifestyle changes, addressing mental illness and more. If you’re ready to open your mind and heart to forming a stronger sense of spirituality, you’ll find that greater purpose is found – and while you’re in treatment, you can get to know others who can support you in growing, too. What is Spirituality? The University of Minnesota defines spirituality as a broad concept: “In general, it includes a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, and it typically involves a search for meaning in life.” Religion is a cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, morals, worldviews, prophecies, ethics and more – and while spirituality can coincide with religion, they are two separate entities. Spirituality is subjective – and it’s truly up to a person to discover what it means to them and how to nurture it. A 2016 study published in the journal Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly found that for young adults in college, hope and coping were two spiritual elements that helped them move forward with their lives. There are a number of questions that a person may have that haven’t been answered yet in life, such as:    Am I a good person?    What is the meaning behind my suffering?    What is my connection to the world around me?    Do things happen for a reason?    How can I live my life in the best [...]

What Couples Experience When One is Addicted

Our significant other is often the person we spend our time with- second to our coworkers; many couples find that as their relationship progresses, one or the other changes – and while some minor changes are to be expected, it can greatly affect a relationship when one partner develops an addiction. A loved one may begin to notice that their significant other is coming home later than usual, that they’re starting to smell strongly of substances when they do, or that they’re acting very angry or defensive when concern is brought up. In these instances, it can be really difficult for partners to find their grounding, because addiction can significantly affect the way their partner thinks and behaves. The Addiction Experience in Intimate Relationships According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), couples in which a partner abuses substances are typically more unhappy than those where neither partner abuses substances. As drinking or drug use worsens, more and more time is taken away from the couple’s core – which is a foundation that needs continuous attention in order for couples to truly thrive. As one partner continuously spends more time obtaining and abusing substances, the other partner is likely to become upset – and when this tension clashes, arguing make take place more often than not. As stress levels mount within the relationship, the addicted partner may continue to rely on substances in order to relieve some of the stress they’re experiencing from arguing with their loved one; and thus, this harsh cycle continues. A prime example of this situation is within a study published in the journal Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry, which sought to explore some of the most common experiences [...]